After all these years, my dad still calls me his Butterfly. I was given the name as a young child after I’d mastered every lyric to the Sunday School favorite, “If I were a Butterfly,” and knew all the hand motions by heart. My dad beamed with pride as I’d wrap together my big thumbs and flutter my fingers to resemble a monarch in flight while singing at the top of my voice. Each morning, my mom would twist my curly, blond hair into two pigtails, and I’d stare at my reflection in the mirror and wonder if I was like a real butterfly: Bright. Delicate. Beautiful. Transformed.
There was a time, though, that I felt unworthy of the name my dad had chosen for me. When I was a junior in college, I learned I was pregnant. Recoiling in shame, I pictured my butterfly wings crumpling, and falling one by one to the floor.
Raised in a Christian home, I strived to be the good Christian daughter, and worthy of God’s love. I attended a Christian college. I was appointed a Resident Assistant, a leadership position in the college dorm. I didn’t drink or smoke and refrained from foul language. I practiced abstinence with my long-distance boyfriend, most of the time.
When I held the positive pregnancy test in my hand, I sobbed heavy tears and pleaded with God to show me what to do. Instead of listening for His answer, my mind churned with thoughts of everything I’d lose if I continued with the pregnancy: My leadership position. My reputation. My parents’ trust. I agonized and groaned until the pressure became too much, and I called my boyfriend to tell him I’d scheduled an abortion.
But I couldn’t go through with it. Minutes before the procedure began, I watched as an image of my baby appeared on a screen, with tiny movements and a strong, beating heart. My eyes widened, and I leaped from the exam table and bolted out the clinic door. All I knew was that my baby deserved a chance at life.
When I announced my unplanned pregnancy to my mom and dad, I could see the disappointment in their eyes. I hung my head as they asked, “What are you planning to do?” I didn’t know yet.
At my dorm, I grabbed a baggy t-shirt, a pair of leggings and an old sweatshirt that I wrapped around my waist to cover my growing baby bump. I’d hide my pregnancy for five long months, the entire spring semester. Those months crawled with loneliness, and I spent much of the time on my knees, praying for God’s direction. Whenever I felt my unborn child stirring in my womb, I’d cradle my belly and whisper, “I love you little one,” and dreamed of life as a mom. Over time, those dreams faded and instead morphed into heavy tears with the realization I wasn’t prepared to be a parent. At the time, I wasn’t capable of giving my baby everything she deserved. In the end, my boyfriend and I made the heart-wrenching decision to move forward with an adoption plan.
In the hospital, I held my newborn daughter and sang softly until her eyelids became heavy and she drifted to sleep. During my pregnancy, I’d wondered if she’d have my eyes. His nose. My freckles. His dimples. When I gazed upon her pink face, I knew she had been perfectly and wonderfully made.
Tears fell down my cheeks as my boyfriend, and I prepared to say goodbye. He gently scooped up our newborn, cradling her against his chest. Using the back of his shirt sleeve, he wiped away tears and whispered that he didn’t expect it to hurt this much. In silence, the two of us proceeded to change our baby into her going home outfit. I tucked her arms inside the pink gown sleeves while he clumsily tied the elastic ribbon at the bottom. Spreading out a white knitted blanket, I carefully swaddled her in it, just as the nurse had demonstrated. Then my boyfriend and I stood back and stared. She was breathtaking. Kneeling beside my infant daughter, I caressed her face with my hair and kissed her forehead, soaking her cheeks with my flowing tears. “I love you little one,” I told her. Silently, I asked God to watch over her until we met again. Then, it was time to let her go. It felt like my heart turned upside down as we drove away without our little girl.
Five years later, my then-boyfriend, now-husband, answered a call that our daughter wanted to visit us. Tears welled up in my eyes as I turned to our six-month-old son sitting in his high-chair and said, “You’re going to meet your big sister.” An arrangement was made to meet our daughter and her adoptive parents at the local arboretum. Waiting outside the entrance gate with my husband and son, I bit my lip in nervous anticipation of seeing her. Would I recognize her? Would she like me? The moment I saw a little girl, dressed in a white shirt with a blue flower embroidered on the front and whitish blond hair that shone like diamonds, I knew she was our daughter.
Pushing my baby boy in a stroller, I marveled at the resemblance between my daughter and son. Both had the same blond hair. Same light blue eyes. Same dimples when they smiled. When I gazed upon the two of them, I thought my heart would erupt in pink and blue confetti.
At that moment, I realized God holds each of my children in the palm of His hand. Each story different. Each path unique. For my daughter, it was giving her life and touching her occasionally along her journey. For my son, it is being there to guide him every day.
I, too, am loved and cherished by God and for too long have carried with me the burden of guilt and shame. With God’s grace and forgiveness, I finally let that burden go. I found the courage to share my story in hopes that it will help others in similar circumstances to make brave choices, not just easy ones.
At one point my daughter took my hand, it felt as though my heart turned right side up again. I knelt down and looked into her eyes, shaped like mine. “I’ll always love you,” I told her.
In the glistening afternoon sun, we watched as a butterfly floated toward us like it was sliding down a sunbeam from heaven. I smiled and pointed to its colorful wings, remembering my dad’s nickname for me. I am still a butterfly. God shined his loving face upon me and made me bright. God held me securely in his hands because I am delicate. In my brokenness, God made me beautiful. Through His workmanship, I am transformed.
Originally published on Hope’s Promise