One Year

My baby girl is one year old today.


There is so much swimming around my head, I hardly know where to start.

One year ago today, this was me:


And not long after, there was this:


And then came the chaos. (Full story here, for those who haven’t read it: Part I and Part II.)

I look back to the moment I first held Lina, just a few feet from where I sit now. I remember what I felt when I first laid eyes on her, long before my conscious mind had processed what I was seeing. I looked at my daughter, and she was not what I expected. I didn’t know what that meant yet, but I remember experiencing an instant shift. In my memory, it seems as if there was a nearly-audible “CLICK” as I looked at that tiny, red bundle. Without understanding what was happening, my world adjusted and my heart opened. It was as if a train had suddenly changed tracks. I pulled that baby girl to my breast, and from that moment, there was no going back. I don’t know for sure if it was a formed thought, but I knew: “She is not what I expected, but she is mine.”

A year has gone by. First, there was grieving. Sometimes, there still is.

There was never any question of loving and accepting our precious girl. But we had to grieve the baby we thought we were having, the parenting experience we thought we were signing up for. There are still moments I watch other families and feel a stab. Sometimes I wish for a simpler life. Sometimes I have flashes of resentment for our increasingly-packed schedule, the extra worry, the complicated decisions.

But always, always, always, I am so grateful for my daughter. A simpler life would not be worth having if it didn’t have Lina. When we meet new people, when we mingle with friends, when we visit the local park or library, I feel one thing above all else; I feel pride. My baby girl (who is not really a baby any more) is awesome in countless ways. Above all, through all, I am proud to be her mother. (Jon, it should be noted, wants it said that he is also extraordinarily proud to be her father.)

This past year has taken me to school. I have learned that hiding behind my conviction of my own open-mindedness lay a lot of preconceived ideas about people with certain kinds of differences. I’ve learned what it means to toss out the superfluous and really get down to the core of what you want for your kids. I’ve learned a new vocabulary. (Levothyroxin, conductive hearing loss, baha, organized feedings, hypotonia, ling sounds, TEIS, ISP, IEP… The list goes on.) I’ve learned to navigate the Vanderbilt metropolis like a boss. I’ve learned how to find and read school achievement stats. (Thank you to my good friend Kelli Gauthier on that one.) I’ve learned that my prenatal worries over bonding with a child who wasn’t biologically mine could not have been less relevant. I’ve learned that God really is as big as I need Him to be.

The lessons are ongoing. The challenges are ongoing. But Lina is growing and changing every day, and I get to be there for it. I get that front-row seat. I get to be her mom.

Lina is a year old. There’s still a lot I don’t know. But of one thing, I am certain: I’m so glad she’s mine.

Happy birthday, Eline Katherine Sharp. My love for you is endless.

5 thoughts on “One Year

  1. Aimee Lalic says:

    Happy Birthday, Lina! I always read your posts, Jolene, and you are a wonderful mommy! No wonder God gave you Lina 🙂

  2. I’m so glad she’s yours too. And we love her beyond words. Happy Birthday sweet baby Lina!

  3. What a sweet tribute to your precious baby girl! I have tears in my eyes, thank you for sharing your heart. Happy birthday Lina!

  4. ThoseNewmans says:

    Can’t believe it’s already been a whole year!!! 🙂

  5. Debbie says:

    Happy Birthday, Lina! Jolene, thank you for continuing to share your family’s journey with us. As always, your writing and photos have touched my heart.

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