When I was a younger, I was never the girl who dreamt of being a mother. I was lost in my world of imagination, dreaming what it would be like to hike Machu Picchu, eat authentic Sushi in Japan, or ride an elephant in Thailand.
I never made a "future nursery," Pinterest board, or imagined what my own little girl would look like.
Instead, I thought about holding children whose color didn't match mine.
At six-years-old, my grandmother asked which American Girl doll I wanted for Christmas. Without any hesitation, my selection was Addy Walker, a young girl whose family escaped slavery through the underground railroad, and the only African-American doll available in the collection. This was quite an unordinary pick, seeing as in 1994, most little girls were going crazy for the Victorian-era doll, Samantha, seen held by my friend Rachel in the photo below.
I suppose I always knew that motherhood would look a little different for me. That I could maybe birth my own curly-headed, hazel-eyed babes, or maybe there were other kids, of different races, nationalities, ages, who would one day think of me as their free-spirit, wild-at-heart, mom.
So what does it look like when an uninhibited, independent 20-something, steps into the role of mom?
When the girl who couldn't be tamed, danced to her own tune and freely spoke her mind, finds herself as a disciplinarian, a listener, a comforter and source of strength and security?
Motherhood has shown up for me in a way I never imagined. The idea of raising a teenager as my first parenting experience was never something I considered, or ever thought possible.
The girl who used to be the life-of-the-party and social butterfly, has now traded late-night soirees for popcorn and The Princess Diaries.
I thought my life had purpose and meaning when I was just an independent soul, sojourning throughout the world in search of magic and adventure.
But that was just it.
I was searching.
Thirsting for direction, for significance, and for true passion and life.
I was dissatisfied and had an unquenchable thirst for something I didn't have the words to describe.
I could say all the typical "mom" things about having a person in my life who is now recognized as my child. How I never realized I could love someone so much, or that I would die for her or do anything for her, etc...
But really, for me, it's so much more than just that.
The more the pieces of the puzzle that made up her once tragic life come together, I begin to see clearly that she was not just a girl without parents, but quickly headed toward a downward spiral that could have easily cost her her life.
Legally, I'm her guardian. The person responsible for her, not her adoptive parent and definitely no biological relation.
But to Christella, I am her mom, the only one she's got. And my friends, that's a sobering thought.
Two years ago, my life plans came to a screeching halt. I thought my path was headed in one direction, and to my dismay, it made a complete detour. I hit somewhat of an emotional rock bottom, and realized that maybe God was trying to tell me that it was time to hand over the reigns, and admit I truly held no control and I needed to lay down my agendas and to-do lists.
And it was the greatest freedom I have ever experienced. It began the most amazing and exhilarating journey of my life, which ultimately led me to Haiti, and brought me to her.
On a pretty much daily basis I doubt my ability to fulfill this roll to the extent it needs to be fulfilled. I question If I can truly carry out the weight of my responsibilities to not only provide safety and comfort, but education, financial security, protection, and help to preserve her emotional and mental well-being.
My priorities, which spots were once held by things like traveling to every continent, and being a world-renowned photographer, have been replaced by learning to love as well as humanly possible.
That she understands her value and worth.
That she finds freedom from her fears and past pain, and rises above all of the obstacles and defeats, which were once placed before her.
That she knows she is priceless, irreplaceable and there is truly not a single soul on earth that can compare to the space she holds in my heart and life.
That no matter the hormonal mood swings, teenage angst, and typical hardships of guiding her way through becoming a woman in a developing country, she has someone who is committed to standing by her side and championing her in the direction of her dreams.
That she knows her Father's love and His acceptance and approval of her.
That she is wanted, and she has not been forgotten.
This past Sunday was Haitian Mother's Day. I really wasn't sure what to expect - if anything at all. However, to my delight, I was surprised by breakfast, dinner and beautiful gifts. Yet, the most treasured item I received was a letter, which read:
My Dear Love,
Good afternoon my darling Mami, I am wishing you a happy mother's day. I wish another year here together for now and for always. I love you so very, very much with my whole heart. I will never let you go, not in good times or bad times because I love you Mami. I am asking God to give us strength and courage for us to live in peace always. I wish you happiness and my love that God would bless you with peace and life. I could never finish telling you how much I love you my Mami.
For the girl who once thought the greatest achievement in life was a passport filled with multi-national stamps, or her photo on the cover of Time magazine, this pretty much blew those things out of the water.
Loving someone more than what you once thought of utmost importance, realizing that true success has no numerical value, and doesn't come with accolades or recognition, and finally understanding what it means to put someone before yourself - is true life.
Sure, our family unit is different, unusual and not typical, but so was a 6-year-old Caucasian/Puerto Rican girl with a African-American Civil War-era doll.
And what's "normal", anyway?
This is my normal, my everyday and I wouldn't change it for the world.