Hang in. This starts with tragedy and ends with a truly heartwarming holiday story.
23 years ago, my husband and I lost our first daughter 24 weeks into my pregnancy. Her name is Adele Maya Serrano. To say it was devastating is an understatement. Besides some very intense nausea, the pregnancy had been clear sailing. On Halloween morning 2006, we rushed to the doctor because I was (absolutely painlessly) fully dilated. Hours later, I was in high-risk maternity in Indianapolis and was told I had an “incompetent” (I’m not making this up) cervix. In other words, for no known reason, my cervix was not staying closed and holding my pregnancy. For two days, doctors attempted to save the pregnancy through surgery, but my water finally broke and we had to induce labor. Adele was stillborn on November 2 which is the Day of the Dead in Mexico–an important holiday for remembering and celebrating the dead. My husband is from Mexico and this day is very special to us.
After her death, we had to face the holiday season. We went through it in a daze. I remember walking through the mall trying to pick out presents for family. Ornaments were being sold at a kiosk and they would personalize them for you. A white dove caught our eye and we had them put Adele Maya on it. A white dove became the touchstone symbol for us. Many more white doves have followed. 23 years’ worth. Having that symbol is important. We had become parents and no one knew it. We didn’t have a tiny hand to hold, but we both knew what the dove represented.
8 years, another miscarriage (10 weeks this time), a master’s degree, and a house later, we were adopting a newborn. The same day that I sent in the last of the adoption paperwork, I was driving near our house and looked out the window to see a snow-white dove. I had never seen one before or have I since. I am not the kind of person that looks for signs or expects divine intervention, but I knew immediately that Adele would be helping bring us a baby.
We had been told it may take up to a year to adopt. It took 6 weeks. Lillian (Lily) Maya Serrano was born at 3:30 in the morning and was in our arms at 10 pm that night. There is absolutely no way that Lillian could be a more perfect fit for us and us for her. I have no doubt that we were meant to be.
Every year, we buy an ornament for Lily representing her year. Actually, we always get two. One goes on the tree and becomes part of our ornament collection and another goes in a special box for Lillian to have when she has her own tree. This year, my husband and I were looking at ornaments in Target and a felt ornament of a white dove (of course) caught my eye. I picked it up and saw that this little white dove was carrying a beautiful brown child. I immediately broke down. It’s perfect–simultaneously representing our 2 girls and their connection. my husband and I searched the entire Christmas section (dismantling it actually) and this was the only one. I so wanted another for Lily’s future tree and for my mother.
I went back to my Target three times looking for a restock but unfortunately no more came. We searched online without any luck. It became a mission. I am not a person who asks for help very often, but I decided to open up and tell this story. I thought people might find it trivial, but I was wrong. I sent out a plea on Facebook hoping friends outside my area might find them at other Targets. Amazingly, the very next morning, 3 were on the way from Florida. Shockingly, most of them are coming from strangers. They are arriving from Maryland, Wisconsin, California, Virginia, Indiana, and more! Wonderful women from all over the country were messaging me–some in real-time as they were searching their Target. 2 have offered to make them. One woman is the mother of a 24-week micro-preemie.
Honestly, I have lost track of how many and where they are coming from. I have come home for the past two days to a mailbox full of ornaments. This ornament is a manifestation of the greatest sorrow and the greatest joy of my life. It’s a small thing, just a $3 felt ornament, but to have so many people rally around us to find and send it has meant so very much.
I’ve decided to put several into storage for Lillian and make wreaths featuring them for both our house and my parent’s house. Now, this ornament has gone from symbolizing our 2 girls to symbolizing the spirit of the holiday season and a sisterhood among mothers. No one would say there isn’t a great deal wrong in the world right now, but this was right. Very right.
Happy holidays from me and all of us at Small Wonder Food/Farm.
P.S. Years after our loss, I would learn that I did not have an “incompetent” cervix or any of the other issues they told me over the years (every doctor had a different opinion.) My pregnancy losses were due to undiagnosed autoimmune disease. In this case, my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis was the cause. My health has cost me a lot over the years but the biggest loss was two children. I am so thankful I figured out how to change my health story and be here for Lillian–the amazing girl brought to me by a beautiful dove. Here’s the girl Adele brought us (note: this is 10 years ago. Lily is now 15!):