Joanna turns 14 tomorrow. She is my soulmate. I have a connection with her that I’ve never had with anyone else. Most of the people in my life know our story, it’s a favorite of mine.

Joanna Elizabeth Joyce. She was 3 years old when we became a family. In her short little life, she had already been neglected and abused to the point of having some brain damage that has since healed. She had been bounced from foster home to foster home from 16 months old. She was quiet, smart, unexpressive, and observant. I was told she had Reactive Attachment Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was told she might never bond to me. I was told not to initiate physical contact. I don’t scare easily, but I was nervous about being a mommy to a little girl who may not accept or return any love I gave her.

We pulled up to the foster house. Along with Julian, Joanna lived with an older couple. She called them by Mr. and Mrs. There were no toys. It was business-like. I saw her looking out the big picture window when we pulled up. The case worker, Jessica, followed behind me. When the front door opened, this tiny little girl who looked like Dora with big eyes and a straight face asked, “Is you my mommy?” I said yes. She asked if I brought her a present. I did. We walked into a large living room consisting only of a couch and a tv. We sat on the floor and played. She talked to me and although she never looked anything but serious, she was possessive over me being her mommy. A 2 year old little boy would approach me and Joanna would raise her voice and put him in his place, “No! Her MY mommy!” and not allow him near me.

My theory as to why Joanna bonded to me so quickly and not to her case worker or foster parents is that she had been in therapy for almost 2 years being told that some day she’ll have a mommy. I think she kept her heart closed while she waited for that day. She’s careful and guarded. I think as a little girl, just a baby really, she knew what a mommy meant and her patience allowed her to wait for that moment before allowing herself to be open and loved and love back. She waited so when she met me, I was that goal she had been preparing for her entire life.

The little girl who I feared never bonding to, was my baby from that first minute I saw her face. She had a dimple on her upper cheek under her eye just like me. She was the only other person I had ever met with a matching dimple. The love I felt for her, and continue to feel for her, was all consuming.

Besides our relationship, Joanna is an amazing person. She takes in the world around her, reads people, analyzes, learns. She’s a girl of few words. She’s less expressive than most people and doesn’t have a dramatic bone in her body. She has a dry, witty and sarcastic sense of humor that catches you by surprise. She has a laugh that could make anyone smile, a kind heart, and a beauty that radiates out of her.

Being Joanna’s mommy and watching her grow into the person she is today has been one of the greatest gifts that God could ever give me. It humbles me. I’m beyond thankful. So if you see Joanna today or tomorrow, wish her a happy 14th birthday!

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