Guest Columnist Mary O’Donohue: The Nightmare That Turned Out To Be A Sign Of Grace To Come


Mary O’Donohue and her husband Jim live with their son Connor, a teen, and daughter, Grace, a ‘tween, in suburban Chicago. Mary is author ofa month-by-month guide that provides parents with practical tools to raise children with extraordinary character. Her career in television production has included work on The Today Show, Meet The Press, and The Oprah Winfrey Show, among other programs. She donates a portion of her income to charities benefitting families and education, and can be reached

My sweet daughter Grace,

Long before you were born, I had a nightmare. I was kneeling in front of a locked door and you were on the other side. I knew you needed me, but I couldn’t get to you. I kept telling you not to worry. I promised I would find a way to get you out. But I couldn’t open the door. And then I woke up.

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted three children, and I always knew I would have a daughter. But the nightmare seemed to be a sign telling me that it wouldn’t be so easy to get to you. As it turns out, it wasn’t easy at all. You, my child, were in China. The other side of the world. But that wasn’t going to stop me and daddy and Connor from getting to you and bringing you home. You were and always have been my girl. My Gracie.

So after almost two years of paperwork and praying and waiting, we finally got “The Call.” You were our daughter. I remember that exact moment when the phone rang. Connor was five years old, and he didn’t know what to think when I was jumping up and down and crying at the same time. That’s when I told him about “the happy cry.” So he jumped up and down and cried, too, while we called daddy. Eight weeks later, I held you in my arms for the first time. You were 10 months old and it felt like I had finally woken up from that nightmare and opened the door between us.

In those first few weeks in China, we all had the privilege of starting to get to know you. On that first night, some of the other seven babies who had just met their new families cried for hours. A few of the babies even shut down and didn’t cry at all. Apparently, these were the two reactions most often seen in the first few days.

But not from you, Grace.

You were smiling at us.

And giggling.

And enjoying your bottle.

And clapping.

And snuggling.

From the first minute. Extraordinary. And you clung to me for three days without letting go. You even slept on me! But I didn’t mind.

I didn’t want to let you go either.

Once we got home, you adjusted quickly. And we had six months while I wasn’t working to just hang out together and play every day. I loved that time with just the two of us while Connor was in kindergarten. It went by too fast.

One of the things I have always loved about you is that you are fiercely independent. One of your first sentences was “I do by self!” You are also incredibly smart and resourceful. I have always admired your ability to figure things out on your own, and the way you help me figure things out. Your insight is remarkable and you are the most adaptable person I’ve ever met. What did I do without you?

I love spending girl time with you. Going for walks or bike rides, chatting over lunch – we always have fun together. You’re compassionate, outgoing, and incredibly joyful. You love your collie dog, fashion, and Barbies. Wait, scratch the Barbies. That was over last week. Now you’re into a boy band called One Direction. Slow down, Gracie!

I feel so incredibly blessed to be your mom. You’re an amazing girl and I know you will grow up to be an extraordinary woman. I am so deeply proud of you Grace.

I love you always, always, always,


P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.


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