I’ve never married my soulmate (or anyone else, for that matter), but I have a theory. Surely in all the world, there are many people who would make a suitable match for each of us. Folks who share our values, who complement our personalities, with whom we could make a good and happy life. Some of them we will never meet. A few of them we hopefully will. And when we commit forever to one of them and fall deeply in love, that person becomes our soulmate. Not because there technically couldn’t have been anyone else. But because we can’t imagine there being anyone else.

Sounds like a good theory, right?

I know it’s an imperfect analogy, but I think of adoption in a similar way. On many occasions, I’ve been known to tell people that I think “adoption chose me as much as I chose it.” Of course, this is not true in any literal sense. No one accidentally builds their family by adoption. There are too many rules, too much paperwork. It took me a little over three years after I began seriously considering adoption to make my daughter a permanent part of our family. And although it was about as straightforward of a process as I’ve ever heard of foster adoption being, parts of it were still frustratingly slow.

And so, when I say that adoption chose us, I don’t mean that it was easy or quick—or that it fell into our laps. I mean that I can’t imagine it any other way.

I’ve never felt a baby kick inside my body, but I will never forget the breathlessness of meeting my daughter for the first time: both of us scared as could be and pretending we were not. And I can’t imagine it any other way.

When she reaches out to hold my hand in the parking lot and asks to wear matching shirts, I can’t imagine it any other way.

When we look at pictures and reminisce about all the firsts we did get to share—her first passport, her first airplane ride, her first wedding, her first time sleeping in a real, live castle (who does that?)—I can’t imagine it any other way.

When she runs into something and laughs as she says, “I’ve been in this family too long!” as if clumsiness were a trait that was rubbing off on her, I can’t imagine it any other way.

When she passes the ball to a less-skilled teammate instead of taking the shot she could have easily made herself and then steals a glance at me, and I give a smile and a slight head nod because I have been specifically instructed “not to cheer too loud,” I can’t imagine it any other way.

When we fuss over things that mothers and daughters fuss about and I send her to her room and threaten to withhold privileges for all of eternity (although I know that parents are not supposed to make threats that they don’t intend to keep), I can’t imagine it any other way.

Could things have gone differently? Could I have had a different social worker? Or not have had to wait so many months to have my home study completed? I guess this is possible. But when I search my heart, I truly cannot imagine my life going any other way.

This beautiful, strong child is my daughter. There is no doubt about that. She is as much my daughter as if I had felt her tiny kicks inside of my body. I cannot imagine it any other way.

This is what I mean when I say that adoption chose us.