When you become a mother later in life, I think on some level your friends and family expect that you'll have it all figured out. After all, I had managed life on my own and a successful business for years, but when I got the call that the birth mother to my soon-to-be daughter was in labor, I was anything but prepared.

While lounging after a long day, I received a call that the mother of our daughter was undoubtedly in labor and my husband and I needed to get there right away! Moments—literally minutes—after we got to the hospital, our daughter was born and we were handed this little bundle of love to care for, forever.

I stayed in the hospital with our baby Eloise that evening, just as a birth mother would. During our first night together she began shaking uncontrollably from what we soon found out was heroin withdrawal. My anxiety about being a first-time mom was indescribable, as this helpless and perfect being was ripped from my arms and transported via ambulance to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis via ambulance.

Without a doubt, the series of days surrounding my daughter's birth was the most emotional time of my life.

The day her birth mother checked out of the hospital, we headed to her attorney's office to sign our adoption papers. We sat in a fluorescent-lit room side-by-side where she told me she had been using heroin throughout her pregnancy. I sobbed.

I wept for her, I wept for our baby, and when I couldn't cry anymore we sat in silence for a bit. The first and only thing I could think to ask her was if she had plans when she left the hospital. You see, I have been in recovery myself for nearly 20 years, and to know the despair this young woman must have felt that led her to use heroin broke my heart. The cycle of addiction is harrowing, unexplainable, and to many of my friends and family, it's unfathomable.

Many thought I should and would be filled with anger, disgust and rage. Thanks to God, all I felt was grace. This selfless woman made the choice to allow me to have her baby daughter, knowing she couldn't care for her while in the grasp of her addiction. One day, with a grateful heart, I will tell my daughter about the undying respect and love that I have for her birth mother. Fully understanding the condition our daughter was in, my husband and I left for the NICU to tackle what would be the longest two months of our lives.

I have my own business, and there were many things I juggled day-to-day that I never passed along to anyone else to manage. Thankfully, my longtime employee and dear friend was able to take over most of the daily operations, giving me the time that I needed to focus on the new love of my life. During this time I had also been onboarding my business with a new partner and soon-to-be mother herself, who was ready and willing to help with any and all tasks.

I stayed in the hospital with my daughter nearly every night and day for two months, with the occasional reprieve at home for a hot shower or nap in my own bed. This time of my life was the most humbling and God-filled by far. I learned to rely on and trust in others to keep my business afloat—and trust in myself as a new mother and guardian.

My new business partner gave birth just months after, and six months after that, my employee had her first child. Together, the three of us have grown as a support system both professionally and personally. Whether one of our children has a chest cold or one of us has had a particularly difficult day in the office, we've learned how to use our experiences as professionals to grow as mothers, and as mothers to thrive as professionals. Working together and learning every day—and texting every night—has helped us find joy in frustrating situations and laughter during even our hardest moments.

Jen Singleton is a mama, wife, and friend to all things with four legs. A marketing professional by day, Jen's the co-owner of Socially Inspired, a boutique digital agency with a presence in both St. Louis, Missouri, and Surfside, Costa Rica. When she's not busy building brands, she's working for her favorite boss, her four-year-old Eloise. Jen and her husband Brett adopted Eloise in 2016 and became expats in 2020. Balancing work, play, and adventure, their family of three spends most days exploring and trying new eateries in sunny Costa Rica. @ @werkinmama + @sociallyinspired