Christmas miracles come in all shapes and forms. For Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman, it came in the form of a beautiful adopted child, Dolly Grace. It is this gift that she celebrates in her debut children’s book, A Dolly for Christmas: The True Story of a Family’s Christmas Miracle.
Inspired by Schlapman’s real-life struggle with having a second child, the 40-page read chronicles the despair that came with it, the family’s choice to adopt, and their true God-sent Christmas miracle, Dolly. Rather than writing it in the first person, Schlapman does it by narrating the experience of her oldest daughter, Daisy Pearl. Daisy had yearned for a younger sibling for the longest time, though unbeknownst to her, her parents had been trying hard to conceive one, too.
Rooted in her unwavering faith in God, the then-four-year-old Daisy got down on her knees and prayed every night for “a baby brother or baby sister.” Even during Christmas, she shared this heartfelt plea with Santa Claus. Lo and behold, just days before Christmas in 2016, Dolly’s prayers were answered as the Schlapman family welcomed their precious adopted child, Dolly.
Perfect for the holiday season, A Dolly for Christmas offers an awe-inspiring story of faith, hope, and love. Whether gifting it to a child or reading as an adult, or struggling with infertility, or chasing a dream, there are valuable life lessons for everyone in this heartwarming book. Faith can move mountains, and Schlapman’s personal story is stirring evidence of that.
Sounds Like Nashville spoke with Schlapman last week for an exclusive interview about writing A Dolly for Christmas, the power of prayer, her Christmas day traditions, and what can fans expect from Little Big Town in 2022. Spoiler alert: new music might be coming soon.
Would you talk about the core inspiration behind your beautiful book, A Dolly For Christmas?
My husband and I had quite a journey of infertility. So at the end of our beautiful journey, I decided that I needed to share our story because so many people go through such heartache, disappointment and suffering, and I wanted to share that there is always hope. You just don’t know when those prayers are going to be answered and when those dreams are going to come true. It might be just around the corner. Besides, just in life in general, so many people are in so much pain and they’re hurting so bad these days. There’s so much to lament over. But yet, I just want people to know that whatever their trouble is, there is always hope. That’s why I decided to write this book.
With your experience with infertility and adoption being so personal, did you ever hesitate on whether you wanted to share it publicly?
Well, we decided to keep a few things very private because our adoption is private. So there are a few details we decided to keep private. But for the most part, we felt very comfortable telling pretty much the whole story. One thing about infertility is that it has always been secretive, covered up, and hush-hush. Well, these days there’s actually more talk about it and I’m so glad. This is another reason why I thought our story was important. We need to let these couples who are dealing with infertility know that they have our support and that, again, there is hope.
You could have gone ahead and written an autobiographical book to recount your experiences, right? What made you decide to write a children’s book instead?
When I wrote out the story one day, I wrote it out in adult form with a lot of the details that adults would understand but children would not. The story revolves around a little girl who would not give up. Daisy started praying, wishing, hoping, and dreaming for a baby [sibling]. No matter what setback there was, she would not give up. Because the story revolved around children, I thought it would be great to tell it from a child’s perspective. Someday, I hope to be able to write a book or maybe a TV show or movie about it, because I think it would also appeal in a much deeper version to adults. But we decided to start out with our little children’s book.
It seems that Daisy understood the importance of faith and prayer at a very young age. Is that something both you and your husband Steve instilled in her earlier on?
My husband and I were both raised in Christian homes and faith is a very, very important part of our marriage and family. Daisy never knew anything different. We raised Daisy from the very beginning with a very strong faith. She knew that if you have a great desire in your heart, you just need to ask God to make it happen. She did beg my husband and me all the time and say, “I want a baby brother or a baby sister!” But we weren’t the ones who said she needed to pray about it. She just, in her little innocent four-year-old heart at the time, started kneeling by the bed and praying. She did that every night and asked God for a baby. I think it’s so beautiful that the bed Daisy knelt by every night to pray for a baby is now the bed that Dolly sleeps in. Ain’t that precious? Once we decided to move Dolly into her bedroom [with that] bed, I think so often, “You are laying in the bed that your sister desperately prayed for you!”
I know you’ve said before that being a mother was your biggest dream in life. And now, you’re a mom to two sweet girls. What would you say has been the best thing about being a mom?
That just brings tears to my eyes. Yes, the greatest dream of my whole life was being a momma. What’s the best thing about it? I think it’s the relationship and love between a parent and child. The love between a parent and child is indescribable. The way I love my children is the greatest gift of my life. They are my sunshine and what I live and breathe for. Also, I didn’t tell anyone, but I had a secret fear when we were going through the adoption process that maybe I wouldn’t love an adopted child the same as I would love my child that I carried in my womb. I’m telling you, when I picked up Dolly and held her in my arms, the love was exactly the same. One hundred percent the exact same. I’ve talked to adoptive parents since then, and that is a fear that parents have. But I am here to tell you that there’s not an ounce of difference in the love that I have for my babies.
In the book, you wrote, “But sometimes…we have to wait for our prayers to be answered, no matter how much we want something. […] God gives us the perfect gift when the time is right.” As an adult, that might be my favorite part of your book. What does that quote mean to you?
I have a story of heartache and heartbreak earlier on in my life when I lost my first husband. When I was in the middle of that, I couldn’t find my way out. I couldn’t see my way out. I couldn’t believe my way out. But on the other side, as I look back, I understand why that heartache happened and I see how I’ve just been fully restored. I think it’s so important to know that when you’re there, you will reach the other side. You just have to hang on.
A Dolly for Christmas is centered on your family’s trust in prayer and God. For those struggling in this with infertility, adoption, or even chasing a dream or anything in life, what would you tell them?
Yeah, there’s just so much happening in the world. People are watching their loved ones die or just go through horrible situations. What I tell anyone that I talk to who’s going through a very, very difficult time is that there’s always a light somewhere in your story. Look for something, maybe the tiniest little thing to be grateful for. It’s very, very hard to be grateful in the midst of a horrible storm. But if you can find something to be grateful for, I think it changes our hearts. If you can find the tiniest thing to be grateful for, then maybe you can find one more thing to be grateful for. And also know—and this was important for our story—it’s so important that people know that [they’re] not the only ones going through this. Someone has been there before, and someone will be there after. Someone who’s been there before can hopefully walk you through it. And then, when you have gone through your storm, you’ll be there to help the next person. Just know that you’re not alone no matter what the situation is, you’re not the only one who’s been there, and that there are people you can turn to for help.
With Christmas just days away, and being that this is a Christmas story, I have to ask: What’s a Christmas Day like in your family?
On Christmas Eve, my mother gives out matching pajamas to everyone. There are almost 20 of us at my sister’s house and we all put on our matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. So the next morning, we wake up and we still have our matching pajamas on! The kiddos will come downstairs because they need to see what Santa Claus has brought. And then my sister, who’s just superwoman, sneaks into the kitchen and puts in her famous Christmas morning breakfast casserole with sausage, eggs, crescent rolls, and all the good, decadent stuff. As soon as we’ve checked out the important stuff under the tree, we will dig into that breakfast casserole, and then we have eggnog, Russian tea, coffee, and all the good things. Someone has always made sausage rolls for breakfast too. The day before is usually when we have a big huge meal, so later in the day, we will warm up whatever it was from the day before and munch on that. We are a leftovers family! We love leftovers. I love our Christmas day because as much as it’s frantic and we run around most of the time on the road and all the things that we do, we make Christmas day in our family a very, very slow, laidback, relaxing experience. It’s probably my favorite day of the year because we are with the family and having so much fun. Also, I don’t even get out of my PJs! [laughs] I’m usually in those PJs well over 24 hours! It’s just a special, laidback, super enjoyable day. It’s special and there’s not another one like it for sure.
Speaking of your musical life and Christmas, will Little Big Town ever release a Christmas album?
Oh, you know what? A Christmas album is something we’ve always wanted to do. We were putting one together a few years ago when Jimmy had to have vocal surgery, so we had to cancel those plans. But I will tell you, it’s at the forefront of our minds. One of these days, we are going to do a Christmas album for sure. We can’t wait!
As we look ahead into the new year, what can fans expect from Little Big Town? Is there new music in the works?
Well, through the pandemic, we never saw each other for five months, which is crazy. We’ve never done that before or been apart for that long. But when we got together to figure out how we could safely be around each other and in the studio, we started making music. Just over the pandemic, we would find parts of time where everybody could get together. We tested to make sure everybody was healthy and all that, and we have pretty much finished an album that we are so very, very excited about. It will be out soon, and that’s I think all I can tell you, but we cannot wait to share it!
As 2021 comes to a close, what are you personally grateful for this year?
I think more than anything, because of what we’ve been through in this world, I’m just grateful for my family’s health. I’m grateful that somehow, we have managed to get through not only a medical pandemic but also the mental toll it took on the world. We thought that last year at this time it was going to be over, but now we’ve been through another year of it and we’re doing okay. I’m mostly just grateful for our health, my family’s health, and my parents’ health. I’m very, very sorry for the many people who have lost loved ones and have been through such a horrible couple of years. But for me and my family, I’m just mostly grateful that we still have each other and that we are healthy.
Lastly, what do you hope readers take away from your A Dolly for Christmas?
I think it’s to never stop believing. You just never know when the miracle is going to happen. You never know when that dream is going to come true. It might take years, or it might be just around the corner. So just do not ever, ever give up.
Pick up your copy of A Dolly for Christmas here.