Our adoption was finalized two days ago.
I need to let the fact that I just typed that sink in a little bit. I mean, our adoption. It was finalized. In court. Officially. Finally. I completed intend to write a post about how this feelsbut if I’m being completely honest, I’m still processing all of that. The short answer is: it feels wonderful. The long answer is: well, it’s long.
See, for the better part of close to 1,000 days, we’ve kind of been waiting for this very day. And for the better part of a year, we’ve been expecting this day to happen at any moment. But now that it finally has? I hardly know what to do with all the nervous energy I no longer have to expound on waiting. I might have to get an actual hobby now, seeing as “checking my email, voicemail, and home phone every half hour just in case there’s info about the adoption” can’t occupy my free time anymore.
No one ever told us that adoption would be easy, especially adoption through foster care. In fact, the awesome founder of the agency that did our adoption training has a favorite mantra that I’ve sort of fallen in love with: adoption is not for wusses. Let me say it again: adoption is not for wusses.
So true, and on so many levels. That saying resonated for everyone in the class. We were at particularly low point in our journey during those two months of every other Saturday classes. We had finally gotten to a termination of rights trial after four months of waiting, only to have one of the attorneys fall ill that very morning. As a result, the trial was pushed back two months, and we were devestated, because – I mean, c’mon. It was finally our time, and then someone eats bad sushi and now we’re back in a holding pattern?
So, although there were no grand delusions that a kid would just be gift-wrapped, tied with a bow, and handed to us, we also didn’t think it would take quiteas long as it did.
In addition to the aforementioned delay, when the trial finally reconvened, one of the witnesses that the state called was unable to make it. A special session was scheduled for three weeks later, so his testimony would be heard. Then it was another six weeks for a decision, during which time I totally perfected my hobby of obsessive voicemail/email checking.
We celebrated like crazy once we heard that the courts had decided in favor of termination, but knew it wasn’t over. Once the decision was handed down, there was a thirty day window during which either one or both of the birth parents could appeal.
For the first two weeks I was on pins and needles every day. The worst part of it all was just not knowing and trying to be patient. I completely believe I have a lot of good qualities. Waiting patiently for answers about my future when everything is totally out of my control? Not one of them.
After a couple of weeks though, I started to calm down a little bit. Our awesome adoption worker was checking daily and no appeal had been filed. So, I let down my guard a bit. I relaxed. And then day 29 rolled around. One day. One freaking day to go. And the birth mother filed.
Our adoption worker came over and told me in person. We sat out back on the deck while the kids played in the yard. And I cried. And cried. And cried. And then she left and I went into the kitchen and stared at the phone. I wanted to call Jeremy, but I didn’t want to tell him while he was at work, so I called my parents. My poor Dad answered the phone, and I immediately burst into tears again as I wailed into the receiver “Daddddddy, she filed an apppppppeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaalllllll!”
We were told that a decision on the appeal could come within three months, but could take longer. How much longer, we asked? Much longer, we were told. Six months? Nine months? A year? Yes, yes, and yes. No one really knows. And, for me, the worst part of it all was that we wouldn’t know. Appeals are handled first come, first serve. There could be twenty cases ahead of ours, there could be two. No one knew.
If someone had been able to tell me when we would know, I would have been okay – even if the when was a year away. If someone had even been able to tell me where the case was in the massive queue of cases, I would have been fine. Some inking, some idea… anything. Instead, we waited.
Three months after the appeal was filed, I was notified that the birth mother wanted to meet with me, and I agreed to it, hesitantly. I had no idea what she wanted to say, and I had armed myself with a missive of things I wanted to get off my chest. She asked for, amongst other things, a chance to see the kids for one last time. She wanted to say goodbye, and give them some pictures. She also explained that she wanted to drop the appeal. She said that she had filed it because she wanted to feel like she had fought for the kids, but that she knew it would never be granted and now realized it was holding up their future.
All the things I had planned to say melted away. It was the first time in over two years that she had taken responsibility for the mistakes she made, and the first time ever that she had told me that she was happy that the kids were loved, cared for, and safe. She thanked me – THANKED ME- and we hugged. It was, and still is, one of the most emotional hours of my life.
So, we met up a week later with the kids, had a great dinner, said a round of emotional goodbyes, and then parted – again with the promise that she was in the process of dropping the appeal. So, I let myself become hopeful that a quick resolution was in sight. I waited for the call telling me everything was withdrawn and we had an adoption date. I waited. And waited. And then I realized that she wasn’t actually going to do it.
I felt manipulated again, like she told me whatever I needed to hear so that she could get what she wanted. The adoption I was so sure would happen in time for Christmas was now back to being the adoption I was so sure would happen. Eventually.
Six months later, we got the call.
Six weeks after that, we walked into a courtroom with nine of our loved ones, and we made this family official. The same judge who has heard this case for almost three years pronounced us a family. In the legal sense.
The waiting is over. And now? Well, now the rest of our lives can begin. As much as we lived life like there wasn’t this enormous weight hanging over our shoulders, it was still there. The fear that there would be some relative from Wisconsin that crawled out of the woodwork, or a procedural error that would grant a continuance, it was always there. The feeling that everything that our future was out of our hands is so disarming.
Now, all of that is gone. We ate dinner together, our brood, outside at a restaurant on the river. We laughed and basked in the sunshine that finally emerged after days of soaking rain. As I looked around at my family, at my husband, at my kids, I was more at peace than I had been in years. This is what we’ve been waiting for.
This is life, still full of uncertainty, but with just a little less weight.