Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Drumroll, please...

Our miracle has happened. I've waited 13 years since the time I proclaimed that I felt ready to be a mother, and now the time has finally come. Yesterday, after almost six years of marriage, we adopted our first child! We have named her Madeline. She is almost 17 months-old, and is the joy of our lives.

Ray and I decided to become foster parents of infants while we waited to be chosen by a birth mom to adopt a baby of our own. "Amelia", as I have been calling her on this blog (but whose original name is actually "Annalise") was our second foster baby who came to us when she was almost 5 months-old. We fell in love with her immediately. She was, and is, the most laid back, bright, fun and funny baby! She makes friends quickly and easily with almost anybody. She loves to interact with people. [The other day while walking into the grocery store she called "Hi" across the parking lot to some people loading groceries into their car. She said it loudly, making sure they could hear her.]

Two months into her stay with us, I ran into Annalise's birth mother at a doctor's office. While we waited we got to talking, and she told me she didn't think she would be able to keep Annalise. I excitedly told her that we would adopt her if she wanted us to. Her face lit up and she said she did, so she called the case worker that day to terminate her parental rights. We discovered that if she chose to terminate her rights while her child was in foster care, the state would be the one to determine where Annalise would go--and they do everything they can do get children with blood relatives.

The birth mom wanted Annalise to come to us, so she opted out of terminating her rights and went ahead and did all she needed to get her back into her custody, so that she could then give her to us to adopt.

So much has happened between that day at the doctor's office in November and now that I could not relate it all. But let me say this much: it has been an emotional roller coaster, and there were many times that we didn't think the adoption would ever happen. This has been the longest summer for us in ways, but to be able to look back now and see where this road has led us is incredible.

This will be an open adoption, which means that we will be maintaining contact with the birth mom and Madeline's half siblings. The details of how this will happen exactly have not been laid out. At first I thought that was a problem, but now I see how good that is. We are not tied to any particular action, and we can just see how things work out.

Sometimes we feel like they could make a movie out of our past year, it has been so dramatic at times. Wendy has aptly named it our "Baby Mama Drama"! But the important thing is that we made it, and I can't believe I really am a real mother now. Not just a foster mom or a caretaker. The law has made it so that its as if I actually gave birth to Madeline. The birth mom's name is not going to be anywhere on the birth certificate, and it won't say "Amended" on it or anything! How amazing.

If you want a quick read on what it can be like to adopt a child, check out this book: "Secrets of an Adoptive Mother" by Jana Wolff. While she didn't go into great depth, she did address many of the feelings I've had as an adoptive mom. Following is a quote from her that I felt was expressed beautifully:

In the quiet moments, I am struck not by the miracle of birth but by the miracle of adoption. That a legal proceeding can bring complete strangers together, try to meet the needs of all the parties, and ultimately form a family, is really quite profound. The particular match between child and adoptive parents is oftentimes arbitrary, and yet, we don’t like to think of love that way.

Though we are obviously not strangers to Madeline or her birth mom, it is nonetheless a miracle in our lives that after a mere signature and some questions from the judge, we are suddenly and completely a family. So amazing. We will be forever grateful to her birth mom for making the sacrifices necessary so that Madeline could come to our family.

So why did we change her name? Annalise is a pretty name, but it didn't work for a few reasons (which I will not go into as its a bit of a sore subject). Madeline is one of the very few names Ray and I could agree on. I did worry about how that could affect a child to have their name changed, but then I thought about how people get nick-named all the time in their childhood and I stopped worrying. Incidentally, Madeline is the other name her birth mom was thinking about naming her in the hospital, which was a cool surprise!

The best part was coming home from the courthouse and realizing we needed to have our picture taken as a family. So we went down to the JC Penney portrait studio--first professional portraits ever in our marriage! Ray is not fond of having his picture taken, so I jumped at the chance, and we had a great time!
Us with Madeline's birth mother on September 3rd. We "kidnapped" her and took her to lunch beforehand, so we could be certain she arrived at the courthouse at the designated time!Yesterday evening at the family celebration.

The decor we came home to last night after the celebration! Dear, dear Tracy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

This and That

September 3rd has come and gone, and so has our court date. The day had some good things about it, but "Amelia" still is not ours officially. The good thing is that all biological parental rights have been terminated, so the tough part is over. Now we have to wait 13 days to go back and finalize the adoption. OK, I guess we really should be counting our blessings--it could be a 6 month wait or some crazy long time like that.

So September 16th is our new BIG day. Incidentally, that is also El Grito de Delores in Mexico, the "cry of independence", or their Independance Day from the Spanish. I find that symbolic for us as well: both for Ray and I, as well as for Amelia. Freedom to just be her mom and dad for real and for good, and freedom for her to be our daughter. Oh, the thought of that. If you only knew how joyful that makes us feel. Only seven days to go...

This past weekend we went with our friends to stay in their cabin near Sun Valley. We had a great time, especially Amelia, who had not one, not two, but six adoring adults to focus their attention on her. Admittedly, it was a nice break for me!

Here she is warming her hands by the fire. We taught her to rub them together, put them out and say "ahhh":

A beautiful lake nearby where Amelia got to see and touch her first fish:

Here's the fun group below. We really did have fun. When the other two women and I went to town for a little shopping, I found I kept calling them "Ladies". Not that they're not ladies, but it was just funny. I really enjoy hanging out with the older folks. There is a lot to learn from them, and they are just fun.Napping with "Grandpa" Ed, who probably is Amelia's most ardent admirer, besides her daddy:

Check out that balanced meal! Does she eat much of it, you ask? No, no doubt because I am still learning to give her just a little bit at a time so as not to overwhem her. But thankfully I can count on her to down the avocados, tomatoes and cheese: