I’d dreamt about this day for years. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew it would feel big. “Forever Family” kind of says it all. BAM! Tied for life. We’d been told by our social workers, friends who had adopted and family therapist that the lead up to the actual adoption could be a hard one.
“You might doubt your decision,” we were told.
“Your child will really start to act out,” we were warned.
“Mostly you won’t remember why you wanted to do this in the first place,” we heard again and again.
Wow. Good times. Can’t wait. And yet, here we are on the other side. Lynn brought our adoption certificate to our daughter’s school this morning and officially changed her name. We’re REALLY a family now. So how’d we get from there to here? Here’s a timeline…
Monday, Oct. 5th
Got an e-mail from our social worker that after fostering Squirrel for one year and 2 days, a court date had been set to finalize the adoption. It would be Oct. 16th. We had less than 2 weeks. Tears of relief, joy, excitement. No more weekly social worker visits. No more reports about us. No more writing for permission to travel, cut her hair or give her medicine when she’s sick. We were free! We invited all our family and friends who had adopted. We hugged a lot. We felt like badasses.
Monday, Oct. 12th
The Squirrel’s best friend asked me, “Are you really her mom?” I stayed calm and asked a few questions. I learned Squirrel had been telling kids on the playground about her birth family and making them promise not to tell. She started feeling different because she has two moms…and is being adopted…and misses where she’s from. Sigh. I hoped we’d have a little more time before the identity angst really started in.
I HATE being questioned about whether my mothering is real. When you tried getting pregnant for eight years before taking two more to adopt, this question is very loaded…even if the one who asked it is a 6-year-old girl. I put my feelings aside and talked it through with the girls. Then I put my daughter to bed and cried my eyes out. Who knows if I’ll ever feel like a “real” mom.
Tuesday, Oct. 13th
We learned that despite their best efforts, two weeks notice was (of course!) not enough time for most of our family members to fly in from out of state to be at the adoption. I felt deeply sad and afraid. This would be a long road with this kid. Will we get the help we need? Will we ever really feel like a family? It feels like we’ve established a strong attachment, but will her loss and grief ultimately be too much? Fear started eating me alive. I cried most of the day until I picked her up from school. Then we went to family therapy. Help! Help! Help!
Wednesday, Oct. 14th
I met Squirrel at school before the end of the day to help her with “sharing day.” I’d arranged with her teacher to be there and help her present photos of her birth family to the class. She told them all about her past mother, siblings, cousins, grandma, and Aunties. Her energy was focused and confident—she needed her new friends at school to know all this about her. She fielded their questions with the answers we’d rehearsed in therapy. “I used to have a dad.” “I live in Oakland now because there were some problems.” “I don’t want to talk about that part.” She asked for my help only once.
I stayed silent as she spoke her truth even though it was painful to me. Wouldn’t it be amazing if she wanted to tell all her friends about her fabulous new moms and that she’d be getting adopted Friday? WOO-HOO!!!!
I also felt proud of her. And moved by how hard this week must be for her. I’ve never gone through what she has.
It was getting very, very real. I think we were all terrified.
Thursday, Oct. 15th
A dear friend of many years gave me some great perspective. “Of course you are panicking and crying uncontrollably and exhausted and feeling alone and slightly desperate. You are giving birth tomorrow…right? Any other mother pregnant with a 7-year-old would feel all those things. Give yourself a break. You’ll feel better once it’s done.” YES.
My mom and her partner arrived that afternoon after driving for two days to get to us. They brought a truckload of gifts. They hugged us and kissed us and made us feel loved. My mom gushed about how great we were doing and how far Squirrel has come over the year.
That night at bedtime, I asked Squirrel if anything was bothering her or worrying her about the adoption.
She asked what would happen in court.
She asked what it meant to officially be a family.
She asked why we picked her.
She asked what happened to all the kids in the group home where we got her from…”Are they still there waiting Mama?”
“Yes, Baby. Many kids are in foster care all over the country. They are hoping for an adoption day just like you are going to have in the morning. They want a forever family who can keep them safe and love them all their lives. I’m so, so happy we get to be your parents now. I love you more than mermaids love to swim.”