For the third post in my Adoption Series, I have a guest post from Christy of Adventures in Mommyhood: Mommy Outnumbered about the emotions involved in adopting her daughter from a family member. For more information about Christy, be sure to check out the bottom of this post and be on the lookout for 3 more posts from her about her adoption journey. This is the first of her own 4 part series. You can find part 2 on her site as well.
Guest post from Adventures in Mommyhood: Mommy Outnumbered:
This is Part 1 of a 4 part series on our journey through adoption. Ours is unique in that we can have our “own” children, we were not looking to adopt and that it was a family members child we adopted through the Foster Care system. Each adoption journey takes its own path; this is ours….
Adoption Part 1: Emotions
“There’s a baby….”
That’s how the conversation started between Ted and I.
“There’s a baby, and she needs a home…..”
Time stood still as I waited for him to finish…..
“There’s a baby, and she needs a home; maybe we can give her one….”
I would like to say my first feelings were that of excitement and joy but then I would be lying. Instead I felt a mixture of anxiety, fear and strong motherly instinct to protect “our” kids as well as this new baby whose existence I had only learned of seconds before all mixed into one. The butterflies swirled around in my belly and incoherent thoughts spilled out of my mouth.
“What can we do?”
“But Kimmy is not even 1 yet!”
“Can we do this?”
“No one else wants her?”
“What’s her name?”
“Carmen? That’s a pretty name!”
“We can do this! We have to do this!”
This interaction took all of a minute and it was within that first minute that I fell in love. I had not seen her, touched her, held her, nothing, but I was in love. How can you fall in love so quickly with someone you have never met? I don’t know, but I did. It was just meant to be I guess.
The fear was still there though, fear of the unknown, of the what ifs. The information we had was very little. All we knew for sure was that Ted’s sister had given birth to (ANOTHER!) baby who was taken away immediately after testing positive for drug exposure. The listed father was incarcerated and apparently there was also a “legal” father as it appeared. Unknown to all members of the family, his sister was married, and, in our state, if you are married then your husband is legally considered the father until proven otherwise.
Sadly this was not the first, second or even third time a child had been removed from his sister and placed with other family members. Given the track record we knew the odds were in our favor for it to be a permanent placement, but it was not necessarily a 100% guarantee. I was already in love though so it was a gamble I was willing to take.
The next 4 weeks were a blur of appointments all over town, home inspections, finger printing, background checks, doctors visits, even a visit to the vet. They were thorough and needed physicals on every member of the family, including our dog.
The approval was given for us to be the familial foster home, and a court date was set to make it official. It was still only considered temporary in the eyes of the court and the ultimate goal was still listed as reconciliation. We were given hope in the fact that they could not even locate Ted’s sister and, in our state, there is a “60 day abandonment law” that states if a baby is taken into custody and the parents go more than 60 days without contacting anyone involved with the case then the court can rule to terminate parental rights. The law was created for babies dropped off at Safe Harbor locations so they did not have to sit in foster care for 6-12 months (or longer) before being placed up for adoption.
As the court date approached, my anxiety increased. What were we doing? Most people have 9 months to prepare for a baby; we got 4 weeks. Was this fair to our kids, especially Kimmy who was only 11 months old? Would she hate me? Would Ted’s sister hate us? I was so conflicted but already felt so protective over this new baby.
The morning of the court date arrived. We left Teddy and Kimmy with a friend and headed out. As soon as we got there we began scanning the room for babies but there were none. Our social worker arrived and quickly briefed us on what would happen. She said she would petition the judge to let Karma (not Carmen, Ted misunderstood the name) live with us. It was ultimately up to the judge, but she assured us that the judge would listen and they like to place kids with family members if at all possible. A surge of new fear washed over me. What if the judge was moody that day? What if he said no? What if he saw how young our other 2 kids were and decided it was not fair to either side?
Then I saw her!
I spotted her before the social worker even pointed her out. I knew it was her because the couple carrying her in looked so sad. She was so tiny yet so perfect. I held my breath, squeezed Ted’s hand and pointed her out saying, “I think that’s her!” The social worker looked up and waved the couple over to us and introduced them as Karma’s current foster family.
My arms ached and I immediately wanted to ask to hold her. I looked in the woman’s eyes filled with so much sorrow, and knew I had to wait.
The court room doors opened and our case number was called out. This was it, decision time.
Everyone filed in. Ted and I were the last to enter. We sat on one side of the room while Karma’s current parents sat on the other. I don’t remember hearing most of the proceedings that went on. I watched that mother the entire time. It was one of the most heart wrenching things I have ever seen. She held Karma so tight, stroking her head, kissing her face and whispering in her ear while tears just streamed down her face. I didn’t even realize I was crying too until Ted turned to me and ask me if I was ok. I told him I suddenly felt as if we were stealing someone’s baby from them. It made me feel sick. This couple obviously adored that little girl. How could we be so selfish? I wanted to jump up and scream, “NO! NEVER MIND! Let them keep her!” yet I stayed in my seat.
The judge asked the social worker first where she thought the best placement would be. She replied that the best placement would be with us. Then the judge asked the Guardian at Litem (a court appointed person who is there to represent the child only), and she also replied that the best placement would be with us. Then the judge did something I never expected; he asked her current foster family where they felt Karma should be. I couldn’t breath, obviously they were going to say with them. They looked at Karma and over at us and said, “She belongs with her family”.
Then the judge turned to us and asked us if we were willing to taking her. “Yes, your honor” we both said, mine barely a whisper.
The judge said he felt the same and officially ruled that Karma would be placed in our custody and banged his gavel.
The sound echoed in the courtroom and all was quiet except for the muffled sobbing that was coming from both myself and the other mother holding our new baby.
I was not sure what this meant, our social worker told us to bring a car seat just in case, but that they may not officially transfer custody for a few days. Did this mean we were going home with a new baby or did we have to wait?
I still had not held her and I was so torn on whether I wanted to or not. I did not want to deny her any more time with the other mom. That was the woman who had been her mama the last 4 weeks. As far as that tiny baby was concerned the blonde woman on the other side of the courtroom was her mama. I was just some strange lady who wanted to take her away.
The social worker lead us all out of the courtroom and into a private room. She told the original foster family that they could take Karma home with them if they wanted and she would bring Karma to us the next day. The couple looked at us and shook their heads no. “We have already said our goodbyes this morning,” the dad replied “We can’t do it again.”
I KNEW IT! They hated us; we were stealing their little girl.
The social worker said that would be fine, handed Ted and I the legal paper work naming us as her current guardians and left us alone in the room to make the exchange. She told us all to take as much time as we needed.
The other mom was still crying. I was crying. It was a hot mess in that room.
“Do you want to hold her now?”, the mom asked me. Oh, did I ever want to hold her, but I said no. I couldn’t do that to either of them yet.
They began to tell us a little bit about Karma. She was not sleeping too well at night and had a really bad diaper rash (sound familiar?) that was peeling and bloody at times. She was on a special prescription formula because she had some serious reflux and bloody stools with the previous formulas they had tried.
The mom went to change her diaper. She wanted me to see the rash. She began to apologize for it and assured me they had been trying really hard to get it to clear up. I told her we had 2 kids of our own so we know that diaper rashes happen to even the best parents.
They began to talk about their 2 yr old son at home. Can I just say how relieved I felt to know that they had a son so I was not taking their only baby from them.
The other mom pulled out a special scrapbook she had created for Karma. It was full of pictures of Karma taken in her first 4 weeks of life. We flipped through it together and oohhed and awwwed at the little face looking up at us from the photos.
It was at this point that I apologized to them and told them how sorry we were. I told them I felt like we were stealing her from them. The other mom smiled sweetly and told me it was ok, they always knew they were not going to be her permanent home. The other dad went on to say that if something ever happened to them they would want their son to be placed with family members, and that Karma belonged with us because we were her family. This made me feel a bit better to know they didn’t hate us but still did not totally lift my guilt.
We talked a bit more, they held Karma and said a few final goodbyes and then handed her over to us. It felt so right to hold her, like she was the missing piece to our family puzzle. I never wanted to let her go.
There were lots more tears, hugs and handshakes exchanged. We also exchanged emails and Myspace information so we could keep in touch. They said they would love to be able to see Karma’s progress and watch her grow. We even planned to maybe meet up in the future and have a play date. I wish I could say we were still in touch but somewhere along the way between 2 computers crashing on us and everyone switching from Myspace to Facebook we lost contact. I still remember their names though. Maybe I should look them up on Facebook!
Then we all left the room together. That morning we arrived with no baby and we were now taking a beautiful baby girl home. The other family arrived with a precious baby and were going home empty handed. Even if they knew all along that was what was to be, it still haunts me. They sent us home with 2 bags full of Karma’s “things” and in them there were baby clothes still with tags in 3-6 and 6-9 month sizes. This made me think that on some level they had hoped she would be theirs. I do take comfort in knowing that even if we had not decided to take Karma, they would not have been able to adopt her because apparently there was a woman out there who had adopted another sibling that most people in the family knew nothing about. This woman was approached first and asked if she wanted to take Karma and she said no. She ended up changing her mind about 4 weeks after Karma was placed with us. That will lead me into Part 2…. Our week of TORTURE where we thought we were going to lose Karma.
“We have a problem” the social worker began “Karma has another sibling, a brother. The woman who adopted him has changed her mind and wants to adopt Karma too….”
You can find Christy blogging at Adventures of Mommyhood: Mommy Outnumbered, her personal blog, and for Instinctual Mamas. She is the mommy of four children ages 1, 2, 3 and 5. You can also find her on Facebook and can find Instinctual Mamas on Facebook as well.