November is National Adoption Month in which we remember the over 101,000 children waiting in foster care and hoping for placement with families.
Tomorrow is National Adoption Day! The annual one day event that has finalized over 44,500 adoptions. I have heard from many families that they will finalize their adoption on National Adoption Day tomorrow along with so many around the country. How I would love to sit in the courtroom with you and experience again the finality of becoming a family – forever.
I remember well the mix of emotions I had when we finalized our adoption. Nervousness (we had to sit before a judge), apprehension (did we really have ALL the paperwork in order), and excitement (this is the day!). Rising early that morning I gathered all the overflowing paperwork into one neat pile. “Done.” I said mentally. I packed the diaper bag for any and every emergency – vomit, poop, mud, boo-boo, ravenous hunger, dire thirst, sudden eruption of tooth-coming-in-crankiness – “Done.” I said mentally. I dressed her in an outfit that I had chosen the night before (very unlike me), and then dressed myself and applied my makeup conservatively. “Done.” I exhaled. Then, with my parents and mother-in-law in tow we decided to dash across town to lunch before we were due in court.
It really wasn’t until I was finished eating my sandwich and reached into my purse for a mint that I realized I did not have my wallet. It slid over me slowly as I looked up at my husband in disbelief that I had prepared so carefully and left all my identification somewhere at home. I wouldn’t be allowed into the courtroom with their strict 9/11 protocol. I wouldn’t have the needed identification to sign the official papers. We wouldn’t be allowed to finalize.
Terrified I looked at my loving mother-in-law, so calm and ready for the soon to be unfolding joy of the day, and I said, “Get in the car.”
Then we ran. Yes, I made my sixty-two year old mother-in-law run like a fury to my little car and threw it in drive before she was fully even in the car. I then gunned it, racing through New Jersey like a bat out of hell, pulling California stops at every red light and stop sign, passing turning cars on the right, and not taking the car below third gear all the way back to my house. At some point I glanced back at my mother-in-law in the backseat, who was holding onto the handle above the window not with white knuckles, but a completely white hand, and a terrified look in her eye as she slid from one side of the backseat to the other all while trying to chat amicably about the future that might not come to pass because of my faux pas.
Lurching into the driveway I ran to the front door threw it open and found my wallet sitting innocently next to the phone. Then we began the same race down to Hackensack, but faster this time because it was only twenty minutes until our finalization appointment. Twenty minutes I previously thought that I would sit peaceably with my babe snuggled in my arms outside of the intimidating courtroom reflecting on the momentous occasion of our finalization.
Seeing all the cops around the courthouse, I did manage to slow down when we entered the parking structure, pried my mother-in-law’s hand from the window bar and RAN into the courthouse. When we hit security they smiled and asked for NO identification. Upstairs with our lawyer I apologized and explained about our break in decorum as he had asked plainly to be there 30 minutes early. He smiled and said, “Oh, they don’t even ask for any identification outside of all the legal documents you have already filled out.” I sat down heavily in a chair and looked over at a my wilted mother-in-law, parents who thought I had lost my mind, and husband who was shaking his head (but later told me perhaps I should have been a race car driver, something I still to this day think of as a compliment). We sat there only mere minutes, my flop sweat drying in the warmth of the courthouse before the courtroom doors were thrown open and a smiling, tearful, joy-filled family walked out toward us.
“We did it!” they cried.
“We are done!” they exclaimed.
And they hugged and kissed and held their child in the air.
And then it was our turn. Our turn to finalize our journey with laughter, tears, and cries of thankfulness. As adoptive families we know that while finalization is the culmination of all the paperwork, interviews, home visits, training, and preparation, it really is only the beginning of a lifetime together. Because we walked into the courtroom that day as a group of individuals with paperwork and came out as a family.