God's Child, Our Joy

An adoptive family's journey in faith and life

The Wait

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When I go to visit the dentist, the dental hygienist who cleans my teeth spends the entire time with me, while the dentist is there only for about 10%. She dutifully cleans the teeth, administers the x-ray, discovers any weak spots or potential cavities and lets the dentist know. On most appointments, they handle most of the work. Lawyers are the same way.

Our lawyer’s assistant does all the paperwork, files it with the appropriate court, and establishes a good rapport with the agents of the courts. She would create and file our petition to adopt Eli. Unfortunately for us, it was the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, and she was out of office for a long weekend.

I had called in to work the night before to let them know I wouldn’t be coming in. Just couldn’t think how I could concentrate on work that day, plus we’d thought we might have to run to the lawyer’s office. So we had to wait until Tuesday to sign the papers. This caused a weekend of worry. What if the potential father filed paperwork that Friday? We’d have to fight for Eli in a different county, in front of a different court, in front of an unknown judge.

It was Memorial Day weekend, and the news had been weighing on us. This is not how we had planned on spending our weekend. In fact, we had both of our families coming in that weekend for Eli’s baptism. A typically joyous occasion, but how would we feel and how would our guests feel?

As expected, our guests came staggered throughout the weekend. Some arrived on Friday, some on Saturday, and some on Sunday. This meant that every time someone arrived, we would have to go through the same story all over again. You can’t blame anyone, if they care enough to make the trip out for Eli they care enough to need to know about the situation.

But here is the thing, they all knew that it was a tough situation for us, and didn’t press. They got the information, showed support, and shifted gears to celebrate Eli’s baptism. That probably is what got us through the weekend.

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The Tuesday after Memorial we had our appointment with the lawyer scheduled for lunch. We met at the office and sat down. I am not a lawyer and try not to pretend I know everything that is going on, but here is what I think we did. Wait, let me back up. With Eva’s adoption we filed our petition to adopt and scheduled the court date for just after her six month birthday (in Ohio they require six months to make sure we are fit parents before making it official). We went to court and no one objected. Then the judge signed the paper, we took pictures, and we celebrated.

For Eli, we would file our petition now and request a court date as soon as possible. At that court date, we would go through the same things as Eva’s court date, even with a signature at the end that would later be post dated. We still needed to wait the six months. That moment when the pen hits the paper to make it official would not be captured in a picture like we did before. Instead, it will be done in an office at an unspecified moment captured by no one other than the judges eye. I can lament the loss of that moment now, but at the time it was insignificant. Who cares if we were there to see that moment as long as that moment existed.

Of course, there was a wrinkle. The judge that handled these cases was retiring. This case was now going to be heard by an interim judge.  Our lawyer had been in front of the previous judge many times, had a good rapport with him, and knew how he interpreted the law. An interim judge will probably continue the same way as the previous and the new judge will probably not overrule previous rulings, but still there was just a bit more uncertainty to the situation.

We signed our papers to file a petition to adopt with interlocutory order, and were left with one major question. Now what? Our lawyer let us know that our court date was going to be in just over a month, and that there was one thing we wanted to hear over that month; absolutely nothing. The ideal scenario has us meeting him at the court house in a month having not talked to him during that month, not hearing anything from our agency, and especially not hearing anything from another court or lawyer.

It is really hard to wish for nothing. It is hard to want something so bad and the best course to achieve it is to do nothing. There has never been a politician that has campaigned on “status quo”. There has never been a Super Bowl winner that said, “We’re not going to be better, we’re not going to be worse next year!” No, the politician campaigns on making things better, the Super Bowl winner promises to come back even better next year, and we strive to make the chances Eli stays with us better. But we can’t. All we have now is the wait.

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We tried our best to go on living our lives and forget about the situation for the time being, until someone asked how things with Eli’s adoption were going, which brought it all to the surface again. There was nothing we could do to speed up the adoption process and there was nothing we could do to make it more likely. We were advised not to speak with our birthmom about this situation which also left us with many unanswered questions. In this case, it is better for her not to know what is going on.  While we waited, life continued on. Steph went back to work on Tuesday after having used up her leave.  Eli had his two month appointment that week as well, and this is the appointment where we find out that Eli might have a heart murmur. It just seems that now we just can’t catch a break.

The visit to the cardiologist cleared up that worry, as he didn’t have any issues with his heart.  We hoped that this trend of good news would continue. No, actually we just wanted nothing.  No news whatsoever.

Our court date was in early July.  We would have to cut short a trip back home to Iowa to make sure we would be there, but that was fine with us.  We just had to get to July.

June came and went with no more news.  We’d spend the first part of July back home and blissfully distracted by family.

The day of Eli’s court date was a weird day.  There was a sense of anticipated relief, yet disappointment that it wasn’t final.  We were all there, but we had no one to share it with (sorry lawyer, it’s just not the same.)

The court hearing was the same as Eva’s, and everything went by nearly the same script. And then, it was over. The judge saw us as fit, and more interestingly (we already new we were fit parents) there had been no other legal action.  We had our month of silence.  Only, that wasn’t quite true.

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We still had to wait until Eli had been living with us for six months for it to become official.  It’s July, but still another three months until October.  We managed the wait until the court date, we can manage another wait.

We talked with our adoption agency representative after the hearing was over.  She told us that they had been contacted twice about Eli in the last month. One was from PBF (potential birth father).  This was not totally surprising, but the second one shocked us.  It was from Eli’s birth mother asking for paternity tests.

The call from PBF at least answered one of our questions, if he was somewhat interested in the baby, or if it was just his sister was going behind his back.  Clearly he knew about it, but we were still unclear if she was pressing him.

The first instinct that a parent has when faced with the threat of losing their child is to keep the threat away by any means possible.  I would be lying to say I didn’t think about deceiving them, yelling at them, or providing idle threats.  These are horrible ideas, and can make a bad situation even worse.  This is why it is important to have an experienced agency or lawyer (or both) helping you through these situations.

Our agency did exactly what they should.  They protected our privacy, but did not deceive them in any way.  They told them of their rights (or lack of) and what they would need to do if they wanted to pursue it further, i.e. hire a lawyer.  There is no reason to put us in any legal jeopardy.

So PBF knew what he needed to do if he was actually concerned, hire a lawyer.  But what about that second contact from our birthmother?

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We had three months before Eli’s adoption became official.  The three month wait was marked by three events.  The first event was meeting with Eva and Eli’s birth mother.  We made plans to visit one weekend, but in the back of our heads there was this fear.  Would there be somebody else there?

There was some trepidation in making the visit.  We were under no legal obligation to visit her, and our social worker didn’t necessarily warn us, but asked that we tread lightly.  We weighed our relationship with her up to this point, the value for the kids, and what could potentially happen.   We had a good relationship so far and it would be good for the kids.  We felt we could leave if we needed to, so we planned to meet at her apartment.  She implied that only her and her daughter would be there.

On the drive there we were still pondering the request for paternity.  Was it for her own knowledge, or was it to prove to him that he wasn’t the father?  In texts and Facebook messages since the call, she never mentioned anything to us.

We walked in and exchanged our normal pleasantries. Eva and Eli’s sister is always excited to see them, and now Eva is old enough to start playing with her.  We talk with birth mother, but unbeknownst to us is the presence of someone in the kitchen.

She calls her in, and thank the Lord it’s her sister.  She had been there for Eva’s birth and we get along.  We pass around pictures, Eva runs around like crazy, and Eli continues to stay cute.

We talk, but we don’t bring anything up.  She talks, but she doesn’t bring anything up and seems a little more withdrawn than normal. After a while we say our goodbyes and leave.   We were unsure of what to think, but relieved that there were no new surprises.

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A month before we were to receive the good news about Eli, we received the good news about Eli.  (Hmmm?) The court signed the final adoption decree and sent copies to our lawyer, our agency and us.  We began receiving congratulations from our agency and our social worker.  I initially was excited, but then reality sunk in.  This wasn’t right. I call Steph and she has the same concerns.

If you’ve seen the movie Liar, Liar (and this just proves that you shouldn’t be reading this site for sound legal advice when I reference a Jim Carrey movie), there’s a divorce case that turns when they discover the wife signed the pre-nup before she was 18, thus making it invalid on a technically. We didn’t want any issues for us going forward, where they say the adoption was invalid because it happened before he had lived with us for 6 months!

We call our lawyer (okay, our lawyer’s assistant) and she tells us that they’ll take care of it. On the positive side, at least we knew that our paperwork wasn’t forgotten about. On the downside, this brought it back to the forefront of our minds and we still had a whole month to fret.
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The third event was the anticipated penultimate moment.  The sixth month wait period would be over soon. Officially, our sixth month date was on a Saturday, so I was anticipating news on the following Monday.  I had my rose colored glasses on and had assumed that first thing Monday the judge would come to work and “hey, I get to make Eli’s adoption decree official today!” So I sat at work and checked by phone every half hour for a phone call or an email to arrive.  By the end of the day, I knew that Reds.com had a sale(which was different then the other 4 sales it had during the week) and work was shutting off our AC but not sure when they’ll turn on the heat.  However, no news on Eli.  Not to worry, they probably signed it in the afternoon and news will trickle out on Tuesday.

Steph is not worried and tells me she didn’t expect to hear, so I’m somewhat relieved.  Tuesday shall be the day.  Morning comes and goes with no news, and my incessant email check has increased to every 15 minutes.  Tuesday around 2, my worry level has crossed the point where I have to call someone. What if they forgot? What if they had questions? I called our lawyer’s assistant. She answers the phone as she is covering the phones this afternoon.  This means that she isn’t at her desk, and may not be able to check on things.  However, once I tell her who I am she remembers.

That morning she had read over the adoption decree and made copies to send us.  Congratulations, it’s official.  Relief seeps out of me and all I want to do is get off the phone and call Steph.  She continues to tell me that the lawyer picked up the decree on Monday while he was at court, and everything is good to go.

My heart is full of joy now, and I call home to tell Steph the good news.  It didn’t matter that I was standing in the stairwell of work instead of a court room, it didn’t matter that we couldn’t have family there at that exact moment, it didn’t matter that it had been so stressful.  Only one thing mattered at that moment.

He is ours.

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3 thoughts on “The Wait

  1. OK, that post got me: tears of relief for you and knowing what you went through… I think you just went through a pregnancy after all!! Six months of ups and downs and questions and answers… CONGRATULATIONS!!

  2. I cried my eyes out when I hit the last line. I’m so so happy for your family!!! You went through so much and handled it with such grace. Congratulations!!!

  3. Woo-hoo! Of course, I saw Steph’s update on Facebook so I’ve known since I saw it but still, after all that mess and worry and insanity, WOO-HOO!

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