People who don’t understand adoption assume that once you bring the baby home, the adoption is complete. But domestic adoption doesn’t work that way. Depending on where the adoptive parents or birth parents live, and those particular state’s laws, adoptive parents only have what is called “legal-risk placement” of the baby for the first six months. Essentially, the baby is not officially or legally part of your family yet, but rather, is “placed” with you pending legalities and more paperwork. Just when you think you’re done with filling out forms, there are more!
Because Miles was born in Texas, his birthmother was able to voluntarily and irrevocably relinquish her rights 48 hours after he was born. So, thankfully, we haven’t had to worry about her changing her mind about the adoption. (I don’t think I could have handled that particular stress for six months.) But the agency we worked with then became the legal guardian of Miles–not us–and said agency then “placed” him with us for six months until the required amount of time and post-placement visits with social workers have been completed and we can finalize the adoption.
I guess it’s like a trial period, designed to ensure that we aren’t totally inept at this parenthood thing. The time when birth parents can officially relinquish rights varies from state to state, but to my knowledge most states have the 6-month waiting period before finalization.
I will always remember our little yellow cottage in Texas fondly. It was a pretty great place to live for a couple of weeks, and we enjoyed our time there as much as possible.
Jamie’s birthday came and went–we celebrated with take-out Italian and a cake I made, and witnessed an absolutely incredible lightning storm that made the night feel like the 4th of July. We were having fun with Miles, taking him on walks and getting to know our sweet little baby. But the minute we heard that we were approved to go home, we jumped in the car and left as fast as we could. Truth be told, we were already packed up and at the gas station, with the car pointed towards home, when we got the call. (We were expecting it.)
We were ecstatic to (finally!!) be leaving, but we were also slightly terrified of the 19-hour road trip that lie ahead. Jamie and I and the dogs have traveled across the country together and the four of us are used to long road trips. But adding an infant to the mix would surely shake things up. Not to mention we were starting the trip exhausted from newborn-baby quality sleep. Miles had to eat every two hours. And each feeding took about a half an hour. And then there were the painful gas episodes he had at night that left him crying and/or screaming. What would that be like in the car?
I want to start this post by saying that our adoption experience has been so easy and smooth compared to many I’ve heard. In the grand scheme of things, everything that mattered went very, very well. We hit it off with Miles’ birthmother and immediately felt a great connection to her, and she was resolute in her decision that we were the best parents for Miles.
We bonded immediately with Miles–we felt right away that he was our son. And he came home with us. So, really, that is all that matters and we know how incredibly fortunate we are. Every day I thank the universe for bringing such joy into our lives. I love this little boy more than I ever dreamed possible.
Our adoption experience has been wonderful and we have been so very blessed.
But the process side of it was not all unicorns and rainbows–we had some issues with the Texas agency we were assigned. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that it all happened very quickly. We were chosen, matched, and then Miles was born two days later. It was a whirlwind and it happened over a weekend and I know there wasn’t a lot of time for the adoption center we had been working with all along to educate us on what was happening. But at times we really felt like we were flying blind.
I think if we had time to research adoption law in Texas, things would have been easier. If I had time to research agencies, read reviews, and talk to other people who have adopted from Texas, we could have made an informed choice on agencies. But we didn’t have time for any of that.
No matter how many books you read or how much time you spend with other people’s babies, nothing can prepare you for the first time it’s just you alone with your baby. When we left the hospital with Miles, it felt like a dream. Everything had happened so quickly and now here we were, free to leave with our boy. We could hardly believe we were allowed to take him. We left the hospital walking on air… and then we got to the hotel room.
I could have titled this post, “The Surreal Life: Two sleep-deprived people, a newborn and two big dogs destroy a hotel room” because that pretty much sums up the chaos that ensued. Beautiful, blessed chaos, but chaos all the same. We were so incredibly happy and excited to have our son with us. But what we would have given to have been able to take him directly home to our comfortable house, with our comfortable couch, separate sleeping areas, full kitchen, and washer-and-dryer.
The day we left the hospital with Miles was one of the most emotional of my life. We were so excited to be taking him home but it was also very difficult to leave his birthmother at the hospital. My heart was truly broken for her, and I found myself crying for her loss and for Miles’ loss as she signed the papers.
I will never, as long as I live, forget that moment. The “magnitude of that tragedy” hit me very hard. It was such a happy event for our family, but such an incredibly sad one for hers. And I know it will be sad for Miles when he learns about his adoption. I felt all of that so deeply, and meant it when I told our birthmother that she would always be in our hearts, and always a part of our family. I wish I could have erased her hurt and that I could erase his future hurt, but I know that is not in my power. All I can do is love Miles with every ounce of my being, celebrate him every day of his life, and foster a connection between our two families.
When it was finally time for us to leave, they insisted on wheeling me out with Miles in a wheelchair. At first I felt a little silly, not having given birth to him, but it didn’t take long before I let myself enjoy the ride. I was, after all, his mom now. And even though I’d only known about him for 3 days, there was no question about this. I was 100% Miles’ mother–and I could not possibly have loved him any more, even if I had given birth to him. So I let them roll me out, and I soon found myself unable to stop smiling. I may have been the happiest mom to ever leave a hospital!
We arrived at the hospital in Texarkana around 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning after driving straight through from Charlottesville. We should have been exhausted, seeing as how we hadn’t really slept in three days. But tired was the last thing we were feeling as we walked into the hospital. It was still dark out and there were no staff at the reception desk. We found the sign for the maternity ward and followed it. My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. We were about to meet our little boy!
Thankfully, the maternity nurse was expecting us and let us in without issue. We went straight to our birthmother’s room, knocked and heard a soft, gentle, “come in.” We opened the door to see her holding Miles, clearly happy and relieved that we were there. “Thank you for coming,” she said. I knew from texting her that she was nervous that we weren’t going to show up. I told her there was no chance of that. None whatsoever. I’m not sure she believed me until she saw our faces, though. She smiled and handed us our son.
The morning after talking to our birthmother for the first time, we were debating when to leave for Texas. Her due date was the day before but she hadn’t received prenatal care so the date was really just a best guess. We wanted to be there for the birth but we didn’t want to be in Texas for a week or two prior to the birth because we knew we’d have to stay for a week or two afterwards.
We were so excited but a little unsure what to do. I got the feeling that it was going to happen soon, though, so we made a Target run to get a few things we needed to bring the baby home (blankets, somewhere to sleep, diapers, formula, etc.). We had been planning to trade our 2-door SUV in for a 4-door when the baby came, and since we were now going to be taking a road trip of undetermined length (and had to bring the dogs) we needed to do that now, too.
When we got back from running these errands, I decided to call and check on our birthmother since she told us she had been having mild contractions. When we spoke she told me that the contractions had gotten worse and that she was heading to the hospital.
We no longer had to wonder when to leave. We packed up the new car, loaded the dogs and all our baby gear, and set off for Texas.