Easter Day 2014.
Our last day as a foster family.
My parents arrived the night before, Easter basket in tow. My mom attached a pretty ribbon to the handle, preparing it for a new life. After dressing Sweet Pea in a beautiful pastel dress, we headed off to church to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, and our promised gift of a new life in Him.
The following morning, we woke to the day that would bring new life to our family. A life filled with confidence, and not fear. A life with clear labels: mom, dad, daughter. In just a matter of a few hours, we’d be a real family. A forever family.
As we walked toward the courthouse, the building looked different to me. We’d been here a half-dozen times since meeting our girl and this walk was always nerve-racking, not knowing who might be there or what might be discussed. This building had been our place of uncertainty. Of powerlessness, as we’d watch quietly from our back pew as life-altering decisions were made for our girl, by people who hardly even knew her.
But this time, this hearing… this was our chance to say what we’ve wanted to say all along. Our chance to sit in the real seats and be a part of the discussion and not just an onlooker.
We neared the building, our hands clenched together. Like all the times before, our palms were sweaty, proof of our anxiety. But unlike all the previous times, we couldn’t wipe the smiles off of our faces.
Our lawyer greeted us inside, enthusiasm and excitement abounding, and escorted us to the courtroom. Inside, our caseworker, attorney and guardian ad litem were all eager to congratulate us on making it this far. Sweet Pea enjoyed having her grandmas- all three- and grandpa in the same room. Adorned in a pink flower dress, she soaked up the love showered on her, completely unaware of the significance this room had had on her life. It was in this very room that her birth mother had cried her way through the relinquishment papers, and where she had become legally available for adoption. And now, was where our dream was about to come true.
At 14 months, she couldn’t have understood why everyone was so happy, but I think we all felt the same when we looked at her.
She’s ours. This precious little baby is ours.
After about twenty minutes, the judge finally was ready to make her appearance.
Here we go…
We took our seats at the official table, our family now behind us in the pews. Our attorney to our left, her guardian ad litem to our right, and our precious girl, sitting on my lap.
The judge before us was a new judge, and we’d been told that it was her very first adoption. A joyous day for all.
We expected that we’d have to say something, raise our right hands and promise to love her forever, protect her, cherish her… something… but after a brief speech from the judge, she looked out on our glowing faces, placed her pen down on the paper, and made us official, with one tiny, but powerful signature.
When she looked up, she smiled and simply said, “Now you may celebrate!”
We looked at each other, both thinking, that’s it?… we’re official? And yes… we were. I remembered how we had signed papers about 6 weeks before with a notary declaring our intentions in raising our girl, before mailing it off to our lawyer. I suddenly became grateful for taking a picture of that moment, though at the time, was unaware that would be the last time we’d be signing for anything.
So now, just like that, after about a three-minute hearing, we’d crossed the finish line.
We were finally a forever family.
We began taking pictures… with the judge, with family, with our wonderful attorney. And with our caseworker, the same woman who had, barely over a year ago, told us about a 2 month old girl in need of a family.
And now… she had one.
She had a mommy.
And a daddy.
Grandparents who adored her.
And a new life with a new name… a brand new identity.
Naming our daughter meant so much to us. It was a piece of the parenthood puzzle I was afraid we might miss by adopting. But like everything else, God had granted us so much more than we had dreamed of.
As previously mentioned, I’d dreamed of Savannah Jane, my future daughter, before I was even married. My heart longed for a girl, but I would have been content with a boy if that’s what we’d been given.
God gave me my girl.
At the onset of this process, and after many heartbreaking discussions of the likelihood of missing out on infancy by going through the foster system, we became content with a toddler or preschooler, but had hoped for the youngest.
God gave us an infant. Just short of pregnancy and childbirth, we’ve experienced nearly every other facet of parenthood.
Upon first hearing about Sweet Pea, we learned she was born early, 4 pounds and 10 ounces, and she was born drug addicted. She spent her first eleven days of life hooked up to machines and monitors, getting her breath from an oxygen mask. There was over a 90% chance she’d have some developmental delays, potentially serious ones… and we were content with that.
Because of the high risk, she qualified for up to 16 hours of service a month (the highest level of service available) from a program here called FOCUS that monitors a child’s first three years of life and provides early intervention with any form of therapy the child may need- speech, physical, etc…
Three months ago, the same diagnostician that has been monitoring her monthly since two months old, brought along an OT to do an in-depth evaluation to pin-point her development exactly. In most areas, she scored 2-5 months ahead of her age.
God gave us not only healthy, but thriving.
Understanding how the foster system works and that only 40% of cases turn into adoption, we were content with the possibility and likelihood of loving several children before finding the one we could keep.
God gave us our first.
We walked out of that courtroom for the last time, the most precious little girl in my husband’s arms. Our attorney handed us the official papers. The papers that made her ours.
The forever kind of daughter we’d wished for and longed for. Begged for and prayed for.
Forever had come.