Tomorrow is Jonas’s adoption day! On April 26, 2019, his adoption was finalized in Baltimore County court. He was ours from the very beginning, but he legally and officially become OURS that day.
I love celebrating Adoption Day with our boys. Our tradition is that we go back to the Towson Diner, which is the place we went for brunch after each of our boys’ adoption days, and we eat pancakes for dinner. We sing the Happy Adoption Day song. We also tell the boys their adoption story and look at their life book together. It’s a day of sharing memories and stories as a family.
This is Jonas’s first adoption day since everything was finalized in court, and sadly we won’t be able to visit the Towson Diner for our tradition due to the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll make it a special day here at home; pictures to come!
Everyone gets so excited when we tell them that tomorrow is J.J.’s adoption day. (!!!!!) Yet I wonder how many of them know the details of what will happen on this day.
I have attended many adoption days. One was for Edgar, our oldest son. The others were for children I worked with as a social worker whose families invited me to attend their special day in court; the sweetness and specialness of these invitations were especially meaningful to me.
The funniest part of an adoption day is the juxtaposition of the solemnity of the courtroom, the judge, and the decrees with the joy and festivity of the children and families who are celebrating. I have never seen a judge on adoption day who was not ear to ear with glee. I rarely would describe judges on other days that I was in court as even slightly gleeful; gleeful doesn’t really match with the other reasons you might be presiding in court. One day, a judge (who was wearing a rainbow bow tie for the occasion) explained to me that the judges will fight to be able to preside over adoption day; they get almost as much joy from the hearing as the families do.
Here’s what I’m expecting to happen tomorrow, based on the adoption days I’ve witnessed:
All the families – could be 3 families, could be 10, in my experience – will arrive in the courtroom for their 9 a.m. hearing. This includes the adoptive parents, the adoptive child, and any extended family or friends that have been invited. The courtroom is usually full of chatter and excitement.
When 9 a.m. arrives, the first family is called back to the judge’s chambers. On Edgar’s adoption day, the first family was us – which was inconvenient, because Nana, Aunt Kristen, Uncle Brian, and Cousin B.J. were in the process of abandoning the line for the elevator and sprinting up the stairs of the courthouse to Courtroom A right as our family was called. As a result, those family members have been told that the hearing starts at 8:40 a.m. for Jonas’s adoption day hearing tomorrow. Please don’t tell them that the hearing is actually at 9.
When the family goes back to the judge’s chambers, the judge will excitedly chit chat with the adoptive parents and smile or talk with the adoptive child. Then the judge will do some formal talking – about the adoption packet, the paperwork that’s been filed – and then she’ll read the adoption decree and sign it. If the parents are sentimental, they’ll cry – and if they’re sleep=deprived because their seven-month-old is not sleeping through the night, then they’ll probably cry a lot. (Not talking about me and Tamara, of course. We won’t be gushing crybabies at all.)
On Edgar’s adoption day, the judge had a box full of beanie babies and said that Edgar could have one to take with him as an adoption day gift. Our nephew B.J. was with us; he was 8 years old at the time, and he conscientiously took on the task of selecting a beanie baby. He asked if he could take out every single beanie baby, lay them side by side, so he could pick the best one. My brother vetoed that plan, knowing there were at least four families waiting for their special moment in the judge’s chambers, and B.J. quickly chose a tiny green teddy bear with a shamrock on his heart named Erin.
The judge held Edgar on her lap as she read the decree, and then she took a picture with Tamara, me, and our extended family, holding a serious-faced Edgar the whole time. Then we went all together (just our family, not the judge) to eat pancakes at the Towson Diner, which is a tradition Tamara and I have maintained every year on Edgar’s adoption day.
Maybe Baby J.J.’s adoption day story will be different. Maybe it’ll be exactly the same.
On March 3rd, we celebrated our oldest son’s Adoption Day.
For our family, Adoption Day is the anniversary of the day we went to court, met with a judge, and had Edgar’s adoption finalized. I think that for many adoptive families, this is what they mean as well when they discuss Adoption Day; of course, I’m not certain, since every family is unique and celebrates adoption in their own way. Many families celebrate Gotcha Day in addition to or in lieu of Adoption Day; Gotcha Day refers to the day the child physically comes home to their forever family.
For me, an event like Adoption Day means a complex contest: celebration and joy versus stress and pressure.
I believe that it’s important and valuable to celebrate moments and meaningful anniversaries. However, this is not something that comes naturally to me. I’m not the friend who’ll plan your baby shower, and I’m not the one who’ll handle the details of an outing, whether we’re meeting for a movie or going on vacation to a foreign country. I’m thoughtful and kind, but I’m not a Pinterest mom who excels at making the special moments beautiful. I’m the kind of mom who desperately wants for the special moments to be extra-extra-extra-special, and who often twists herself into a tizzy trying to figure out how to be my authentic self while also facilitating moments of celebration and joy. I often find myself racing around (’cause I’m not really the “plan ahead” kinda Mom either!) and spending money I don’t need to spend trying to find gifts, or balloons, or whatever sparkly thing I think will make my family smile.
WHEW. I get stressed just typing the words!
The thing is that when it comes to Edgar’s adoption day, I didn’t stress at all. On Edgar’s first Adoption Day – the day we went to court and cried for joy in the judge’s chambers – we went out to breakfast afterward at the Towson Diner with our extended family. Shortly before last year’s Adoption Day, Tamara and I decided that Edgar’s celebration each year would start with breakfast (pancakes FTW) at the diner – at least for now. (I’m sure the day’s events will evolve as Edgar grows older!) This year, we ate an early breakfast at the diner and then went to a playground, and Edgar was overjoyed.
It was sweet, and it was simple. We didn’t want Adoption Day to be about gifts or a party – just family time and an outing that aligns with something Edgar enjoys. For me, I think that the key to facilitating celebrations without stress is to keep it simple. Adoption Day is pancakes at the diner; my birthday is a coffee shop and ice skating; Valentine’s Day is decorating the house with construction paper hearts that say reasons why we love everyone in our family. SIMPLE, and sweet. The next time I am stressing over planning something, I’m going to try to find just one simple event or gesture that can be the center of that special memory.
An added bonus of our adoption pancakes tradition is this: Edgar knows that his Adoption Day is a special event that involves pancakes. That’s a simple connection that he can understand, and it’s one of the only connections related to his adoption that he can make at two years old. We talk with Edgar all the time about the story of how he came home to us, but he can’t process things like biological parents and pregnancy and all the other big kid concepts you need to understand in order to fully comprehend what it means to be adopted.
But Edgar knows this: on Adoption Day, we go out as a family and we eat PANCAKES and we smile because it is a great day.
This time around, the adoption wait is way easier. But I am still struggling a lot when it comes to getting a call about a potential baby and then having to wait days and weeks to find out if that baby is Our Baby.
I found this out recently, and it genuinely surprised me. I thought I had this waiting thing under control. I did not think I’d have the same level of panic and uneasiness with the uncertainty.
Then, we got a call about a baby who could potentially be placed with our family. The waiting started. And I did all the wrong things, once again. I planned things out in my head. I daydreamed. I thought of names.
And then – that baby wasn’t Our Baby. And that’s okay. I trust that our second child is on its way and that all will be well.
But in the moment, while I’m waiting for a phone call (if it’s a yes) or an e-mail (if it’s a no)? In that moment, I am still having a really hard time with the wait.
I have no reliable strategies for dealing with this uncertainty. But today I am pondering the notion of surrender. This concept is discussed often in recovery meetings – the idea that we admit that we’re powerless over something, and turn it over to a power greater than us.
Now, I’m not a religious person, and I struggle with belief in God. But that hasn’t stopped me from finding peace and serenity in recovery. Because the most powerful thing a person with an unsolvable problem can do simply admit that she’s powerless and let it go.
This is tricky when it comes to problems we feel like we CAN control – how much money , we have, what size jeans we wear, our relationships with others. It still works, for me, in all of those situations – but it’s harder to let go of control.
But, with the adoption wait? It is not hard to admit that I am completely powerless over the situation. Unless I am going to go out and find an adoptive child on my own – which some people do, but is not for me – there’s pretty much nothing I can do about the wait.
Just admit I’m powerless, surrender to the wait, and enjoy my everyday life without worrying about when Baby # 2 will arrive.
I know that the next time the phone rings, it’ll be a struggle to keep my mind and my heart from running away from the present. But today? Today I feel content. I’ll hang on to that for now.
You’ve gotten an e-mail letting you know that a birth mother will be viewing your adoption album and considering you as a prospective adoptive parent for her child.
This is exciting. You’re excited.
You’re also panicked. Not really about the possible arrival of a baby on your doorstep, but more about the mental strain you will experience waiting to hear the news about whether or not you’ve been selected. You’re not awesome at dealing with uncertainty – you like to know what’s going to happen ahead of time, which works out super-well in all areas of your life.
You came up with an action plan to help you deal with this period of uncertainty. and it’s definitely going to work.
Check your phone a lot. As much as you physically can.
Check your email whenever you see the little red 1 notifying you that you have a new e-mail. Get super pissed if it’s a promotional email. Or the stupid New Yorker sending the daily political news that you never read anyway.
Don’t listen to your spouse when she advises you to turn off the notifications so you never see the little red 1.
Have little heart palpitations whenever you get a call from an unknown Maryland number.
IF THE UNKNOWN NUMBER IS THE SUBARU DEALERSHIP, CALLING YOU FOR THE TENTH TIME WITH A SERVICE REMINDER – forget it. Calm down. They’re not worth it.
Daydream about names for little boys. Make mental to do lists involving cribs and toddler beds.
Consider e-mailing someone from HR to ask about FMLA, and then decide against it so as not to incite any questions you don’t want to answer. You don’t like people to know when you’re waiting to hear. You don’t want anyone to be disappointed. Other than you and your wife.
Check your phone again. Doesn’t matter if you’re driving.
Notice that you have a call from an unknown local number. Make sure your heart rate picks up. Google the number and discover that it’s your pharmacy calling; your prescription is probably ready. Make sure your heart rate slows down again.
Write and share a blog post. Then check your phone a lot to see if anyone’s viewed it or shared it. Because that will be a different reason to check your phone and variety is the spice of life.
It’s been six days.
Repeat steps 1 through 10.
Over and over again.
Get an e-mail. Baby or no baby?
No baby, this time.
Feel heartbreakingly disappointed and relieved at the same time. You’re so sad that this was not your baby, but the waiting is over, and sometimes the knowing is better even when the knowing means pain and hurt.
Wait for the next e-mail.
You’re done with the waiting, this time around. Go back to your wonderful everyday life, and enjoy it. Ignore the little bubble of uncertainty that is always there, reminding you that at any moment a tiny baby may be placed in your arms for you to love forever. No need to worry about that bubble.
But maybe check your e-mail one more time. You never know.