One sunny winter morning a few years ago, I woke up full of excitement and anxiety. I saw my husband out the door and I showered and dressed. I went through the house and tidied fallen pillows, and smoothed the drapes and walked down the hall to the last bedroom on the left. I poked my head into the freshly painted room, a bright sunny yellow, and admired the stuffed animals, the white princess canopy over the bed, the lavender tinker-bell curtains. I remember this morning vividly because it was my last hour as “Bernadette”, and the day I became “Mommy”.
We adopted our daughter locally. An older child adoption that was supposed to be quick and simple. I drove to London that morning and arrived at her foster home to find her already bundled up in her little snow suit, all her possessions packed into a box by the door. A few stuffies, a photo of her birth mother, and some drawings from school were all she had to bring to her new life. It was her whole world, and she was quickly becoming mine.
She moved in and we became a family. We excitedly looked forward to the day that it would be finalized and were told it would only be about 6 months – but that didn’t happen. Instead we hit wall after wall, month after month, year after year. Court dates came and went, buried under motions and recesses. New information came up that would send everyone back to the beginning with new papers. Our government passed new legislation. It was a mess.
But during this time, something else was happening. Regardless of papers, our daughter was growing, and we were parenting her. We worked on homework and took family vacations. She had growth spurts and lost baby teeth, and we saw a small girl turn into a very small, little young lady. I have held her hand in my hand every day, I’ve had the honor of fixing her blankets that she kicks off all crazy in her sleep, and I’ve experienced thousands of snuggles with those little arms. Hearing her say “I love you mommy” is the highlight of every one of my days. I would die without those.
But once a month, a social worker was required to come to our house. Often she made promises that she was powerless to keep and we began to lose hope that one day our daughter would have total security. So was she. She had grown up in a system that promised a forever family someday, but now that she had us there was no one who could make good on that promise. We hated to see the disappointment in her eyes month after month, or the way her face would close up the second a doctor or government official had to use her birth surname.
I heard a preacher say once that if you are experiencing the same trial over and over again, maybe you need to ask God to show you the lesson you need to learn so you can move on from this place in your life. So that is what I did, and the result was amazing. Within a few months we were in court and a week after that we won. Then came the next hurdle, but that was quickly overcome as well. Then the paperwork began moving ahead… it was like a dream! Finally last week, we were told that there was a small, very small chance that her adoption could be finalized on the 25th of April. Really? No more social workers? No more reports? No more lawyers?
We prayed. We prayed even when the social worker told us to not get our hopes up. Then she said that maybe we should come in and sign final documents just in case. We prayed when they said it was a 7 week turn around at the ministry and we needed it back in 4 days. Then we were asked for our guest list for court, just in case… On the 24th of April, we were all waiting. I stress-cleaned my basement, Jasmine cried at everything that moved and took 2 naps. My husband texted me several times to see if there was any news. The morning went by, then lunch hour and still nothing but then, at 1:30pm, the call came and we were told we MADE THE LIST!!
The next 12 hours saw us in a flurry of dress shopping, gift buying and restaurant booking. I randomly broke into tears and hid until they passed. I baked a cake at 10pm.
The next day… yesterday, I woke Jassy up at 6:30am and asked her if she wanted to get adopted today. She smiled at me with her eyes still closed, like it was still part of her dream. She put on her new dress and her daddy surprised her with a beautiful wrist corsage of pink roses. I put on her a silver necklace of parents embracing their child and like a little princess she got in the car and we headed to the court house where friends and family were meeting us. The ceremony was short but beautiful. The judge called Jassy up to her and sat her on her lap. She told Jasmine she had been waiting to meet her, and told her that today was the day she was going to become forever a part of our family. She promised Jassy that once the order was signed no one would ever take her away again, and then had Jassy hold the end of her pen while she signed the order declaring her forever our daughter.
Not a dry eye in the courtroom, I can tell you that.
Yesterday it was 3 years, 3 months and 3 days from the day she came to live with us, and the last day that I will keep a tally in my head because now she is just ours. Now I can tell myself it’s forever.