Sunday, May 4, 2008

Adoption Story, Part Four

Olivia was born on November 12th, a Monday. The laws of the state where she was born required a 72-hour waiting period before the birthmother could sign papers relinquishing her parental rights, and she would also be required to do this in the presence of a judge, in court, after a period of questioning to be sure she knew what she was doing, etc. Because our birthmother had just endured surgery and required some recovery time before she could reasonably be expected to appear in court, her attorney scheduled our hearings for Friday, November 16th. Olivia would be required to remain in the care of the hospital until after this hearing, so we camped out in the hospital for the week.

Although I was a little disappointed with the wait, it really was a great week for us. Olivia was born in a Catholic hospital that had a wing of rooms they used for guests who wanted to stay to be near a patient. The rooms were in what was probably once a residence for nuns who ran the hospital. They were like little monastic cells, with a couple of twin beds, a sink and a little closet. There were communal bathrooms, showers, kitchen area and TV room, but as far as we could tell, we were the only ones staying there. So this little residence worked out nicely for us. The worst part about staying in this wing was that it was a good 15-mile hike (just a slight exaggeration) through the maze of hospital halls to get from our room to the baby nursery, but it was a small price to pay for staying in a cozy, on-site room for just $10.00 per night.

We spent much of our time in and out of the baby nursery. The nurses always let us take Olivia out of the nursery to an unoccupied maternity room, where we would feed her and rock her and change her and stare at her for long periods of time. We spent some time visiting Samantha as she recovered from surgery. Mostly, we just sat and enjoyed this new sensation of being parents of this amazing little baby.

On Thursday, Samantha was discharged at around noon, and shortly before that she shuffled (slowly, with much pain) down to the room where Olivia and I were staring at each other. She sat with us and held Olivia for awhile. Just before she left to go back to her room to change and pack her things, she held Olivia up and said, "Well, I sure am glad I got to meet you, little girl. I know you are going to have a great life and great parents. And I sure am happy about that." It made my heart break and leap at the same time.

On Friday at noon, we sat in the waiting area at the courthouse for our turn to do whatever was required of us to complete this process. Samantha was a little late and walking very slowly...still very sore from her surgery. But she managed to get into the courtroom. After about 20 minutes, she came back out with her attorney and said to us, "Take good care of that little girl." We assured her that we would.

Then it was our turn in the courtroom. We sat as an attorney read the papers we signed and kept asking questions like, "Is that correct?" to verify that we had understood what we signed. Then the judge said something like, "This court finds that this couple is well suited to be adoptive parents of this child, Infant Female LastName, and recommends that the child be released to their care and custody, pending finalization of adoption..." blah, blah, etc. Then he turned to us and congratulated us with a smile. My husband turned to me, hugged me and said, "Let's go to the hospital and get our baby." At which point I started to cry.

So, we went back to the hospital, dressed Olivia in her "leaving the hospital" clothes, strapped her into her carseat for the first time and waited for the attorney to bring the papers to the hospital so they could let us leave. While we were waiting, the nurses gave us bags and bags of goodies...several packages of infant diapers, cases of nursette bottles of prepared formula, a diaper bag with samples of this and that...they were so good to us. I'm sure this is built into the cost of her hospital care, but still.

Waiting to be released from the hospital.

The attorney finally came and we were escorted out of the hospital by the social worker. We all piled into the very packed car and headed out.

Just the first of many, many car trips.

I wish I could say that we were headed home to happiness and joy, but we were stuck in Olivia's state of birth (not our state) for another five days. For those who are not familiar with adoption law, there's this interstate compact thingie where the birth state's office of adoption affairs (or something) has to review the adoption paperwork, make sure everything was completed according to that state's law, and then forward the paperwork to our resident state's adoption affairs office, where they have to review to make sure their state laws were satisfied. We were informed that it was against the law for us to take this baby across state lines until this paperwork was approved by both states and we received permission to go home. After spending five nights in hotels with a newborn, I don't think the internet should have to hear what I think of this law.

In retrospect, those five hotel days weren't the hell I thought they were at the time. The hotels we had were nice. We got to visit some very generous friends. We got to spend more time staring at our beautiful baby before the onslaught of visiting family members began. But at the time, I was crippled by the incredible lack of sleep, which fed my insecurities about my ability to care for this tiny human, and we were also anxious about the timing of the paperwork. Since Olivia was released on a Friday, the paperwork processing didn't start until the following Monday. And if it wasn't finished by the end of Wednesday, we knew that we would be camping out for at least another four days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Please take me home so we can find some clothes that actually fit!

Thanks be to God, we got a call from our lawyer on Wednesday afternoon, November 21st (my birthday), saying that the paperwork had been approved and we could come home. This was just about the best birthday news I could have received at the time. We arrived home, at our house, around 9:00 p.m. that night. We were welcomed by a few family members, including my parents, who volunteered to take the tiny sleepy baby home with them so her physically and emotionally exhausted parents could get some sleep. We were too tired to refuse.

The next few days were a blur of Thanksgiving celebrations, and it was a lot of stress (to be honest) with a little tiny baby who was overstimulated, but we were so elated to be home that we didn't care.

Finally home! Take me out of this carseat already!

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