“I’m Back!” – Something my son shouts EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. he comes home is now applicable to me. It’s been a few weeks, but I haven’t forgotten about you, my blogosphere friends! I’ve had a bunch of homework to complete, a bunch of work to grade, and a pipe burst in my basement… it’s been a little nuts.
I have been writing this blog post in my head for several weeks, and I am excited that I finally have a chance to get it on the screen. Why am I excited about this post? Because it is about the day we brought our son home!
My husband and I were fortunate enough to bring our son home directly from the hospital when he was just 3 days old. And like the day we met him, his homecoming day is a day that I will never forget. But let’s go back a few days…
After that first day we met our little boy, I was ecstatic! Of course, we sent a few pictures to our parents and close relatives, but we did not want to make a public announcement until everything was official.
What do I mean by official, you ask? In many states, birth mothers have a window of opportunity to change their minds- to not proceed with the adoption plan. In the state of Ohio, if a birth mother makes an adoption plan while pregnant, there is a 72 hour minimum waiting period before she is legally allowed to sign over her parental rights to the adoption agency. For birth mothers who decide to make a plan after she delivers, the clock starts once the plan is in place). She can take longer than this if she needs to, but once she signs the paperwork, her decision is irreversible. Each state has specific laws regarding this issue. In California, for instance, birth mothers have up to 30 days after signing the paperwork to revoke her consent to adoption (1). In Florida, however, after the 48 hour waiting period, the consent to adopt can only be revoked for up to 3 days of signing the relinquishing form(2). If you are in the process of adopting or considering adopting, please be sure to understand the laws of the state in from which you are adopting. A good resource that gives a brief overview of the laws for each state is the Musings of the Lame website.
Do you know how long 72 hours is? FOREVER. At least it seems like forever when you are waiting for the paperwork to be signed. The first day we met our son, we were not concerned too much about the time frame. Sheila* seemed very comfortable with us and happy to see us bonding with the baby. No matter how confident you may feel that the everything is going great, there is still that nagging feeling, “the paperwork isn’t signed. Our dreams can still be crushed.”
The following day I brought Sheila some food after she complained about how horrible the hospital food was and then I spent nearly the entire day at the hospital. It was during this time Sheila and I altered the conditions of our post adoption agreement. Originally, Sheila only wanted letters and pictures sent through the agency. I was fine with her decision, but I wanted to leave the door open. So I told our social worker about the email account the I created just for our son so she Sheila could send him notes whenever she felt like doing so, and the Flickr account I made to post pictures for her to see. Once Sheila realized that I truly meant that I was comfortable with an open adoption, she asked if we could set up visits. I was so excited! Sheila also discussed with me why she made an adoption plan, the REAL reason and why she selected us. It was a great bonding experience, and I think we became a lot closer by having just the two of us there, mother and mom talking about things that just never came up in our previous meetings. That night, after my husband arrived, the photographer arrived to take pictures of the baby. OH MY! First, she took some AMAZING pictures of the baby solo, and then she took pictures of Sheila and the baby. THEN-and THEN, Sheila suggested that we take a picture with the baby! Finally, we had a group photo with Sheila and a shot with just Sheila, me, and the baby. We have all of those pictures in our son’s photo album. We said our good nights, knowing the following day was the day–paperwork day.
The day of the paperwork signing, the social worker gave us the schedule for the date. She will meet with Sheila first, have one last counseling session, and start signing the paperwork. We did not need to arrive at the hospital until 4 pm, and we will not be able to see Sheila and the baby until after we signed our portion of the paperwork. I thought I was on pins and needles the day of the birth, but the sheer anxiety of knowing Sheila could STILL change her mind was killing me! I couldn’t wait around the house all day, so my husband and I headed to the hospital area early and just hung out. We visited what had quickly become our “normal” food stop that week and then we went shopping! All of a sudden, I realized there were still things that I needed – I was still hesitant about getting the small personal things until we were in the clear but bought some things anyway. It was a good distraction and for once my husband was NOT complaining about me spending money- BONUS! While I was at the checkout, the social worker called (heart thump, shortness of breath- oh no the worst is about to happen). I answered the phone and discovered she was only calling to say they finished up a little early, and we could come on up when we were ready— It was done, a sigh a relief.
I quickly finished my purchase, went to the car, and we headed to the hospital. I won’t bore you with the details of the paperwork, let’s just say my hand was shaking while signing each document, and I really can’t tell you ANYTHING that was said during this time. An hour later…. we were done, finally. We were allowed to go to the room. Do you ever have that feeling when you’re walking down a hall, and it gets longer and longer? Then you can figure out just how nervous and anxious I was.
When we arrived at Sheila’s room, she was on the bed holding, cradling, rocking, and snuggling the baby. When she saw us, she started crying. I truly cannot imagine how difficult that moment was for her. I walked over to her and gave her a hug. And we stayed there in that embrace, crying for a while. As she started saying how hard it was for her, but she knew she was making the best decision, I started to reassure her that she could call anytime, and we would visit. But it was my husband who surprised me. He wrapped both of us up in his embrace and said to Sheila, “You are a part of our family now, our sister. We will take good care of [him]…” After a time, we all gained our composure and my husband and I walked to the other side of the room to allow Sheila to continue saying her goodbyes. I didn’t want to rush her. I fiddled around with a few things and started prepping the carrier. Finally, Sheila was ready for me to take the baby. We chatted while she assisted me with getting our son into the car seat. I was so nervous; my hands were still shaking and I just couldn’t get the straps in the carrier to buckle. We eventually worked it out, and we waited with Sheila until she received her final discharge papers.
Finally, it was time to go. We all walked down to the hospital entrance together, Sheila (and the nurse pushing her wheelchair), the social worker, my husband, me, and the baby. Sheila and I waited inside at the entrance while the social worker and my husband retrieved the vehicles– remember it was early January in Ohio, and it was nearly a blizzard out. Sheila and I continued to chat, and she kept take “last peeks” of the baby until the vehicles arrived. We said one final goodbye and made our way to our respective vehicles.
Then there was silence. It was just the three of us. Me and the baby in the backseat, husband driving. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Then I took a picture and sent it to the immediate family with the message- “[Baby] is coming home!”
After the long drive, the three of us arrived home and our son got to meet the first wave of family members, briefly. Soon everyone left and then it was just the three of us.
*Name changed for anonymity
(1) Adoption.com. http://laws.adoption.com/statutes/california-laws,3.html
(2) Adoption.com http://laws.adoption.com/statutes/florida-laws,3.html