Referring back to the thoughts I had about wishing I had offered Mama more time in the hospital, I also wish I had offered her more time in the week between going home from the hospital and our court date. A very large part of me truly was concerned about her and how she would feel when we got together. We communicated back and forth and decided to meet the night before we were to go to court. Cassie’s kiddos were sick so that ruled our her home so we decided to meet at the library on base.
Our visit was really nice, and I enjoyed watching her big kids play and interact with Anna. Leaving that room was by far the hardest part of the experience for me. Please don’t think I’m trying to gain sympathy. I know it may seem like it as I am sharing what was hard for me, but I’m not. I just want to let you know what I was going through, as this blog is the Hamrick Family journal. Sharing with you the parts that were hard for me does not in any way undermine which parts were hard for Mama and I am in no way comparing my pain to hers. That’s her part of this story and she’s a writer, so maybe one day she’ll write from her perspective. If she does, and if she gives me permission to share it, I’ll happily do so.
With that said, my heart broke a little bit the night we left that room. Neither of us had any idea when we’d get together again and, unlike the day I left the hospital when we both knew there was another meeting to come, this time we both knew there was not. (Aside from the official court date.) Again, I wish I had known then how this was going to turn out and we’d have gotten together more, if she had wanted to. I can’t say for sure that she would have wanted to… it may have been too hard.
Anyway, when I turned the lights out to leave and it was just me and Anna in the room, I looked back to see if we had left anything and saw the three empty chairs… Cassie’s, mine, and Mama’s, and I lost it. That was a tough moment.
I don’t remember much about the rest of that night.
We went to court on the first date the attorney was able to squeeze us in. Winter Storm Jonas had backed several things up and we thankful she got us in between other adoption hearings she had scheduled. Anna was six days old and Virginia Law dictates that she had to be at least three days old.
Mama and I arrived at the same time and we parked near each other. I gave her a gift I had prepared for her… There’s no gift that could ever express what my heart was thinking which was: “Oh, how your heart must be breaking. How you must just want to get this day over with. How uncomfortable it must be to be here.”
In the lobby there was some small talk, some waiting, and we were told the kids couldn’t enter the court room with us. Because this was a big day for our family, I wanted them there. We were told it wasn’t going to happen. When they called our names, I looked at the boys about to tell them that we’d be back when we were done and then the attorney waved them all in and said, “Just come on in.” We were thankful they got to be a part of that moment.
The goings-on in the courtroom were basic, pretty boring, and the biggest thing I can remember is wishing Mama had someone sitting at the table with her. I wish I could have gone to sit with her! When the hearing was over we all stepped back in the waiting room and Mama asked to hold Anna. We were not allowed to have any cameras/phones in the building so we didn’t get any pictures. And before I knew what was happening, Mama handed Anna to me and was off. Her heart… oh, mine breaks at the memory. I don’t even have the right to write these words, simply because I know I don’t have any idea of what that day was like for her. All I can do is imagine, and often, that’s not even close to what was going on. So, I’ll leave it there.
Our attorney was allowed to have her phone in the building so she snapped a picture of Matt and me with our daughter just a few minutes after it became official.
Following our court hearing our family went to lunch with the Holsingers and Cassie and her kids.
It was there that the realization hit me. We were her parents. Not just pretending and hoping… we were her real parents. The magnitude of that washed over me and I found myself holding back tears right there as we were about to leave the restaurant. It meant we were technically allowed to make all decisions on her behalf and, of course, all the other millions of other little things that come along with being a parent.
Up until that point we had been holding our breath and, while still had seven days to wait during which Mama could change her mind, this was one major step toward bringing Anna home. This was a technical step forward in our adoption process.
After lunch we had to pick up a few things and Anna and I rested at Starbucks while Daddy and brothers shopped at the NEX. As I looked around at the other customers I thought, “I’ve been in Starbucks many times… usually just boring, run-of-the-mill days. But today I sit here holding my daughter on the day she officially became my daughter. And all these people around me have no idea where we just came from… what a big day today is.” I wanted nothing more than to show her to the world and let everyone know just how much I loved her. But I refrained… because that would have been weird.
She was our daughter, but we were not allowed to leave the state. Had we crossed the Virginia border we could have been charged with kidnapping! That’s a no-go.
We spent the next two weeks waiting for the Interstate Compact to clear us. Virginia gave the birth father two weeks to come forward in case he wanted to parent. During that two weeks we spent time with the Holsingers and Anna attended her first birthday party!
We drove to Richmond to meet with Michelle and her gorgeous daughter, Riley.
Our family took our first “field trip” – to Colonial Williamsburg!
Lots of time snuggling and feeding our little girl. Oh, and about that. Kathie encouraged me to be the only one to feed her for the first six to eight weeks. It would aid in our attachment and I was pretty strict with it. It definitely meant plenty of sleep for Matt! I will say, though, that I was the one waking Anna in the middle of the night rather than her waking me. Having never bottle-fed a baby I really wanted to make sure she didn’t go too long without eating. (I’ve given other babies bottles, but I breast fed all my boys, so as far as exclusive bottle-feeding, I was a first-timer.) I think I was extra careful with her for another reason: I felt like I owed it to Mama to do my best with her. To take extra good care of her. Of course, I took care of my biological babies well, and with tenderness, but there was something extra in my care for Anna… I wanted Mama to know that I was taking good care of her daughter.
Along with the help of some other amazing women we threw a surprise baby shower for Kari. Their family was to leave in just 10 days to go meet their new son who was in China. We were so excited to spend this time celebrating him coming into their family.
I titled this post “Court – Joy and Sadness.” The big event that occurred, the official step toward having Anna become a part of our family, was going to court. And on that day and on every other day while we were in Virginia, there was a joy that I could not begin to describe to you. And there was also a sadness that I wouldn’t want anyone to have to experience. In a perfect world every baby would be able to stay with its first mama, and when that isn’t possible for whatever reason, hearts are sad. Six months ago “adoption” was just a happy word to me. It meant only good things because I could only see what life would look like for my family if we were to be blessed with another child in our home. Not having lived it, I never really thought much about the other side of the coin.
Now, sitting here, I can see the heartache that is attached to that word, for Mama and for baby, too. However, I can rejoice in our specific story because I am able to communicate daily with Mama and see that she’s doing well. While having an open adoption will not make the pain go away, studies are proving that it’s often best for all members of the “adoption triad.” (New one, huh? I have learned that I am part of a triad!) The hole left in Mama’s heart will always be there but I can pray for the Lord to fill it and be her comfort, and I can do small things to aid in her healing… which will help Anna, as well.
So yes, joy and sadness. Both. And such is life. But the scripture from my Quiet Time this morning is so very perfect:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.