Adoption Day

You’ll fly away
but take my hand until that day
So when they ask how far love goes
When my job’s done, you’ll be the one who knows”

— Dar Williams

This morning on the third floor of the King County Courthouse on Third and James, the State of Washington recognized and established Emilia Jane as a member of our family and Mara officially became a big sister. Now when the cyclops eye of the state looks out upon the world, it sees, as all states do, only one truth without any gray areas or previous realities or multiple intertwining existential perspectives. As far as the state is concerned, it is as though Emilia was born of Angela’s and my loins, and there is no other condition of affairs as regards this family. We, on the other hand, carry with us the complexities of our situation, in particular the future questions to be answered about “why” and “what if” and the present questions of how to forge an ongoing relationship with Emilia’s birthparents in a very open adoption.

Waiting to be called before the judge. Some of our support team.

And yet…And yet, the fact that we have adopted both of our daughters is in our minds the least interesting thing about them. They are simply our children. When I call the house as I walk home from the bus stop at the end of the day and tell Mara that I’m getting near our street and she hangs up and runs outside and rushes down the sidewalk with her hair flapping and her bare feet slapping the pavement until she hits me with her arms wide open and I lift her up into the arc of her momentum and hold her in my arms, I never think “this is my adopted daughter Mara”. I stopped thinking of her as something other than my child about three seconds after she was born, and it is the same with Emilia. The decree of the state is a nice thing — it feels good to have the Big Wheel Turning acknowledge us as a family — but it is only the acknowledgement of what is already true. We have been on the job for eleven weeks in Emilia’s life, actually much longer. 

We consider ourselves blessed. Because of two women’s courageous decisions, made in love, we are the family we dreamed of being. And we joyfully accept the added difficulties that present themselves now and will emerge later. 

and yes we said yes we will yes...

Those difficulties, real as they are, were far from our minds this day as we approached the bench of Judge Carlos V– with our adoption attorney Albert. Uncle Albert, as we call him, was our lawyer all through Mara’s adoption process, and we are particularly fond of him. He talks fast and is always right, and he begins most of his statements with “Listen…”, which took me a little getting used to, but he is really an old softy and is very good at what he does. He has worked miracles on our behalf, cutting through red tape and o’erleaping bureaucratic hurdles to get the proper motions and pleas in place at the proper times in very hectic situations with very narrow margins for delay.

Albert introduced us to hizzoner the judge, noting that we were “veterans” of this process, and then asked Angela and myself each our names, then whether we were married, then whether it was our desire to adopt this baby, and then whether we were “in a position financially, emotionally, physically and in all other ways to care for her and provide for her needs”, and then what the baby’s name was to be. After saying our names, we said yes, yes, yes and Emilia Jane F—.

Judges like this sort of thing on a Friday.

I got tears in my eyes. The judge, who I’m pretty sure was the same judge as in Mara’s case, did not study our faces while Albert asked us these questions, did not seem that interested in us. I don’t think that he even looked up from the papers (or crossword puzzle?) he was working on, though I can’t be sure because I was looking mainly at Albert. You might surmise from his demeanor that he considered all this to be a dreary routine, but Albert once told us that judges in this kind of court love to preside over adoptions, because families come in all bubbling over with joy, which is a rare thing in the courtroom. The rest of their cases are divorces and custody battles and usually involve parties in bitter opposition.

Albert then turned to ask members of our family who had come to share in the event with us whether they were in favor, and my mother, sister and brother-in-law and our friend Bethany behind us all said yes (I think Randy said “aye”), and then Albert told the judge that in light of all this testimony he recommended that the judge sign our adoption decree. Then in the same tone that one might mutter “hmmm, I seem to have left my car keys on the counter at the hotel” the judge told us he was going to go ahead and sign our papers. And that was that. He invited us to come up behind the bench with him so we could get some photos of us with him.

The party in question. The dress is the same one big sis Mara wore for her finalization hearing five years ago.

As far as the adoption itself then, we’re finally done, but the journey of raising baby Emilia, and her officially recognized big sister Mara, continues. We’ll keep you posted, naturally.


14 Responses to “Adoption Day”

  1. 1 kiwidutch September 18, 2010 at 04:09

    Aw, How wonderful, in fact I’m so touched by the depth of obvious feeling that I’m welling up and having a little bit of eye leakage.
    Both your daughters were yours in your hearts, in your spirit, then physically in your arms and now formally on paper.
    They came wrapped up with love every step of the way.
    That’s the best order for getting them that I can possibly possibly think of.
    The Judge can not for a nano second have thought otherwise either.
    Well done little Family! You and these very brave birth Mama’s have “done good!”.

    • 2 jstwndrng September 18, 2010 at 12:09

      Thanksf for the warm thoughts, KD. Yes, I’m sure the judges in these cases already know they are going to sign, which is why they’re writing out their grocery lists while the lawyer asks us the questions. While the process itself (fingerprints to the FBI, criminal background check, home inspection and interviews by a social worker, etc.) is very serious and sometimes results in a social worker denying a couple a recommendation, the four minutes in front of the judge is really a formality. If there were anything wrong, we would not have gotten that far.

  2. 3 Janet September 18, 2010 at 10:07

    Matt – I just loved reading this post and seeing the pictures. I’m so glad you have shared your moving and emotional and happy experience with the readers of your blog. I kept thinking of our happy experience in that very same courthouse 10 years ago when our son James and his girl friend Susan were married. It was a wonderful day. Friends and family from near and far were in attendance and the judge was a thoughtful person who gave a solemn yet warm ambiance to the occasion.

    • 4 jstwndrng September 18, 2010 at 12:15

      Thanks Janet. I’m glad someone else has such happy memories of the old courthouse. My only two experiences there have twice resulted in the legal recognition of our growing family. I love how they allow and encourage your family and friends to come and jam the place up. That feels kinda old world to me…the whole village goes down to the courthouse to be witness to the events of our lives.

  3. 5 Kip September 18, 2010 at 14:21

    Congratulations! It is a wonderful thing indeed that the family is now complete! Hmm, there seems to be some dust in my eye…

  4. 7 Lori Lavender Luz September 18, 2010 at 14:30

    I hear the judges are supposed to like adoption hearings, seeing as how they are one of the few non-contentious events that take place in courtrooms. Oh, well, a crossword puzzle does have its charm ;-).

    Congrats on the confirming your daughter’s last name! I especially like what you said, “And yet, the fact that we have adopted both of our daughters is in our minds the least interesting thing about them.”

    Best wishes as you all grow in your open adoptions.

    • 8 jstwndrng September 18, 2010 at 20:54

      Hi Lori,
      Thanks for dropping by and for commenting. Sorry your comment got hung up in the filter (first-time email addresses get frisked). I checked out your own blog and I love your post about Tessa and the car-ride conversation, especially your 6-step “slowdown”. The word “abide” is one of my favorite words and I like how you employed it as a touchstone for giving your daughter the space she needs.

      Come back anytime. You may not be interested in my posts about gum stuck on the walls of back alleys in Seattle, but you can see all my posts about our life as a family by using the category drop-down. Cheers!

  5. 9 George palmer September 18, 2010 at 18:04

    Choo, I’m so excited for you!! You look like the proudest papa I’ve seen! Congratulations! Send my love to your FAMILY!!

    • 10 jstwndrng September 18, 2010 at 20:57

      Love received and enjoyed, pard. I do look like a proud papa, don’t I? Actually, so little of this had anything to do with me that pride isn’t quite the word. I do feel grateful. I never considered it a foregone conclusion that we would be parents, especially of two. (Maybe I should have.) Good to hear from you. Not sure why your comment got snagged, unless you used a new email address. Love to alla your’n.

  6. 11 Marni September 18, 2010 at 19:19

    YOU got tears in YOUR eyes? Geez- I’m sobbing here! What a moving tribute to the true nature of family. I’m waving a big F- pom-pom in your family’s honor!! Well done.

  7. 13 Louis September 20, 2010 at 10:20

    Congratulations to you and your family! Chizmit.

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