It was one week before summer vacation, three days after a dear friend’s funeral, seven months and one week after Christina and Jane moved in with me, fifteen days before my sister’s wedding, and ten days before Jane’s fourth birthday.

I had provided consecutive, short respites for a young girl and a teenage boy only a few days before the adoption, so my house was cluttered with the whirlwind of hospitable turnovers. I cleaned my house until 2am to prepare for the arrival of my friends and family. With uncharacteristic organization, I cooked food for the entire week. My refrigerator was perfectly stacked with color coordinated, labeled containers.

On June 1st, my friends arrived and Jane came down with a fever. I feared she would not be well enough to attend court, and our adoption date would be rescheduled. When I asked friends to pray for Jane to feel better, a few people criticized me for not taking her to the hospital, even though my parents—who are both doctors—were taking care of her.

After the roller coaster of foster care—after months of allowing absolute transparency into my home, parenting, and personal life for CPS and our foster agency to provide support and input—and after all the uncertainties, I was ready to simply be a family without restriction, observation, or permission from anyone. Every detail seemed like an obstacle to the union of our family.

One of my friends missed her flight, and only arrived at my house after hours of frustration at the airport and a sheer miracle.

I worried about the dynamics between my parents, my siblings, and the girls’ biological grandparents, who were invited to the adoption.

I worried that our photographer and Jane’s ASL interpreter wouldn’t make it.

I forgot to bring some “thank you” presents that I had purchased for our social workers.

Christina was extremely overwhelmed. I wanted her to be excited and joyful, but there were too many people and her life was about to change too monumentally. In pictures where I wished she would smile to show how happy we were together, she mostly looks dazed. While I extrovertedly gushed my thanks and enthusiasm to everyone who was able to attend the adoption, she clung to my arm and responded monosyllabically to all attempts to engage her.

I timed Jane’s doses of Tylenol to break her fever just in time for the adoption ceremony. She was wiggly. She didn’t understand what was happening. I had practiced signing the word “adoption” to her in hopes that she would see her interpreter signing this word to her in court. She barely acknowledged her interpreter. She sat on the table. She wanted to be held by my mom. She wanted to leave.

I tried to savor the words of the judge, and to be present. I tried to remember everything. It is a blur to me, now. But I signed the adoption orders.

I am a Christian woman. As a believer in the Bible, I have always intellectually held that books can be holy. Pages can be holy. But I have never felt the power of paper like I did at the moment I was handed the adoption orders. They were exquisite.

And then it was over.

I think I would have felt a weight lifted from my shoulders, had I not felt so tired. We went home. It was a hot day. I turned on the AC full blast, took off my high heels, and collapsed. Jane took a nap. We were emotionally and physically exhausted, but done.

We celebrated with a picnic in my backyard, that evening. The girls played. We talked. We took pictures. I showed the pictures to the people I wanted to show the pictures to, because the girls were mine. Eight days later, we would leave the county. I didn’t call CPS or give my itinerary to anyone, because the girls were mine. On Jane’s birthday, ten days later, she had an audiology appointment. I scheduled upcoming appointments, then left without asking for additional copies for social workers, because I did not have to share her medical records with anyone. Because she was mine.

This June 2nd marks one year since the day my girls became legally, permanently mine. We started the day by piling into my bed together. The girls have loved the privilege of sometimes climbing into bed with me, since this was another thing they could not do as foster kids. We had a tea party. Christina and I brought books and discussed them—one of our favorite bonding activities. We went swimming.

On our way to Funworks—a fun park with bumper cars, boats, and mini-golf—another car rear-ended me. While there was little damage and I tried to joke that we were just getting started a little early with the bumper cars, the girls were terrified and cried for a long time.

I had done my best to plan the ideal celebration for them. We had chosen all of our favorite family activities. We had ordered a giant cake which we planned to eat straight out of the box without plates. I did not make them eat a single vegetable. The day was full of all the freedom and family time magic I could muster.

And yet the best plans were darkened by forces beyond our control. I felt conspicuous as both girls walked into Funworks sobbing hysterically. Then I spent a significant portion of the time on my phone dealing with insurance.

But we were together. We will always be together.

On our anniversary, we all wore the same matching outfits that we wore for our adoption. We took pictures holding the signs that my friend had painted, declaring the girls’ adoptive names, the number of days they spent in foster care, and the date of their adoption.

The photographs taken for their adoption will always be cherished. They are beautiful and professional. However, when I look at the photos from a year later, my heart swells with joy to see the changes in my daughters.

I see so much more confidence in them, so much more love and trust. I see laughter and courage. I see a year that has not been perfect by any means, but which has shaped our identify as a family.

There are people who do not like celebrating “Gotcha Day” or “Adoption Day.” In the foster care/adoption community, I have heard valid concerns raised that adoption out of foster care always involves deep loss and pain for the children involved, and therefore should not be celebrated like a holiday for the family. It is not a joy free of grief.

The fact that my children were born to another mother does not ever escapes me, even for a day. It is part of who we are. I don’t celebrate the severed bonds of my daughters’ first family. We celebrate because we believe in redemption.

I recently purchased a banner for my living room that says “your brokenness is welcome here.” I wish I could write this on every wall of my home. Our adoption day was not without brokenness, but it was beautiful. Our first anniversary was not without brokenness, but it was beautiful. We are not without brokenness. But we are beautiful.

3 Replies to “Reflections on our First Anniversary”

  1. I appreciate your meditation on joy that contains grief. Thank you for sharing this beautiful reflection on life one year after you made the girls permanently yours.

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