By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
Three Weeks Ago:
I get the phone call that I had been waiting for, from my best friend and attorney, Kim. She had finally gotten ahold of the ad litem attorney in San Antonio, and they were trying to pin down a date for court. I had wanted to go on my birthday, August 6th, but it wasn’t feasible as they were still waiting for one last document from Austin. So what about the 10th of August? Kim thought it would be okay, but then upon examination of my dear wife’s work schedule, she said there was no way that she would be able to go on the 10th. Since we were aiming at a Friday, in order for all of the attorneys involved (Kim and Erikka primarily) to only miss one day in the office, I then asked for the next Friday – August 17th. It seemed to work for everyone, and all she had to do was get it confirmed with our ad litem attorney. I awaited confirmation (impatiently, as usual) so that I could book rooms, reserve a rental vehicle, etc. A few days later I got the text: August 17, 2012 @ 11:15 A.M. in front of Judge Peter Sakai, 4th floor Bexar County Courthouse. Hot damn we have a court date! Finally – it’s REALLY going to happen! I am finally going to adopt our baby girl – for real!
One Week Ago:
We had originally planned to travel to San Antonio the Thursday evening before court, and stay through the weekend as a mini-vacation for our family. Turns out, however, that I would have a wedding to photograph on the 18th of August. (It had been a little up-in-the-air for a few weeks there and we thought that it might be postponed.) So it was decided that we would go to San Antonio on Wednesday, take the kids to Sea World on Thursday, Erikka’s parents and Kim would all arrive Thursday afternoon/evening, court on Friday morning with lunch after to celebrate, and then travel home Friday afternoon so that I could be at the wedding Saturday evening. Dear Lord if I had only known THEN how exhausting all of that was really going to be!
Wednesday, August 15th:
Our morning was, as most starts to trips can be, a bit chaotic. Did you pack this? Did we remember to put that in the car? Do we have the baby’s bath seat? We took the dog to my mom’s last night, right? Extra food and water for the cats – check. OK. Let’s load up. Noah, do you have your headphones, iPod, Kindle, and my laptop for watching movies?
Sheesh. Do you remember how WE had to travel when we were kids? A piece of duct tape down the middle of the back seat so that my brother couldn’t get on my side, no books for me because I got car sick, and we were stuck listening to whatever Mom and/or Dad was listening to on the radio. Oh but there was always the alphabet game with billboards or license plates! But most of our travel time was actually spent fighting, pushing, or trying to go to sleep to get through the boredom that my younger A.D.H.D. brain was raging against. But I digress. We get all loaded up and make our way through Dallas. We get to Hillsboro, Texas (just North of Waco) when I have to stop and pee already. Just before I stop I gasp as I realize that, HOLY CRAP, I forgot to pack the diapers. ANY diapers. Not a one. Great.
Here I am, off on the trip of my life – to adopt my baby girl – and I forget to pack her diapers. But at least I remembered to buckle in her carseat before I put her in it! A quick stop in Waco at the Wal Mart, and we were back in business, with a full package of diapers in the back. We made pitstops in Austin for lunch, and New Braunfels to visit the new Bucee’s roadside stop (like a couple of fanatical loons, I might add), until finally we were in San Antonio and checking in at our bed & breakfast. After getting our stuff to our room and cleaning up a bit, we headed out for a wonderful dinner with our awesome friends, Jay and Christopher. It was a great ending to our travel day, and we soon were back at the B&B and falling into bed with a very cranky baby girl.
Thursday, August 16th:
After a long night with very little sleep, thanks to our beautiful baby girl, we got up, had breakfast, and got ready for a day at Sea World. We loaded up and took off, spending the day with both of our children having fun just being a family. Harrison loved all of the Sesame Street characters that were out and about, and smiled and giggled every time she got near one. We took her on her first carousel ride, and even Noah willingly rode, too. I love that he will do things like that for and with his baby sister, and simply because he loves her so much. She was so much fun to watch because she seemed absolutely amazed about everything – it was awesome! By about 5 PM we were all pretty much worn out and ready to go, so we headed back to the B&B to meet Erikka’s parents, who had arrived earlier in the afternoon. We all went to dinner before coming back and passing out again, eagerly anticipating court in the morning.
Friday, August 17th:
I was awake before the alarm went off – which almost NEVER happens. It was finally here! This was the day that I had waited almost ten months for – the day that our baby girl would legally be mine. I was finally going to be recognized, under the law, as her mother…just like Erikka. Soon, everyone was up, including Kim and Erikka’s parents. We had breakfast and began getting ready for pictures, as I had hired a photographer to come and take some family photos, as well as to take photos during the proceedings at court. Photos were taken outside of the B&B, and soon we were on our way to the courthouse, which was about two blocks away.
I was nervous, although I’m not sure why – I guess because I had never anticipated that the judge might say “no.” While we waited for our court appointment, we all sat outside of the courtroom on old, wooden benches, where Kim prepped me for how things would go, and we finally all got to meet Harrison’s attorney (the ad litem). I had, in my mind, of how the courtroom would look and that it would be filled with other people awaiting their turn (like when Noah’s dad adopted Nicholas), so I was shocked when we were ushered inside to a small courtroom that was completely empty. It was just going to be our family, our attorneys, and the judge. Wow! Harrison had fallen asleep while waiting in the hallway, so I was starting to get her out of the stroller when the judge came in. It was weird because I’m not sure how many of us noticed him come in, until I said, “Oh hey there’s the judge!” We were all invited to come up to the front of the courtroom, in front of the judge – Us, Noah, Erikka’s parents – we were all invited to join in! The photographer moved about however she wanted, which was awesome! The judge wanted to know who everyone was, and we all went around and gave our names. Kim then introduced me as the adoptive parent, and established for the judge my relationship with Harrison; then she did the same with Erikka. She had laid out a plan of questions for me, Erikka, and even Noah, but before she was able to carry them out, the judge kind of took over. He asked me if I knew that it was irreversible, with “no exchanges, returns, or refunds,” and asked us both to promise to raise her in a loving home, educate her, and help her grow into an honest and upstanding citizen. We promised that we would, and before any of us knew it, he had granted the adoption and it was over! Just like that! I think the whole process took five minutes!
She is finally legally my daughter. While everyone who knows us knows that Harrison is my little girl, now I finally have the letter of the law declaring that she is such, and no one can ever take her away from me. We walked out of the courthouse knowing that the security of our family was finally in place, and there is no longer a fear hanging over my head. It is such a huge burden taken off of my shoulders, and while it was a pain to have to go down this road, I can say that in the end it was totally and completely worth every bit of it to give me the peace of mind that I now have. It was a day that changed my life forever.