By: Stacey Ellis
It was time to leave the hospital with our daughter. The social worker came to meet with us and explained that while we had physical custody of her, we still did not have legal custody and we would not have legal custody until the birthparents signed the surrenders. The birthparents will not sign the surrenders for another two days. We understood. There was nothing we could do about it so we decided to simply love our daughter and wait. Nothing could change our elation. In a few minutes it would be us and her. That’s it. No social workers, lawyers, nurses. The birthparents were gone. Just us – a family of three.
We dressed her up in a little fleecy ducky outfit, put on a little hat and strapped her in her car seat. We were ready to leave. We walked downstairs and out the door, took a few pictures in front of the hospital, and then drove off.
Wow – we are now all alone in another state, with a four-day-old baby. Our baby. Our daughter. We went to the hotel immediately. Once we got there, we took her out of the car seat and laid her in her bassinette. We stared at her. This little girl is fully in our care. It was scary and exhilarating. It was a miracle.
I had spent the past year fighting so hard to have a child and not understanding why I could not make my body do what my heart, soul and mind wanted so desperately. And now, in a matter of three weeks after making the decision to adopt, I was standing there, staring at the little girl who is my daughter. I may as well have given birth to her, because she felt like she was mine the second I saw her. Some days I think my husband may as well have given birth to her because she looks like him and he is so in love, it made me even more in love with him.
We slept well that first night – okay – not so well. We were up a lot feeding her, comforting her and being parents. We loved every second of every waking moment. We spent the next day driving to a bigger city – closer to the courts. We would have to go to court for full legal custody after the surrenders were filed. We arrived at a Westin hotel and instantly the staff went crazy knowing a 5-day-old baby was in their midst. They had never seen an infant that young at their hotel. We were instantly upgraded to a huge – and I do mean huge – suite with full kitchen. This would be our home for nearly two weeks before we could go home.
We were stuck in the state because of “ICPC” – a contract among member states and U.S. territories authorizing them to work together to ensure that children who are placed across state lines for foster care or adoption receive adequate protection and support services. That means our paperwork had to go to the government of the state we were in, then to California, then back to the state we were in before we were “cleared” to leave and go home.
Some people may be completely taken aback by being stuck in a hotel in another state with no real resources or family around. We looked at it as a blessing – no one could stop by at weird hours or hours that weren’t convenient for us. No one really could ask anything of us. We were alone, nesting – enjoying our family of three. The fact that a Target parking lot adjoined our hotel parking lot didn’t hurt either.
Everyone says your life completely changes when you have a child. We thought we understood; of course it does – less sleep, less alone time, less time to get things done. What we didn’t realize was that it changes in ways you don’t expect – all of the sudden that favorite TV show you just had to watch every week is completely uninteresting. I used to write screenplays as a hobby – now I couldn’t care less. Work is just work and no longer the end all, be all. Everything in your world changes, not just the lack of sleep.
The surrenders were to be signed at 10 AM the next morning. We waited and waited for the phone to ring. Finally at 11:30 AM the social worker called. I answered the phone. At that moment, we officially became parents. At that moment – I was a mom.
[Photo Credit: Flickr Image- Michael Quinn]