Saturday, April 20, 2013

Our Day in Court

On Thursday, we went to court to officially begin the finalization of Millie's adoption.

It is funny to say that we are just now beginning the adoption, but in some ways, legally, today was the first step toward a final adoption. A step toward the state recognizing Carla and I as Millie's parents.  It was a good, good day.

I am not sure where to begin.  I guess when we woke up is as good as a place as any.  So we woke up on Thursday to rain.  A lot of rain.  Like major Chicago highways being closed kind of rain.  We were scheduled to meet with our lawyer (who conveniently also happens to be my uncle!) at 12:30 and I was instantly paranoid that we would never make it downtown in time. As we watched the morning news, we saw terrible traffic reports and heard of people being stuck for hours in traffic as they tried to navigate around the flooded streets and highways of Chicago.  As we heard more and more, I became increasingly worried about getting into the city.  And because I have already shared that I am prone to irrational worries, I insisted that we leave three hours early.  That is correct.  Three hours before we were supposed to meet with my uncle, I forced us to leave the house.  It then took us a total of 45 minutes to make it to the building where my uncle's office is located.  That's right, we had over two hours to waste! Oops! Better safe than sorry?

So we unloaded the car, which is now an ordeal. We put Millie's car seat in her stroller and we headed off for the streets of downtown Chicago.  Luckily, by the time we left the car, the rain had slowed significantly.  However, we still didn't want to spend too much time walking around outside, so we went into the first Dunkin Donuts we saw and took over a small corner table.  We spent the next hour or so eating donuts, drinking coffee, feeding Millie, and taking pictures! Here we all are, wasting some time in Dunkin Donuts:

Everyone got a snack!

Millie's going to court outfit
Millie and Mama
 After a while, we noticed the rain had mostly stopped, so we put Millie back in her car seat and went for a stroll around downtown Chicago. Millie LOVES being outside and seemed to enjoy the sounds of the city.  She enjoyed it so much, she promptly feel asleep.

Here she is, right before the sounds of the El put her to sleep
After our walk, it was finally time to head to my Uncle's office.  It was such a comfort to have a family member to take us through this process.  His generosity and expertise were so so very much appreciated.  We met him in his office and he explained what was going to happen.  It is hard to fully understand why we had to be in court, but here is the best explanation that I can give.

When we took Millie home, her birth parents had already signed their consent, their rights had been terminated.  We were lucky in the sense that both the birth mother and birth father were there on that day, so we didn't need to worry about an unknown birth father being located or coming forward.  If for some reason, the birth father wasn't there or was unknown, he would have thirty days to check the punitive birth father registry (in which Millie had been entered) and to come forward.  If that doesn't happen within thirty days of placement, then the adoptive family goes to court to officially begin the adoption finalization.  (My Uncle happened to be out of town thirty days after placement, so we went on Thursday to begin this process).  Now, Millie is technically in the custody of our adoption agency.  We continue to have monthly post-adoption visits from the agency and as long as they don't have any reason to think we are unfit, then our adoption will be finalized on August 1st, six months after the date of placement.  That, is at least what I understand this process to be.

The only time that we every go to court is for the start of the finalization (that was on Thursday).  It seems to be very much a formality, so there was no reason to be nervous and nothing was really being decided on that day.  Instead, it was more of a way to mark the start of the legal process and a way to acknowledge that the finalization has begun.

So after meeting with my Uncle, we walked over to the courthouse, waited through the security line, and headed upstairs to where the court room was.  We fed Millie another bottle up there, in hopes that she would remain happy in the courtroom.  As we were feeding her, my mom, dad and sister met us to join in the big day.  It was so so nice to have our family there with us. We all spent a few more minutes waiting in the hallway, which had a lovely view of the city. Of course, we used the time to take more pictures.

Millie and Mommy waiting for our moment in court
After a while, we headed into the nursery that is right off of the court room.  Since we were going into family court, everyone waiting had children of some age.  While we were there, the only thing being done were adoptions, so there was a pretty joyous feeling in the room.  As a family, we waited to be called to go in front of the judge.  Here we all are, waiting in the nursery:

Waiting to be called into the court room

Millie and her Granny G having some fun while waiting
After a few minutes, our names we called and we all headed into the court room.  We stood in front of the very vey kind judge, my uncle introduced us all, and then we answered a few of the judge's questions.  She mostly asked us about what we did for a living, if we were planning on having more kids, and then told us the story of how she used to be a teacher and how she ended up a judge.  She then asked my mom, dad and sister if we were good parents.  My sister made some jokes, my mother cried, and then we were done and we all left the courtroom.

I thought that maybe I would get nervous.  I never did.  I thought that maybe our court appearance would feel momentous and huge.  It never did.  I thought that maybe things would feel different once we walked out of the courtroom. They didn't.  Carla and I both came to accept that while our appearance in court was necessary and we were glad it was over and that things could now progress towards finalization, it wasn't going to change how we felt about being a family.  It didn't make us feel any more like Millie's parents.  That had already happened.  What made us feel like her parents is when we held her through the night when she was sick. What made us feel like her parents were the times she was crying and we were able to make her feel better.  What made us feel like her parents were the times we got to watch her do new things and took pride in ability to do things like smile and laugh and make new sounds. Those are the moments that felt momentous.  Those are the moments that solidified our bonds as a family.  Those are the moments when we felt our lives changing forever.  Going to court, paled in comparison to those moments.

So after we were done, we spent a bit more time with the family and then we packed up and headed home.  We made a quick stop at Babies R Us where we picked up more diapers and formula and a few new outfits.  And again, we realized that this is what made us a family.  Knowing what kind of diapers Millie wears and how much formula she drinks, those are what proves to us that we are her parents.  Knowing that we should bring a bottle into the store for her to eat because we could tell she was getting hungry and knew she would start crying in the store, that is all the proof we need that we are Millie's parents and that we are her family.

Back at home, everyone in pajamas and Millie and Mama are delighting in the fish tank.


  1. Oh my goodness, she is so cute in that dress!

    Isn't that court nice? We had a great experience there, too! We were there with a set of gay dads adopting their little boy, and two families adopting older kids, which makes me want to cry thinking about how beautiful it was to be there and see them stand up in court on that day and claim each other.

    Sheesh. tears at the reference desk. Anyway, congrats on getting the process started!

  2. Yay for moving toward finalization!
    It seems funny that the day you had to show up wasn't at the beginning of your relationship with Millie or when you're finally done with finalization--no wonder it didn't feel like a particularly momentous occasion. So glad to hear about all of the ways you're settling into parenthood.

  3. millie is getting so big and smiley!