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.




Saturday, April 13, 2013

If only they knew, then they would know...

Sometimes, I wish that the people who angrily speak out against gay and lesbian families raising children could read the blogs that I read.  Because then they might know.  They might know the incredibly, unending, bottomless amounts of love that these gay and lesbian families are pouring into creating families.  If only they knew how much love was going into creating these families, then they would know the incredible amounts of love that will be going into raising these children.  Because families who go through as much as these families have gone through will cherish their children and never do anything to allow harm to come to them. And that just can just never be wrong.

One of the greatest parts of this blog for me has been the access that it has provided me into other families' stories.  I have followed these families on their journey's towards becoming parents and in being parents.  I have read as they have shared tremendous and great news and I have also read as they have shared difficult and crushing news.  And lately the hard news has been overwhelming.  And yet, these women (and men, though I must admit that most of the stories I read are those of lesbian headed families) keep on going.  These women keep on fighting to create families. These women who have been through heart breaking loss, still have love in their hearts and refuse to give up on the dream of being parents.

Recently, the women over at .breaking into blossom. lost the baby that they had so lovingly been carrying.  They have already been through more loss than any one family should have to go through and yet they remain these incredible pillars of strength and inspiration. They have showed so many of us how to raise a child with incredible amounts of pure, pure love and they are examples of kindness that we can all benefit from.

Earlier this year, the women at What Words May Come also lost their second child at four months of pregnancy.  And again, they carried on.  After the loss of their first child, they took time to regroup, regrow their spirits, find themselves again and then they just kept on going.  They have provided this incredible inspiration to so many people and they have more love coursing through their family than most people are lucky enough to find.

And one of the most heartbreaking and beautiful stories I have read comes from In Search of Gaybies. The writer of this blog is so so so very brave to share the emotions that she has shared in such a raw and powerful way.  Her blog has given me incredible insight into what it is like to lose a child during pregnancy.  And now she is trying again.  I am in awe of her strength.

I am in awe of all of these stories and so many other stories as well.  I am in awe of the women who live these stories and the strength that they possess.  And it makes my blood truly boil to think that there are people out there who somehow think that what these women are doing, that what we are all doing, is wrong.  And I think that if the people who have a problem with gay and lesbian couples raising children took the time to learn the lives of these women, they would know that there is everything exactly right with what we are all doing.

If only they knew the loss that they faced and the way they were able to carry on with love, then they would know that these are exactly the kinds of people who should be raising children.

If only they knew that these families were more resilient and more filled with strength than I could ever imagine, then they would know just how perfectly made these families are to have a child.

If only they knew the tests of love and strength that these families have already been through, then they would know that there wasn't anything that these families wouldn't be able to handle.

If only they knew the lessons that we could all learn from these families, then they would know how valuable families led by gay and lesbian couples really are.

If only they knew the power that these families posses to love and nurture a child in the most incredible ways, then they would know what a disgrace it is to ever say anything negative about them or about any of us or to ever ever doubt the love we can provide to our children.

So if only they knew families like us, then they would know how very wrong they were.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Just A Happy Baby...

Today, I am overwhelmed by the cuteness of Millie and her happy happy ways.  So today, I will simply share a video...


video

Sunday, April 7, 2013

As Far As We've Come, Tragedy Still Strikes

This is one of those blog posts that has nothing to do with my life as a mom, my life as an adoptive parent, or the small and incredible being who is currently asleep in her swing (again).  Unfortunately, this post has to do with a tragedy.  I have been in such an incredibly positive place in my life and so it can be tempting to push thoughts of tragedy aside.  To not concern myself with them. To let other people worry about them.  But then there are some that seep into every corner of my mind and bang around in my head until I am willing to think about them.  This is one of those.

The students in my fifth grade classroom will go onto to the local junior high next year and then three years after that, they will feed into the local high school.  That high school suffered a terrible loss this past week.  One of their students committed suicide.  Towards the end of this week, I found out that the student who took his own life had come out as gay on Facebook shortly before he killed himself.

Now I don't know anything about this young man.  I do not pretend to know his story, I do not pretend to know the circumstances that led him to believe that not being alive was the only option he had left.  I do not pretend to know what he was going through or what led to his suicide.  But because these stories seem to follow the same tragic pattern, I have to imagine that it had something to do with his coming out or with his being gay.  And that just breaks my heart.  It makes me cry tears for a boy I never even knew and for his family and friends who will not get to see him figure out how to happily live an open life as the person he was meant to be.

But more than that, it makes me angry. Angry at myself.  It makes me angry because here I have been these past few weeks, watching the news coverage of the Supreme Court marriage rights cases and feeling so incredibly positive about how far our country has come.  Here I have been watching my friends' Facebook profile pictures rapidly change to the red equality sign and feeling as if we were truly in a different place as a nation. Here I have been looking at Millie and thinking about how happy it makes me to know that she is going to grow up in a different place where people won't make fun of her for having two moms.  And here I have been thinking about how much easier it must be for kids today to come out and be open and be honest without as much fear as we all had when we were younger.

And then you hear something like this.  And you realize that it is still not easy.  There are still kids, right here in our own communities, who feel as living as an openly gay person is too hard to even continue living.  You realize that no matter what the news might cover, kids still feel the pressure to be just like everyone else.  And you realize that even if the entire country tells you it is okay to be gay, it just takes one comment from a family member or a friend or someone you don't even know that well to destroy your sense of self-worth and self-acceptance.

It has been amazing to watch the attitude to the LGBT community change in this country.  It has been rapid and powerful and awe inspiring.  But the thing is, it can also have this dangerous side of effect of convincing us that everything is okay.  It can lull us into a false sense of security where we start to forget to worry about our youngest community members whose struggles are still as great and as difficult as any of our struggles ever were.

I truly thought that the community that I teach in was different.  That it was somehow protected from the difficulties and challenges that can make a young person feel as if being gay is a reason to kill yourself.  I thought that because I, as an adult, was able to be out and feel accepted by the community as a teacher, that it must be an easy place for kids to come out in as well.  But then I think back to just a few years ago when I made the decision to come out to my students' parents and then to the students themselves.  I was so scared.  I was so scared of becoming the gay teacher instead of just a fifth grade teacher who loves her students.  I created these images in my mind of parents storming into the principal's office and demanding that their children be pulled out of my classroom.  I imagined angry phone calls and I believe that I even imagined picket signs outside of my school.  I was a grown woman and I remember worrying about my students laughing at me.  It cost me many nights of lost sleep and many moments of panic.  And yes, that was all unnecessary worry.  To my knowledge, the parents have been nothing but supportive and the children themselves have restored my belief in the goodness of people time and time again.

But still, I worried about it.  So how could I ever let myself believe that it would be easy for a kid to face the same things?  How could any of us let ourselves forget what a true struggle it is to come out and how dangerous it can be, even when you are in the safest of communities? Of course it is still a struggle.  Of course it is still going to be a terrifying experience for any young person. Of course they care less about what is happening outside of the Supreme Court than about what is happening around their own lunch tables and dinner tables.  I am angry at myself for forgetting that.

I wish somehow that we could get the message down to the young people struggling to come out.  I wish we would let them know that this country is in a good place, that people are changing what they think, that even if your parents don't get it right away, if you give them time they might come around and even if they don't, you will find other people who will love you for exactly who you are.

I believe that the It Gets Better Campaign has done wonders for this country.  I believe that the Trevor Project has given kids a place to turn when they have nowhere else to go.  I believe that there are so many good things that are happening in our schools and in our homes.  And still, sometimes it feels as if it isn't enough.  These stories have become too common.  These deaths have become too familiar.  And it feels so urgent and so big and so overwhelming.

So I guess that all we can do is to remind the children in our lives that we love them for exactly who they are.  I guess all that we can do is to continue to be exactly who we are as adults so that they have examples all around them of people who are living as their authentic selves, no matter what that might mean.  I guess that all we can do is to continue to love the people in our lives fully and completely and remind those people every day that they are perfectly themselves and that is the best that they can ever do.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Normalcy?

I crave routine.  Sometimes, I like to pretend that I am someone who does not need a plan.  That I like being spontaneous and that the adventure of not knowing what is ahead is something that I find exciting.  Truth is, I do best when things are predictable and I know what to expect.  Hence, my love of routine.  Even in my classroom, I never feel quite right until we have established our daily routines and both the kids and I know what to expect each day.

This week has been the very first week where I have been able to catch a brief glimpse of the routine that our little family might settle into.  I am not talking about things like napping schedules and sleep schedules, because lord knows there is nothing routine about those things yet.  I am just talking about our daily schedules.  For so long, it seemed like each day brought a different plan and a different routine and we were never quite sure how the next day was going to go.

But this week, this wonderful thing started to happen.  It started to feel like we really could do this.  It started to feel like this could really be our lives.  And, most importantly to me, things have started to fall into a somewhat regular routine. The feeling of our new normal has been delightful and I am just happy that it has started to arrive.

Monday, I went back to work after being on Spring Break.  This meant that Millie was off to day care for the first time.  Since I leave earlier in the morning, Carla was in charge of dropping her off.  Monday was tough.  Really tough.  Multiple times throughout the day, I decided that I would have to quit my job because I just couldn't do this day care thing.  I convinced myself that we had left her in something similar to a Russian orphanage and that no one w as playing with or talking to her.  I rushed out of school at the end of the day and sped my way to Millie's daycare. I walked in and Millie was happily sitting on the teacher's lap playing with a bright orange ball.  Carla and I both admitted that we may have overreacted just a smidgen to Millie being in day care.  The truth is, once I let myself adjust to it, I feel really great about the day care we chose.  The kids look happy every time I walk in there and the teachers already speak with love about Millie.  So by the end of the week, I reassured myself that I could continue working and things would still be okay.

So Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Millie was at daycare.  I would leave super early for work, get as much as possible done and then be ready to leave work as soon as possible at the end of the day.  Carla would drop Millie off in the morning and I picked her up in the afternoon.  On Thursday and Friday, Millie was home with Carla and it was a delight hearing about the quality time they spent together.  On Thursday, Millie and her Mama went to the zoo together and while I was sad to miss out, I was so happy to know they were having such a good time together.  On Friday, they took an attempted trip with my sister and nephew to the aquarium which turned out to be full. And so the day turned instead into a nice long drive and some lunch.  A small disappointment, but still a cute day.  And now it's my turn to be home with Millie for the weekend.  I am more than looking forward to these two days and love just being able to watch her as she takes her morning nap.

So that was the week.  And I can more than handle it.  This is a routine. This is good.  I am so excited that we can actually feel how this is all going to work.  I am starting to really feel settled in to this new life and our new family.  I know that these are the earliest stages of normalcy and routine.  I know that these things will change and there will be unexpected bumps and turns, but for now, I will take joy in these moments of routine and hope for them to continue smoothly.

And now...a video.  Millie has started to laugh.  Really laugh.  I was so happy to capture this on video and will now share this delightful sound with you all. Enjoy...

video



And here are a few pictures of the past week's activities...

Millie with her Mama, visiting day care the week before her first real day there.

Millie was a big supporter of marriage equality during the big Supreme Court cases last week. 

Millie and her Auntie Jen. 
My first trip with Millie to the bookstore.  She picked out two new books using just her smile.

Millie falling asleep in her Zayde's arms. 
Sometimes, she sleeps like this and I love it!

Family bonding.

Fresh out of the bath and looking all snuggly