Monday, August 29, 2011

Forever Mommy

It's official -- the adoption of our beloved Lianne Elizabeth Murray was finalized by Judge Drue Farmer in Lubbock County Court on Friday, August 26 around 8:45 AM! She is now forever our daughter and we are forever her parents. Wow.

So what was the finalization hearing like? I need to write it down before I forget -- and as the record is sealed and takes a major act to open it, I'd better get it down fast! Bill, Lia and I arrived to the courthouse around 8:15 AM, joining four other families who had worked with our agency who were finalizing that morning. Judge Farmer took her seat behind the bench and she swore in Merinda, the amazing founder and head of our agency, Adoption Covenant, and her colleague, John, who is the Director of Placement for the agency.

Bill, Lia and I were the first family called in front of the judge. Lia was fussy, so I was feeding her at the time, so I came to the bench holding her and had a bottle on hand just in case. Bill stood to my left, John to his left, and Merinda facing us. We raised our right hands and were sworn in by the Judget. Merinda, acting as both the agency head and as an adoption attorney representing the case, asked us a series of questions. She asked me my name and asked me for the name of the baby I was holding. I lost it right away, introducing Lia as my darling daughter, Lianne Elizabeth Murray. She asked when Lia was born and on what date Lia was placed with us. She asked how Lia was doing since she came to be placed with us. I shared that she was thriving physically and developmentally and that she was a very healthy girl and that her doctor was happy with her development. She asked Bill his name. She might have asked Bill another question, but I honestly don't remember. She asked her colleague John for his name, role and credentials. She asked him if he had reviewed our home study and post-placement documentation. He said he had. She asked him if we had met the requirements for a Texas home study and he said that we had. She asked if given our documentation he believed that it was in Lianne's best interest to be placed with us permanently and he said yes.

Merinda then asked if we understood that Lia's biological parents rights were terminated and we said yes. She then asked if we understood that by becoming Lia's adoptive parents that we would assume all the responsibilities for her as we would for any biological child and we responded yes. She then asked each of us if we believe it is in Lia's best interest to be placed with us. We each responded yes and I said that I thought it was in her best interest and in mine.

Judge Farmer then stated that in hearing our testimony and reviewing the documentation presented to her, she would sign into record the adoption of Lianne by me and Bill. We all hugged one another and Lia and had our photos taken with the Judge. The whole thing lasted about 7-10 minutes at most.

We then went with Merinda's mom (and colleague) Betty, down to the courthouse office to file the record. And we got to pick out a stuffed animal for Lia. There were shelves and shelves of stuffed bears and a few dogs. And one ostrich. Guess what we chose. :-)

We spent some time with our fabulous new friend and photographer, Tiffany Padilla, and got photos taken in front of the courthouse and at some Lubbock landmarks. We had lunch with our friends at Adoption Covenant, soaking up as much time with them as possible. Honestly, it was one of the best days of my life.

And now this darling girl is my daughter. Now and forever. I was talking with my dad the night of the hearing and, through tears, shared something that feels incredibly profound to me. That five years of pain, heartache and longing has all dissipated with the arrival of Lia into our lives. I thought I would carry around those feelings of disappointment and hurt and broken-ness forever, but somehow they are all gone. I think it's like childbirth, which I understand to be one of the most painful experiences, but one in which the pain is quickly forgotten.

So now that it's all official, I have taken the step of changing my blog name -- no longer "Future Mommy," I am now "Forever Mommy."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

There's a special place in hell...

Remember back in May when I wrote about my strange experience with the adoption and surrogacy attorney who had a "situation" for us with a surrogate whose intended parents had changed their minds? (You can refresh your memory here.)

Yeah, well that woman just pled guilty to being part of a baby-selling ring. Three women conspired to have gestational carriers impregnated abroad (because they would need proof of a surrogacy if they did it here in the US) and then told prospective parents that these women had "situations," exactly like the one told to me, in which the intended parents had decided against surrogacy, leaving this "poor pregnant woman" to figure out what to do. Turns out they were charging the adoptive parents (which is what they were since the connection between the carrier and the parents were made after both parties knew there was a baby) upwards of $100,000 and paying the carriers $30,000 and pocketing the rest. You can read about the case here.

The whole thing turns my stomach. According to Resolve, the national organization that supports those who are contending with infertility, 7.3 million people in the US are affected by infertility. While some percentage of those go on to have biological children, a significant number of people are faced with very hard decisions about how (or if) to build their families. I know as well as anyone that there are moments of pain and desperation on this journey. I think that it could be pretty easy to jump if a situation like this came your way -- a surrogate seemingly in the unthinkable position of being pregnant with no intended parents for the baby. For those who are naive, it might feel like a dream come true. For those who are not so naive, it might be tempting to turn the other cheek or rationalize your way around the situation.

But it's immoral, unethical, illegal and just plain wrong to buy and sell people, which is exactly what these three women were doing. And more than that, they were actually in the business of creating people for the purposes of selling them. Just sick.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Letter

I have been meaning to sit down and put some thoughts together for weeks now, but this new life is busy and exhausting, though in the most fantastic ways. I have started a few musings, but get pulled away either by Lianne's needs or my own (or the dishes or laundry that seem to pile up every time my back is turned). We had a fantastic visit this week from my sister-in-law, Heather, which was just fabulous.

The first big update is that we have a court date! We travel to Texas at the end of the month and will finalize Lia's adoption on August 26 at 8:30 AM. After that, I can finally change my blog post name from "Future Mommy" to just "Mommy!"

What a miracle this has all been. Sometimes in those quiet moments, as she falls asleep in my arms, I am overcome with gratitude and love and awe. Just when I thought we'd never be parents, we were swept away on a plane to Lubbock to unite with this amazing child, who makes us a family. There are still moments when I find it all hard to believe -- that she is here and I'm finally a parent.

And, yet, I am also often thinking in quiet moments about another mama out there who made this incredibly hard decision for this girl, who is out there wondering how she is and where she is and whether we are doing right by her.

I've been meaning for a month to sit down and write our first letter to Lia's birth mama and I just don't know where to start. I'm getting hung up in the details, feeling that I need to find just the right stationary on which to write this letter. A typed letter would be faster, but impersonal, and a letter on legal paper wouldn't feel important enough. Then I get stuck on how to start the letter -- Dear Lia's Mom? To our daughter's first mother? And then I have a hard time figuring out what to say and how. There is so much to share:
  • How we chose her name, including her middle name, which was that also chosen by her birth mom.
  • How much Lia has grown -- she was 9 lbs, 12.6 oz and 23 inches long as of Monday's two-month appointment!
  • How she is developing so quickly and in the most amazing ways, smiling, "talking" interacting with her toys and with us.
But, most of all, how do I tell this woman how profoundly grateful I am for the opportunity to raise this amazing girl? How her decision on behalf of her daughter has changed my life in incredible ways and gave me the the gift of motherhood that I longed for for so long? How Bill and I love her as deeply as we have ever loved anyone in our lives? How we will do everything we can to raise her in a way that she would be proud? It's all a lot to say and hard and emotional. But it's something I need to do for me, and for her, and for our daughter.

So if you know where I can get lovely writing paper, please let me know!