We stood at the end of the hallway looking out over the city…talking quietly. We were confident, but we also knew that our level of confidence did not matter.
After what felt like an eternity, the door opened and our counselor directed us to another room down the hall. My heart almost stopped. What did this mean…where were we going? I wanted to be with Cheeks…now.
The adoption plan was still in place. Audrey and her mom were taking time to say their goodbyes. They were grieving. They had been talking through their plan…reassuring one another, processing, holding on. This night was painful, difficult beyond words, and scary.
We talked with our counselor and then went to say goodbye to Audrey and her mom. They wanted to leave before we left with Cheeks.
I know how difficult it is to plan and prepare for something of this emotional magnitude, but looking back I regret not having something better to say to Audrey at our “good bye”. She and her mom were devastated and her mom was not even able to say good bye to us. We hugged Audrey tightly and told her we would text her when we got home. This was a heavy, heavy night.
As much as we were feeling joy and excitement because we were actually leaving the hospital with Cheeks…it was impossible to be happy. A family was devastated, hurting, grieving. Our hearts ached. You could feel the thickness of grief swelling within our adoption triad…loss oozing from each one of us.
I held Cheeks while our counselor sat with me and talked. Chris went to pick up Addison so that she could bring Cheeks home with us. We drove home in the dark. I felt numb as polar emotions tugged at my heart.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind. We talked to Audrey daily and saw her and her mom once or twice a week. We tried to do our best to support her in whatever way we could. We saw the beauty of her and Cheeks spending time together and never doubted the overwhelming love she felt for her son.
We were still scared to death. I lived by the saying (thanks to Pinterest!) “Let your Faith be Bigger than your Fear”. It was my mantra during those weeks when we were moving forward, waiting, approaching the court date that would transfer legal parental rights from Audrey to us. She had the right to change her mind at any point during those weeks and although it was her right, it terrified us that she may decide to parent.
We again remained confident. We felt that our bond was continuing to grow with Audrey and her family. We talked a lot and had many conversations about openness…her biggest fear was that we would cut off contact after her rights were terminated. Open Adoption is based on a foundation of trust, and we all were becoming fully aware of what that truly meant.
I had not shed one tear since holding Cheeks for the first time in the hospital. For weeks I cared for him with every ounce of love I had in me, but something protective in me turned off my tears. I took care of everyone, moved through the days, laughed, felt immense joy…but could not, and maybe would not, cry.
The day of the court date came. This was a complicated day. It was not anticipated that things would go smoothly due to some confidential issues. As a result of these issues, in the days before the court date, we were told that parental rights would probably not be terminated at this hearing. If that happened, the second hearing would be scheduled a few weeks later. Regardless, we prayed.
We did not need to be at the hearing and were told to wait by our phones for news. The counselor, with whom we had become quite close with, would call us when the hearing was over. Chris needed to be a work, so he waited at his desk for my call. Addison was at school and Cheeks and I were at home…waiting.
I stayed busy taking care of Cheeks, folding laundry, etc. Audrey texted me a few times with updates of what was happening at the court. The last text I received from her stated that due to the complications there would not be time for her to sign papers that day and that there would need to be another court date scheduled.
Cheeks was laying on the floor amongst piles of baby boy clothes that I had been folding all morning. I knelt down beside him and I prayed…on my knees, I prayed.
45 minutes later the phone rang and it was the counselor. She told me that all of the papers had been signed and it was over. We were the legal parents of our sweet, sweet Cheeks.
The release, the cries, the howls of joy and unleashing of 3 years of pain was unreal. I have never, ever felt that intense of emotion in my life. Our counselor cried on the other end of the phone. Through my tears, my sobs, I could not stop saying “are you serious?” and “thank you God”.
That night we invited Audrey and her mom over to visit. We knew they would want to see Cheeks and felt it was so important that we spend that evening with them. I will never know what signing those papers must have been like for Audrey. I will always be in awe of her courage and selflessness.
Some of the most difficult parts of this journey are over. We still await the finalization of Cheeks’ adoption which should happen in the fall, but we are confident in this final step. Even though we are confident, we are certainly anxious to have the legal components of his adoption complete.
Cheeks is wonderful. He is beautiful, happy and a very easy-going baby. He melts our hearts with his smiles and already “talks” almost as much as his sister. We are cherishing this time with both of our children, relishing in the simple moments and finding peace as we settle into our family of four.
Through the years there will certainly be challenges, no different than anything else or any other relationship in life. There will be times when we all celebrate and there will still be times when we all grieve. For Audrey, we don’t know what her grief will bring or what may be hardest for her. We only hope that we can support her and make things easier for her whenever possible.
We continue to visit and talk frequently with Audrey and her family. We love her dearly and are excited to be a part of her life, and are of course elated to have her in ours.
We treasure the gift of openness and always remember that this journey was truly never about us, or about Audrey, but ultimately about Cheeks, a gift to Audrey, a gift to all of us and a gift to this world.
May our son always know the abundance of love that surrounds him.