One year ago this week we sat next to our attorney, in front of a judge, and swore to love Maeve forever.
The day’s sights and sounds are as clear in my mind as if it were today: Waiting in the hallway with other families, children and attorneys. Court clerks goo-goo-gaa-gaa-ing at eight-month-old Maeve from their perch high on the bench. The judge and our attorney trying to speak over the clang of Maeve knocking her toy against the conference table. Court reporter rap-tap-tapping away into the stenography machine. Us nervously answering the judge’s questions. Camera and DVD recording moment by moment. Our families watching it all.
And in one final gesture, the judge looked up at us from his glasses one more time and signed paperwork that made our family official in the eyes of the court, the state and all government agencies.
But we didn’t need an officer of the court, a Bible to swear on or raised-seal documents to make our commitment real. That had happened long before. Countless hugs, diapers, cuddles, bottles, kisses, laundry piles, moments and lullabies ago, we had become family.
The impact of that sweeping judicial pen? Tremendous joy in being deemed Maeve’s mother in some official capacity — absolutely. Yet in those deeply satisfying moments, the finality of it all brought with it an underlying awareness of loss.
It’s a bittersweet balance in adoption: boundless bliss in being mama to a child perfect in my eyes, yet grief deep within for another mother living without her child, and for my daughter living without her first mother.
A most stirring and complex juxtaposition, indeed.
There is some solace in knowing that our seeking an open adoption helps ensure the child that didn’t come from me but would become part of me would not lose the woman she came from, the woman she had always been part of.
Surely the closed adoption in our lives helped shine light toward the path we needed to travel. In choosing to love and parent a child in an open adoption, we embrace the whole of Maeve, well beyond strict custodial confines. We hope our efforts, and her birthmother’s, together create a loving context within which Maeve’s story will read most clearly to her.
That day, one year ago, officialdom took notice of the sweet girl in the red and white polka dot dress.
But long before that, she was noticed, loved, embraced and committed to in so many ways by parents numbering more than two.
Of course, the magnitude of the day’s events was lost on the silly baby making fish faces at court personnel. We hope, though, the magnitude of all her parents’ love is never lost on her.