December 19 was our big day. My parents came out to celebrate with us. The finalization was in the middle of their visit and we had an awesome time doing lots of classic Wisconsin holiday things. So great to share this special time with them! They had insisted on being here and I'm glad they did. I didn't really think it was going to be a big deal---it just seemed like a mere formality since he had been home for months.
But as the day grew closer, I got more and more excited about it. I realized that for the past 7 months I felt like I couldn't breathe deeply. I had this tiny seed of fear inside that something unexpected and ridiculous could happen and this whole life with LM would just disappear. I didn't obsess about it or anything, but it was there.
And it was a constant reminder that it wasn't a done deal yet as we've spent these 6-months doing our scheduled social worker visits, reports to our agency, sending the required photos and paperwork in, using both his Korean name and American name for things (insurance, plane tickets, etc).
|The Man, keeping LM entertained.|
We were witness to some of that ugly stuff during the 2+ hours of waiting. Our judge was running very late, and at one point, the bailiff came over to a family seated across from us and had words with the family. The two-year-old was screaming her head off and her mother was screaming right back at her. The mother said all sorts of shocking things to the child (lots of expletives) and handled her children roughly. The officer told her that someone was going to end up in custody. It was an ugly scene and my heart ached for the two children she had with her. I couldn't sleep that night, wondering how they were being treated when the eyes of the law were not there to witness and protect.
We spent the time chasing Little Man around the court waiting area and trying to keep him entertained. Our judge was running very late and as 5 p.m. approached (the time the courts closed) we started to get worried that our case wouldn't get heard.
Finally, they called us! Our best friend, Mike, was there to document the day. (Thank you, Mike!)
|The Judge, getting acquainted with Little Man.|
So, first thing Judge did was to get acquainted with LM. He brought him a teddy bear and chatted him up. LM was slightly entertained. But mostly he was getting fussy since he had missed his naptime. The judge hopped back behind his desk and got things underway.
He asked everyone present to give their names and relationship to us/LM. Then he asked our social worker to take the stand and testify about LM's case and what type of people we were. All the questions are very light and were along the lines of "is there any doubt that he would be cared for and loved." No doubts!
|Had to break out the pacifier to keep him from crying.|
By now, LM is really starting to cry. My parents were seated at the table behind me and Little Man really wanted to be held by Grandpa. He was reaching for him and my Dad asked if I wanted him to take him. Right then, the judge asks if Grandpa would like to bring Little Man up to sit at Judge's desk and hit the gavel for the reading of the final adoption decree.
It was super awesome. I wish I had other words to describe that moment. It was mayhem, joy, relief---all at once. Dad was doing his best to keep LM from demolishing Judge's laptop with the gavel. LM was swinging the gavel all over, clocking my Dad in the process. The Judge was trying to read the adoption decree, and noticed that LM's nose was running, so Judge takes a tissue and wipes LM's nose. The Man and I are standing together and laughing at the whole thing.
|Grandpa, trying to keep LM from whacking Judge's computer with the gavel.|
The closure of finalization is a relief, but it's hard to shed that feeling that we've lived with for two years---that there is always something you have to get done or a next step you need to complete before you can become a family. I can't believe that those steps are finally done! There's just a little more paperwork to complete. Birth certificates, social security cards, certificate of citizenship...I'm sure I'm missing something more. But the stuff that makes us an official family---it's finally done.
Slowly, I'm starting to breathe deeply.