Friday, November 22, 2013, was National Adoption Day in Kansas City. We really get the whole month of November, but Friday was it, the BIG day! I trekked it down to Midtown to Family Court to participate in the National Adoption Day festivities in Jackson County, Missouri. I’ve seen it crowded before, but this was a new level of crowd. It was one of those where you would see someone you knew across the room, but had no choice but to talk in hand gestures because getting to him or her was just not going to happen. Immediately upon entering, as one of my social work colleagues in Kansas City just about leapt over the crowd (NFL touchdown style) and out to freedom, she told me “Good luck,” took a look back into the abyss of people, and said “You’re lucky. It seems to be clearing out.”
I was only there for one hearing that day. One adoption finalization. Just another day in the life. I spend a good portion of my days down there at that courthouse. It’s not such a bad place really, parking is easy, and I often thank God we don’t have to go down to 9th Street for the real courthouse to do these adoption proceedings. It’s a nice place overall, though neither the architecture, nor decor, is not going to wow you.
41 juvenile, including 2 adult adoptions, were completed on Friday inside that building.
Coming out of any courtroom inside you are likely to see one family crying for the loss of their child, and then just wait 7 minutes, and you will soon see another family walking out of that same room, beaming with joy, for their dreams of parenthood have just become a reality.
This is a regular occurrence for me. It’s my job.
But Friday, as everything happening was adoption finalizations, all the tears were tears of joy. All the smiles were big and all the families were happy. T-shirts with sayings like “Forever Family: 11/22/2013” with giant flower headbands and baby skirts with 10 layers of tulle were the fashion of the day. There were no birth parents relinquishing that day, no parental rights being terminated. No commissioners not accepting testimonies and nobody encountering problems. Just happy smiles, children’s faces painted like fairies and Spider-Man, the biggest sheet cake I’ve ever seen in my life, and 37 friends and family crowded into one courtroom for my family's adoption. It was a happy day.
And I couldn’t help but wonder, amidst all that happiness and joy, what some of these kids birthparents were thinking or doing on Friday afternoon. Did they even know that lives were dramatically changing at 625 E. 26th Street? Did they know that their little guy or gal was getting a new name? Did they know that they just traded someone else for a lifetime of worry, sleepless nights, hospital stays, and teenage drama?
And as I stood there and waited, with joy and unconditional love surrounding me, a soon-to-be-adoptive-mom, I began thinking these same things about Yiyi’s birth parents.
Adoption is sort of unreal when you really think about it. I admit that I get caught up in the daily grind of my job just the way anyone does. 98% of my work is with the adopting family, so it’s easy to get bogged down with background checks, financial statements, and ensuring their smoke alarms work. But when I really start to think about all that has to occur for an adoption to happen, it’s actually pretty unreal.
I’m bracing myself for a lifetime of “I don’t know, sweetie.” I’m not looking forward to the day that Yiyi realizes she doesn’t get to know anything about her history, while her cousin can just call her birthmom and find out something as mundane as the last meal she ate before going into labor or something as substantial as if she ever had hiccups in utero. I’m not sure what I’ll do when Yiyi sees Somewhere Between for the first time and thinks there is a glimmer of hope that we can travel back to China so she can find her birth parents like the girl on the movie did. I’m just not sure I’ll be able to be ready when these issues of grief and loss crop up, as I know they so often will.
But in the mean time, I’m celebrating National Adoption Month by speaking at churches, celebrating with the families, and spending a good portion of my month at Family Court with my
best friends attorneys Sarah, Mike, Jim, and Kevin. Adoption is a joyous
miracle. It’s the miracle that keeps us going in the face of adversity. It’s
the miracle that gets us over the hump of challenging hospital protocols,
difficult court hearings, and yes, even a lifetime of I don’t know’s.
So as we bring 2013 National Adoption Month to a close, I ask you to keep in mind all the awesome ways that adoption has touched your life. Ask yourself: how can I share that message with others? How am I thankful for adoption this November?
Let’s keep the miracle alive, no matter how hard that might be from time to time. I’m right there with you.
And congratulations to the "E" family on your adoption Friday! I'm so fortunate I was able to walk this journey with you!