Posts Tagged ‘Adoption Attorney’
I’ve heard it said that women quickly forget the pain of childbirth, it’s what allows them to have more children. They are able to focus only the joys of the baby being placed in their arms, each perfect tiny finger, each tiny toe, and the sweet curve of tiny little eye lashes. I’ve found that to be true, the time I spent waiting and the pain of the actual birthing process melted away, it is overwhelmed completely by the joy I felt of holding Michael in my arms for the first time, and even the joy I felt in seeing Beth and John meeting their son for the first time. The pain I was totally unprepared for, the pain that still sometimes aches, came almost two days later.
I woke up after my second night in the hospital alone and feeling achy and frankly, a little bit crabby. There was no Uncle Jerry, no parents, no well wishing friends or coworkers, just me and a nurse taking my temperature. (I cannot begin to express my confusion at the process of being woken up to have my vitals taken all night after a delivery, but I guess that’s why I am not a health care professional.) She had a few pills to administer, though no pain meds, not even a Tylenol, since this morning is the day that the attorney would arrive and I would relinquish my parental rights, forever.
I had waited for Micheal’s arrival with eagerness and excitement, I waited for the attorney with dread. My Mom got there that morning before the attorney and just as we waited together for Michael to arrive now we waited to legally give him away. It was horrible, we both watched the TV and tried not to talk about anything, waiting for the sword swinging over our head to drop.
The attorney arrived before lunch with a court reporter in tow, this was unexpected. I thought I would be signing paperwork, I didn’t realize that I was going to have to give my testimony. I can’t tell you how surreal the whole thing felt to be sitting there with my Mom next to my bed, while the court reporter set up her little type writer thing. (Just like the ones you see on tv!)
If you recall, I had chosen the attorney I worked with carefully and I must tell you that I felt like I picked well because even as the court reporter was setting up, the attorney came over the explain what was going to happen. She was a very small woman with dark hair and warm dark eyes, she projected confidence, competence, and compassion. In retrospect, she knew what was coming – I really didn’t.
Just like if I was in court, I was “sworn in” and I had to answer questions about my mental state, if I felt coerced in any way, and then we got down the nitty gritty. The attorney read the adoption papers out loud and I had to answer questions about if I understood or if I agreed. During this process, my Mom started to cry and with tears running down my face I gently asked her to leave. I can’t stand for anyone to cry by themselves, and I knew that if I started crying now I would never be able to stop.
With tears in my eyes, I help up well through the rest of the process until the attorney asked me if I understood that I was terminating all of my parental rights to Michael. (Of course she said it more professionally than that.) With tears streaming down my face I said I understood, and I did understand, but the wording seemed so wrong. I felt like I was on record as saying – I didn’t want him, and I hated that. I hated the way it sounded and the heartache it caused because the truth was so much more complicated.
The truth is that even though I always felt like my adoption plans were part of a bigger plan, it still hurt to hear those words out loud. The truth is that even though I always felt like Michael was meant to be Beth and John’s son, he would also always be a part of me, I liked to think that he was the best part of me and Rob. The truth is that I loved him so much I wanted him to have more than I could give him and that wretched legal paperwork could never convey that.
Shortly after the tears started flowing the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed, and the attorney and court reporter packed up to leave. When they opened the door to leave, I saw John and Beth in the hallway with two beautiful dark haired little girls that I realized must be the attorney’s daughters. Beth and I locked eyes for just a moment and her eyes filled with tears, I smiled the very best, although slightly shaky, smile I could muster at her before the door was closed between us.
I was on the verge of starting to cry in earnest, when the door opened again, and John came in. I confess, I liked John but I hadn’t really gotten as close to him as I had to Beth. She was who I emailed with all this time. Since we didn’t have that bond, I could tell that John felt a little awkward.
“Is there anything we can do for you,” he asked in a quiet voice.
I cannot tell you how touched I was by this small gesture. The paperwork was signed, Michael was theirs, but clearly to Beth and John I was more than just the vessel that carried their child – I was a person, a person they knew was in pain.
“Could you see if I could have my pain meds now?” I asked him, “I’m a little sore and I didn’t sleep very well last night.”
“Sure,” he said.
John stood there for a moment and I knew that he wanted to say something. He searched for the magic words to comfort and ease the pain. However, there were no words, and so he left.
A few moments later I heard him at the nurse’s station and I couldn’t help but chuckle. John was a mild mannered and very polite man, but I heard as he was adamant that someone get down to my room and get those pain pills administered STAT! Apparently one of the nurses had the bad graces to bring up that they were waiting on the attorney and though John was quiet he was firm, that someone needed to come down to my room immediately. I believe he stood at that nurse’s station until he watched her walk down the hall towards my room.
I cried myself to sleep after the medicine had been administered. From the moment I had decided to place my son for adoption I had known that moment was coming, but there is no amount of preparation that can make it hurt less to say good bye to someone that you love
I have missed two Tuesdays of my “Tuesday Topics” because I had delusions of grandeur, I’m sorry. I got this really great question emailed to me:
How did you know what the laws were and what your rights were in regards to adoption?
Short, simple to the point – right? So what took so long to answer? Well sometimes I take the long and hard road to get where I need to go. That was sadly the case with this question.
I started by talking about the laws that were in effect during my pregnancy, and then I realized that they had changed. I started trying to update that information and then I realized those laws only apply to the State of Florida – the laws vary from state to state. (this is where the delusions of grandeur crept in…) Then I tried to expand my post to include laws from other states, to make it a comprehensive resource. Of course, I realized not only do the laws vary from state to state but they also change on a regular basis. I didn’t want to put bad information out there.
I also tried to work my “day job” and do this “have a life” thing…surely you can see how this spiraled out of control. I’m not making excuses, it’s just sometimes I don’t always take the best path.
So, let’s try this again, here’s the question I got asked -
How did you know what the laws were and what your rights were in regards to adoption?
First and foremost, I asked questions, ALOT of questions. I didn’t know everything about adoption then, I certainly don’t now. It is 110% okay to ask questions, and I don’t know any adoption professional that wouldn’t be receptive to answering questions.You may not always get the answers you are hoping for, but you don’t know if you don’t ask.
I also relied on someone else to help ask questions, my Mom. The first time I met with Mary, my Mom was there to make sure that I didn’t forget anything and to offer her insight and perspective. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed, there’s alot of emotions involved. It’s okay to ask a parent, close friend, etc. to be involved to make sure that you don’t forget anything.
Generally speaking there are also provisions made in most States for legal counsel to be provided for birthparents. I admit that I didn’t really take advantage of that, because even though the option was available to me – I felt comfortable with the adoption professionals I chose to work with. (I never, at any point in time, felt like anyone from the Attorney’s office to the actual Adoptive parents had anything but my best interests at heart.)
I guess all of that is the long drawn out way of saying the old adage is true – you can never ask a stupid question! So ask!
It’s funny how quickly it happens but I seemed to have gone from the girl that no one could believe is pregnant to “dear lord, when are you due?!?!?” I’m not sure if it was really a change in my body as much it was a change in my wardrobe but as the weather warms up the maternity clothes have come out. I had another doctor’s appointment, listened to the heart beat, and Dr.A confirmed that my weight gain was right on track for a healthy baby.
Mary and I had been talking occasionally, usually she was just calling to touch base, make sure things were going okay, etc. but during her last call she had scheduled a counselor to come by my house. I was unclear whether this was a requirement of the State or of the attorney that I had to work with but it sounded like a good idea so this afternoon I found myself straightening my apartment as Ben and I prepared for Linda’s arrival.
Ben was a gracious host, he always stayed on his pillow, head held regally and eyes bright inviting people to come pet him. I was amused that he was not the kind of dog to bound over to strangers, he knew that they would come to him. I thought the way people reacted to my sweet, soft and still healing dog was very telling and Linda passed the test right away.
Linda had short dark curly hair and had a very Earthy quality to her, I’m not sure if it was something in the cut and style of her clothes or her jewelry but she just seemed like a very Earthy grounded person and as soon as she came into the apartment she asked who Ben was and she knelt down to introduce herself, scratching gently under his chin. I liked her right away, I wasn’t the only one as Susan seated herself on the sofa and Ben got up from his cushion to follow her. (Susan had a dachshund and I could tell by they way she talked about him that she loved her dog.)
I had been nervous about the counseling visit, I’m not really sure what I expected but I had never been to a counselor before. However, Linda took out a form and held it in her lap and then we talked, like she was a new friend who just wanted to get to know me better. She scratched Ben under his chin and behind his ears, while he looked up at her adoringly, and I told her about my family, about being adopted. Every now and then she wrote something down on her paper, but really it didn’t feel like anything too formal. I actually liked it!
The only area that I felt like I came up short was when she asked about Rob. I could talk about Rob in a detached sort of way but she asked questions about our relationship and what brought me here, living with Ben, instead of with the man I had once thought I would be spending the rest of my life with. I hated how angry I knew I sounded when I talked about how all our plans were washed away when he cheated and about the arguments that we were still having. (Rob had taken to calling more frequently at odd hours to see if I was dating, he woke me up from a dead sleep twice before deciding that he should at least place his calls before nine at night.)
“What is it about your situation with Rob that really makes you so uneasy?” She asked.
“One day, I hope to meet this child and I wonder what I will tell him or her,” I said, “I don’t want the baby to think it wasn’t always loved, because it was.”
As soon as I said it, I was struck by the truth of it. It was hard to focus on the fact that the baby was made in love when Rob and I were squabbling constantly, when there was no trust between us. Most days it hardly seemed like we were friends, how would that make the baby feel someday when I have to explain this part of his (or her) past?
“You’ll make peace with all of this, but it takes time and this is an emotional time for you. Try not to focus so much on the future, just focus on today.” Linda advised me.
It was good advice, advice I knew I should try to follow but I have to admit that some days it was easier than others.
The day before my doctor’s appointment, I was scheduled to have dinner with my Mom and Mary and I was so nervous. I met my Mom at the restaurant a little early, and with tears in my eyes I told her about what had happened with Cathy. My Mom frowned as she listened, and then she reached across the table and placed her hand over mine.
“Joy, you are going to have people give you their opinions and advice, whether you ask for it or not, you’re going to have to learn how to let those things go,” she said.
“I know,” I said because I’ve never been one to care too much what other people thought or said about me, “but Cathy was my mentor, for her to say that really hurt.” My eyes welled with tears again, but I blinked them away as best I could while my Mom continued to pat my hand.
After I felt like I was back in control of my feelings, I told my Mom that I had made my doctor’s appointment. I also told her that I had experienced my first craving, crab rangoon, I could eat it almost every day and it never made me sick. Someone told me that cravings stem from things that your body knows that it needs, I couldn’t imagine what the baby needed with cream cheese and imitation crab, but I was glad for a reprieve from being sick. We were laughing about my craving when Mary was shown to our table.
In the laughter I had forgotten more than my hurt feelings, I had forgotten my nervousness and perhaps that is why Mary almost immediately seemed like a long lost friend. Mary’s hair and eyes were darker than my Mom’s but there was something about them that was so similar, perhaps it was an aura of warmth and compassion.
I immediately felt at ease around Mary, but my Mom was in Mother Bear mode, trying to protect her cub! For the first fifteen to twenty minutes, she went about the business of the adoption, asking questions about the process, about what assistance was available to me, what paperwork had to be signed, what my responsibilities were, etc. etc. For my part, I told Mary I had a doctor’s appointment the very next day, and she gave me her card to give to them, along with the name of her administrative assistance in the event that she was out of the office. Her office would ensure that my medical expenses were all taken care of since I didn’t have any health insurance, but I was ineligible for any state programs. (The bills would ultimately be paid by the adoptive parents.) I also provided my list of living expenses, things like rent, phone, an estimate of my grocery, and other miscellaneous expenses. My Mom wanted to know how those things would be handled if something happened and I was put on bedrest and unable to work and Mary went over the things on my list that the birthparents would pay for and what they would not. (Most of the expenses were covered, though things like cable were not – of course, this varies depending on the state and the laws in that state.)
Finally we got to the heart of the matter, I gave Mary back the profiles of the parents that I had not selected and showed her Beth and John’s profile and explained how I picked them. I still felt a little bit like I had to defend my decision, like there had to be more than gut instinct involved. My heart still ached for the parents that I couldn’t pick, Mary sensed my heavy heart and assured me that in time they would find children for all of the parents whose stories I had gotten to know in my own adoption journey. I asked Mary NOT to call Beth and John until after my doctor’s appointment, just to make sure that I don’t get their hopes up if something is amiss.
With all of the business of the dinner out of the way, the most remarkable thing happened – Mary shared her own personal adoption experience with us, she was the adopted mother of a beautiful little girl. Her daughter’s birthmother had been a woman who already had a house full of children and she didn’t think that she could take care of another one, so she placed her baby girl for adoption. Apparently she didn’t have an adoption plan, she came to the decision at the hospital, signed papers and left. Mary said that she often wished she could forward pictures of her daughter to the birthmother, just so she would be able to see how beautiful and loved the little girl was. My mom and I both had tears in our eyes when she finished her story, but then my Mom shared her adoption experience with us.
My Mom and I often talked about adoption, but some of this was new and different. I knew that some of my story was similar to Mary’s story – my birthmother came to the hospital to deliver me and the adoption plans were made after that. However, my Mom admitted that even years after my adoption, when there were cases about birthparent rights, she sometimes worried that my birthmother would show up and try to take me back. I was shocked to hear that, I never knew that my Mom had ever been worried that someone would try to take me away from her. I understood a little better her concern that I not contact adopted parents until I was sure that was the course of action I was going to take; apparently she had often considered what it would be like to lose her daughter, even after I was legally and undoubtedly hers.
As the two women shared their experiences and I saw the tentative roots of friendship taking place, I was struck by the irony that both of them were so obviously Mothers. Everything about them seem warm, comforting, compassi0nate – they were made to be mothers, and yet neither of them was able to have a baby and here I was…not even remotely ready to be a mother, but the baby growing inside me, made me one whether I was ready to be one or not!
I am pregnant. I keep saying it to myself trying to get used to the thought because really there are long stretches where I seem to forget! There’s plenty of things going on to distract me – work, dinner with friends, the impending holidays with my family. I go through all of it and pregnancy seems far away, but then a wave of nausea crashes down on me and reminds me, I am pregnant.
The day after my day of reflection, I went about the business of trying to determine how one places a child for adoption. I was not going to call any number on a bulletin board that said something like “Pregnant? Scared? Alone? call 800….” – I was never very clear what organization would be waiting for me on the other end of that line and I didn’t want to risk encountering anyone with negative opinions on how I got in my “delicate state.” (Okay, I’ll just say it – I didn’t want to be judged too harshly for getting pregnant, I know there are people who feel strongly about premarital sex and I wasn’t interested in revisiting the past – I was planning for my baby’s future.) I did the only other thing I could think of – I Googled “Adoption Attorney.”
Just as I had preconceived notions about the 800 numbers on the billboards, I had decided that I didn’t know if there was a Catholic Charities but it seemed like I had read negative things about them in the press, so I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to call any of the numbers on the ads in any magazines either. I wanted to talk to someone who was in the adoption business, someone who knew all the ins and outs so that’s why I decided to try to find an Adoption Attorney.
There wasn’t an Adoption Attorney in my small town, the closest one was three hours away, the next closest was almost six hours away, but I called and left messages with both offices.
The first office to call back was actually the office that was furthest away! The Social Worker asked questions, questions that got more and more intrusive. The questions started with things I expected like – “how far along was I” and they ventured into questions I didn’t expect, questions about my race and the race of the father and how certain I was who the father was. I started to feel a little defensive. When the social worker realized that Rob and I were both Caucasian, college educated – she seemed excited. She wanted to make an appointment to come meet with me in person as soon as possible. I made the appointment for next week, but I felt uneasy.
A little while later, the Social Worker from the second office called me. She asked some of the same questions, but there was something in her mannerism that made me feel more at ease. She did ask questions about my race (and Rob’s) but she didn’t drill me about being sure who the father was. There was something in her gentle probing questions that made me feel like she wanted not just what was best for the baby, but what was best for me too. I liked this woman, I felt like we clicked.
I talked to Mary, the social worker from the second office, for almost half an hour and she answered some of the questions that I had. I found out that I was going to have to tell Rob about the pregnancy, he had to sign papers too* or else he could later come and take the baby away from the adoptive parents claiming some sort of parental rights. (That certainly wasn’t what I wanted.) She explained that I would be provided with a counselor that I would meet with a few times over the course of my pregnancy. She was also very clear that while her office worked for the adoptive parents, they would make sure that I could have my own legal representation if I wanted it or felt uncomfortable with any of the arrangements being made.
Mary and I also talked about what the adoptive parents could help me with. I didn’t have health insurance so they would cover my medical expenses. However, there was also living expenses that could be covered depending on my need. Mary advised that I make a list of my monthly expenses that we would go over later.
We decided that she would send over some adoptive parent profiles for me to review and perhaps select parents for my child from. (Though she was very reassuring that there were more she could send if I didn’t feel like my adoptive parents were in there.) However, she was going to call and check in with me next week and give me some time to talk to Rob.
I called the first office and canceled my appointment next week, stating that I had decided to work with someone closer, in case I needed support. I never told them that they had left me with a slimy “selling my baby to the highest bidder” feeling, maybe I should have.
Then I called and left a message a for Rob and told him that we needed to talk and to please call me back.