This month I’ve been posting a series about our adoption story. This is the final post of that series.
The first few months of having the boys was a blur. As I sit here thinking about what to write, I can hardly think of what we did.
Our first month was filled with a series of visits to family and friends to make introductions. We were so thrilled and so overwhelmed. It was a constant balance of sharing our joy and while at the same time sheltering the boys from being overtaken by all the new faces and excitement. Dear friends threw us showers. Shane’s parents flew in from Kentucky. We dedicated the boys to the Lord in church, though the adoption was not yet finalized.
Shane had taken paternity leave. Our days were filled with zoo trips, beach trips, playing at the park, coloring, building train tracks and running through sprinklers. Nights were filled with rocking and reading, tears and tantrums, nightmares and no sleep.
Our first family picture…ever
All of my life I had wanted to be a Mommy. And now that I was one, I was constantly fluctuating between pure joy and sheer terror for what we would be facing.
Our oldest continued to go to therapy and I would join him at times to learn how to play and interact with him because we struggled to connect. Did you read that? I had to learn how to play. I was learning about all of my deficiencies and inadequacies as a parent. Parenting a special needs child taught me that I had special needs, too. I had so much to learn. So much didn’t come naturally…and it frightened me. And I punished myself for it. And it’s honestly a big part of why I blog about adoption now. Because the longer I walk this road, the more travelers I meet who say, “Me, too.”
In August I was told that there was one court hearing I should go to. The boys’ birth mom would be there and it was just a “formality.” When I asked what for, the caseworker said, “Oh, her rights were to be fully terminated that day.” I was horrified because I had been told that was already a done deal when we got the boys in May. As I sat listening to her attorney ask the judge to not terminate, I was literally terrified. I was frozen. My stomach hurt. I was near tears. Looking back, it was really just a formality. She had been to court more than once and this had been an appeal to a previous termination decision. But I was so green I knew next to nothing about the process. As their mom walked into the courtroom, I was struck by how much Pickle looked like her. And I hurt for him. And I hurt for her. And I felt like an intruder. I left the courtroom that day feeling like a rag.
Abigail, the boys’ previous foster mom, warned me that holidays would be bittersweet for years to come. The sadness that the boys experienced in the middle of the joy was tangible. I had to face a new reality that holidays would never be what I had imagined they would be. However, they would still be special. Our reality would just be different than reality for others. And in spite of all the pain, our first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family were magical.
Our first Christmas
In February, the day finally arrived for the boys to become official Dunaways. Prior to the court hearing, we had discussed name changes, especially with Pickle. He had been named after his father, who he didn’t remember, and was a very Hispanic name, which he did not identify with at all. And so we talked about changing his name. The amazing part in his name choice was that he picked a name both very significant in the Bible and very personally significant to me. We were over the moon excited to have a hand in his name change. Nutkin wanted to be like big brother, so we offered another special name to him which he loved. We collectively decided that the first names their birth mother had chosen were still special and would become their middle name. We wanted them to feel they still had a part of her with them.
Adoption Day, February 2013
On that beautiful February day, we met at the Marion County courthouse, surrounded by many friends, family, and DHS folks, and the boys became ours.
It was a memorable and very special day.
And we began to settle into a life of just us. Therapy stopped, DHS pulled out of the picture and it was just…us.
But not forever…
Stay tuned. May is National Foster Care month. The story will continue then.
Blessings and much love,