How It All Went, Part IV (Abridged)

I forgot to mention a very important event from Thursday. At about 4:00pm, S’s lawyer showed up, and asked all of us, except her mom, to leave the room. During this time, S and her mom signed the appropriate papers terminating her custody. Jack’s birthfather was located, and was convinced to come to the hospital, where he stayed in the lobby, refused to come upstairs, and refused to let S take a picture of him. We still don’t know what he looks like. Anyway, he signed the paper terminating his rights.

Friday, January 20

We woke up friggin’ early for court. The weather was not compliant. It was raining, then hailing, then the rain froze. We found the court building, but we were 15 minutes early, and the door was still locked. We napped in the car for a bit, until S’s lawyer and our lawyer showed up, then we followed them in. We were told a little bit about what would happen in the actual courtroom, then our lawyers were called in and we waited. There were a few other people in the lobby with us, including a couple with a baby. A woman who looked like a lawyer was going over paperwork with them. I resisted the urge to ask if they were finalizing their adoption today. Within about 20 minutes, we were called in.
The courtroom was a lot like a college discussion classroom. There were tables arranged in a T shape, and people seated around them with the judge at the top middle of the T. Apparently, we had a court reporter and baliff, also a Guardian Ad Litem for Jack, our lawyer, S’s lawyer, and another lawyer (whom Max doesn’t remember) whose purpose was to say that the county recommended us adopting Jack. Our lawyer swore Max in, and proceeded to ask a lot of questions that ended with, “Is that correct?” For example, “Your name is Robert Maxwell Chittister and you live at…, Is that correct?” There were dozens of questions, with the end result being that we wanted to adopt Jack, knew what that meant, knew that we were going to be responsible for him, and were up to the challenges of parenthood. The one exchange that stays in my mind is something like, “Although this a transfer of temporary custody, the object of this proceeding is permanent placement. Do you understand this?”
Permanent placement. Mmmmmmmmm… contentment.

After Max was done, I was sworn in, asked to confirm my name, then asked: “Mrs. Chittister, you were present in this courtroom and heard your husband answer all of the questions, is that correct?” “Yes.” “Would you answer these questions with substantially the same answers?”

“Yes.”

Done.

The county’s lawyer recommended that we be parents. The guardian ad litem recommended that we be parents. The judge therefore decided that we would be good parents. That was at about 9:30am.

We chatted with our lawyer in the lobby about what would happen next, and arranged to meet him at the hospital within a couple of hours. Max and I had promised to get S the pictures we had taken for the week, so we went to a really huge Target, that even had a grocery store. We got the photos (excellent service!).

We went up to S’s room. When we came in, it was apparent that she had been crying. And I got that. All of this, with wanting to go home with Jack, wasn’t against S. It was about Jack, and what we needed and what we thought he needed. I ached for her, because I knew a little about aching for a child that was yours but wasn’t. I’m not saying that I knew exactly how she felt, but I guess I could imagine. We hugged for a long time, then talked. Said what was going to happen that day. S was worried that we would just come to the hospital and pick up Jack, without even talking to her. We had no intention of doing that. She told us about what Jack had done that morning, said how much she was looking forward to going out to dinner.

Jack was having his hearing screening, and had had his jaundice test. When he got back to the room, we left so that S could dress him to go home. I had bought an outfit at a consignment store that I thought was just perfect. It was the first baby clothing that I had bought for us. S asked if she could have until 1. I told her that we would certainly give her until Jack was discharged. As it turned out, it took awhile. We needed the nurse to explain what the jaundice test was all about, and she had to have us fill out some paperwork that showed we knew what we were doing. It was just past 1 when we got back to the room. My going “home” outfit for Jack didn’t fit him—too big. So he wore an outfit that his aunt had brought him. He was still adorable. And so small. In the car seat, he was like an elfling in a cave. (It makes sense to me.) We had a blanket that S had given him, and she carefully tucked him into the seat. She started to walk down to the lobby with us.

Then, I remembered: My friend from the other night. I went to her room while Max, Amy the nurse, S, and Jack in his car seat got on the (extremely slow moving) elevator. I was able to give her the thank you note I had written, and we exchanged email addresses. I then met our entourage in the lobby. Max went to get the car (a huge minivan, in case I hadn’t mentioned). We waited. It was tense. S and I hugged when Max pulled up. I think she kissed Jack. It’s weird how much I don’t remember what happened here. I know that Amy, Jack, and I went out to the car. I got settled in one of the back seats. Max strapped Jack’s car seat in for the first time, Amy checked it, and we were good to go. S was watching from the lobby windows. We waved. We took off. We were going to be with our son.

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