Adoption terminology has changed in the past few decades. Instead of saying that a birth mom is "giving up" her baby for adoption, it is better to say she is "placing" her baby for adoption. Thus, "placement" is the day when the birth parents sign the legal paperwork relinquishing their parental rights and the adoptive parents take custody of the baby.
This is an exciting, nerve-wracking, heartbreaking, and emotional day for everyone involved. I think sometimes the birth parents sign the paperwork in front of the adoptive parents; other times, they sign the paperwork in a different room. Sometimes the birth parents sign the papers and immediately place the baby in the adoptive parents' arms, almost like a formal moment of transition; other times it's much less formal. It all depends on what the birth parents feel comfortable with. Different states have different laws about how soon the birth parents can sign the papers and how much time they have to change their minds after signing.
In Utah, Katie could sign as soon as 24 hours after he was born, as long as she wasn't taking any pain killers, and once she signed the papers, she could not change her mind. She had to be totally sure of her decision when she signed the relinquishment.
Katie had been thinking about this decision for months, and she knew she wanted to proceed the day after Noah was born. She and Drew chose to sign the paperwork on the morning of August 2nd, in their own room with just their case worker and Katie's dad present. We were in our room with Noah, feeling excited and nervous. After about thirty minutes, Katie's case worker came to our room. She poked her head in the door, smiled at us, and said, "They signed the papers."
And just like that, we had a son.
I wasn't sure if I would cry in that moment. I am generally not a big crier (hard to believe, I know, with how much I've cried about this adoption!), and I thought this moment might feel more like a legal formality than a sentimental milestone--but I should've known...tears immediately sprang into my eyes when I heard her words. Ryan grabbed my hand, and when I turned to look at him, his eyes were full of tears as well. The long road of infertility and adoption was over--we really and truly had a son--we couldn't believe it.
We signed our portion of the paperwork, and then the caseworker left, and we sat side-by-side and held Noah, looking down at him in awe. Our perfect, precious little boy.
About an hour later, Katie and Drew came to our hospital room. We hugged them and thanked them and told them that we loved them and Noah. It is humbling to be so unable to express the depth of what you're feeling--and words seemed so inadequate. We gave them some special gifts we had chosen for them, hoping the gifts would be a small but tangible reminder of our feelings for them.
We had asked Ryan's mom to make Katie and Noah matching quilts. She used the same quilt pattern but different fabrics. She asked me to pick a quote or a scripture that I wanted as an inscription in the corner of both quilts. I chose Philippians 1:3: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you." For the rest of my life, I will be inexpressibly grateful for Katie and for Noah.
A gift for Drew had been harder to come up with. We didn't think he would want a cutesy quilt, but we also wanted him to have something meaningful to "match" Noah in some way. One day, when I was thinking about Drew and his interests, I thought about his distinctive sense of style--and it came to me!... Drew and Noah needed matching Vans shoes! Every time we had seen Drew, he was wearing Vans, and I knew he would definitely approve of Baby Noah having his own pair. :)
The five of us spent some time together, and then Katie and Drew took Noah back to their hospital room and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with him. Katie was being discharged that night, and we would leave just before her with Noah, so many of their family members came to say goodbye to the baby. It was a sweet, emotional time for everyone. We shared a special family prayer with both of their families, and then everyone left so Katie and Drew could have some final quiet time with Noah before we took him home.
They brought him to our hospital room about an hour later, and with tears streaming down their faces, they hugged us and placed Noah in our arms and kissed him. Katie later told me that this, more so than the signing of the papers or any other moment to that point, was the hardest thing she'd ever done.
With our hearts full of gratitude and prayers for Katie and Drew, we bundled up Noah in his car seat and left the hospital as a family of three.
This is what heaven feels like!
Still to come...
Part 5--So Many Visitors!
Part 6--The Road Trip Home
...and then I will stop, I promise! :)