Saturday, March 3, 2012

Noah's Big Weekend, Day 1: Noah Goes to Court

On Friday, February 10th, we took Noah to the Adams County Courthouse, so his adoption could be finalized and official.

He's ready!
I was giddy with excitement.  I didn't really expect to feel that way because, ever since Katie and Drew signed the adoption papers, I've always known that Noah is ours.  But it was still such a special day, and we were so grateful to have a few of our family members there to celebrate with us.  Ryan's mom and his sister were visiting us for the week, and my dad took a day off of work and my older sister found a babysitter in order to attend the court hearing.  So Noah had a little fan club arriving at the courthouse with him on the morning of his big day.

Sarah, Dad, me, Ry, Noah,  Sally, and Ashley
Whenever I tell people that the adoption was recently finalized, they always ask, "So his birthmom could've changed her mind during all of these months?"  Adoption laws vary from state to state, but in Utah (where Noah was born), once a birthmom signs the papers, she has relinquished her rights and cannot change her mind unless she proves that she was coerced, bribed, drugged, etc. (We did none of those things to sweet Katie.)  However, the adoption isn't totally finalized for six months, during which time we are periodically visited by a social worker from our adoption agency.  She makes sure that we are indeed good parents, that we are attaching to the baby and the baby is attaching to us, and that our home is a good environment.  If she found that we were neglectful or drug addicts or otherwise unfit, the agency would take custody of the baby and find another home for him (with input from Katie, of course).  Adoption involves a lot of paperwork, visits, and rigmarole, but I'm glad that they take these precautions in order to ensure that children are safe and loved.

Our case worker helped us with all of the paperwork before Noah's birth and then did all of our supervisory visits after his birth.  She was awesome!  People always ask me if I felt like I had to have the apartment spotless before she came over, or if I felt like I couldn't be truly open and honest with her if Noah was having a bad day or week--not at all!  She is a mom too, and she knows what it's like to have a newborn.  She was a huge support to me throughout the entire process.  Here she is, snuggling with Noah at the courthouse:

Our lawyer is an awesome man too.  He and his wife adopted their first son through our agency about 25 years ago, so now he does the legal work for the agency's adoptive families for free.  Isn't that amazing?  He says adoption has been such a huge blessing in his life that he wants to make it more affordable for young couples like us.  So cool.

He is a giant.
Upon entering the courthouse, we had to pass through some intense security.  We didn't realize that we were going to have to take Noah out of his car seat for the screenings, so we all walked through before Ryan, and he was stuck on the other side trying to juggle everything.  He took Noah out of his seat and then sat him on the floor while he put the car seat on the conveyor belt.  Noah (who has been sitting solidly on his own for months now) folded in half and bumped his forehead on the marble floor.  Of course, right??  In front of an entire line of people heading into court!  Luckily, Noah didn't even cry, and everyone was chuckling not judging.  When Ryan got to me on the other side of security, he said, "The judge was behind me in line and just saw that!"  I panicked for a second, but then I realized he was joking.  Phew!

Then we went to our courtroom and waited outside while the lawyer went in and got everything ready with the judge.  At this point, I got a little nervous--I'm not sure why--maybe because it all felt so official.  Here we are, waiting for our hearing to start:

When we entered the courtroom, Ryan and I sat at the table in front of the judge, and our friends and family sat in the observers' seats behind us.  I got to hold little Noah.  He was so calm and angelic, which made everything even more special.

We all rose for the judge as he entered, and we took the oath (felt like a movie).  After our lawyer presented our Petition for Adoption to the judge, he asked us a few questions.  He asked Ryan why we were the best parents for Noah, and he asked me how Noah had improved our lives.  I don't think either of us was prepared to answer such big questions.  I mean, "how has Noah improved our lives"??  Are there even words?  I stumbled through a very cliche answer about how much we love him and how he's taught us about love and how he's "our angel" (yes, I really said that--cornball!!).  I felt kind of silly and quite inadequate trying to answer such an important question in just a few sentences.

But the judge seemed to like what we had to say because he approved our petition and banged his gavel (did he really bang it?  I can't remember, but I hope he did), and we had ourselves a son--officially and lawfully.

Here we are with the judge.  He had awesome hair.  Ryan said it was "straight from Britain."  And he gave Noah the little teddy bear.  Cutest!

As we walked back to our family, everyone surrounded Noah and gooed at him and talked to him and congratulated him, and I realized that all of these people will be there to support him every step of the way for the rest of his life, just as they've been there to support us.  Amazing.

Outside the courthouse, we got some pictures.  He's a Nielson!  And the cutest one yet, if you ask me (yes, he's usurped Ryan's title)!  

No, just balancing on Bapa's hand.

This was cause for a celebration, so we all went out to the Original Pancake House for brunch.  Yum!

After brunch, back at home, Ryan took a little video of Noah demonstrating his new rolling skills.  I think Ryan's commentary is really funny, especially at the end ("and rubbing my hand in it...and rolling on top of it" hahaha):

Later that day, the guests started arriving for the rest of the weekend's festivities.  Noah was settling down for a late afternoon nap when there was a knock at the apartment door.  Knowing who it would be, I picked Noah up from his crib and held him front and center while I opened the door to quite a crowd: Katie, Drew, and their families.  Noah greeted them with a huge, open-mouthed grin.  It was perfect.
Noah and his birth parents.
Love these three.
Noah and his birth grandmas.
Love them too!  They are awesome.
It was so wonderful to have Noah's birth parents and their families in town for his temple sealing and blessing in church.  Many of my friends who are unfamiliar with open adoption were very surprised to hear that Katie and Drew and their families were coming.  "Won't that be really hard for them?" they asked.  I didn't know what it would be like for them--but I knew that they were excited to see Noah and be part of his celebration.  I have since asked them what they were feeling throughout the weekend, and I will share some of their thoughts in an upcoming blog post.  I am excited to share a bit of the "birth family" perspective.  We've all developed such a close relationship over the past year, centered around one perfect little boy.

Noah played with everyone for a while, but then he'd had it (he'd missed a nap, after all), so everyone left, and Noah went to bed early.  While he was sleeping, all of Ryan's family and my little sister arrived--yes, Ryan's parents, all four of his siblings, their three spouses, and my little sister (whose husband had just deployed to Afghanistan that day) came from out of town for the weekend.   It was so humbling to have everyone put aside their busy lives and spend the time and the money to come celebrate our little Noah.  I know how very lucky Ryan and I are to have the families that we do.  We are so blessed.

We hung out at the apartment that evening and ate delicious Indian food (prepared by Sally and Ashley) and laughed, talked, and played games.  

Another sister-in-law!
Sal, hard at work as usual!
It was a great day from start to finish!  I was already exhausted but knew this was just the beginning of the fun because the next day, we were taking Noah to the temple!  (More on that in the next can you see why it's taken me almost a month to write about this huge weekend??)


  1. So fun to hear all the details! I never really got filled in since the weekend was so busy, so I loved reading about it.


  2. In the first picture Noah looks like a handsome young lawyer himself! :D

    My in-laws celebrate the birthday and the adoption day of my youngest brother-in-law. It's a nice way to show how glad they are that they adopted him. Congratulations on your adoption day!

  3. Congratulations on finalization! Can't wait to read about the rest of your weekend!

  4. Great post! Love you! Love FAT FACE!!!

  5. Love your hair in these pics Rach!


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