The story of your arrival into our family, the 2 1/2 years leading up to, and finally, your adoption day hold such visceral memories for me, Olivia. Five years ago today, you and I were bound legally as a family. Five years ago today, Judge Donegan signed his name on a pile of papers. Five years ago today, my dream came true.
Of course, you were imprinted into my heart from the moment I first saw you…from the moment you flashed before my eyes despite my even knowing of your existence. I know you’ve heard this story hundreds of times before, but it is such an integral part of my feelings about your adoption that I will tell you once again.
June 15, 2003 (about 9:00 p.m.): I am sitting in bed reading a book. I look up from my book and, though I am not tired, I feel the need to close my eyes. When I do, the image of a tiny baby flashes before my eyes. Oh, Olivia. Seven and a half years later, I can still see that image clear as day. It is forever burned into the back of my eyelids and onto my heart. I see a tiny baby, striped hospital cap covering thick black hair, little fists raised up next to her ears, looking remarkably peaceful and calm. I opened my eyes and went back to my book, thinking how odd that was.
June 17, 2003 (midday): I receive a call at work from a social worker at the agency we are licensed as foster parents with. Would we be interested in taking a newborn placement? I called home to discuss the situation and then called the social worker back that, yes, we would. I left work early and rushed home. When that baby–you–arrived, there was a blanket draped over the handle of your baby carrier. I took the blanket off. And there was the image that had flashed before my eyes two nights prior. I can still feel the gasp of breath leave my body, even today, when I think about it. There you lay, EXACTLY as I had seen. The EXACT baby I had seen. As I cut off your hospital bands later that evening, I noticed that your birth time was printed as 2040. 8:40 p.m. Roughly the same time that I first saw your face flash before my eyes. I have no way to explain it. All these years later, all these retellings later, and I still cannot explain it. I had never had one before, nor since, but it was surely a “vision”. I have no doubt that destiny brought us to each other.
The next 2 and a half years (the night before court hearings): The night before scheduled court hearings are always so hard. I rock and rock and rock you, not wanting to put you down, even long after you have given up the fight to stay awake. I can still feel the hot tears streaming down my face, the smell of your hair as I bury my face into the top of your precious head. When I think about it, even now, I still feel my chest lock up in fear and the lump swell in my throat. The thought that it could be my last moments with you are so real and intense, I cannot put you down. Court hearings alway carry such uncertainty…never knowing how events will play out. I feel like I stop breathing from the moment we come through the metal detectors until we exit the courtroom, assured in your continued stay for two more months. And so it repeats, over and over, always with new challenges and possibilities, through changes in case workers, changes in Judge assignments, changes in status.
January 20, 2006 (mid-morning): until now. Such relief and excitement fill the air. No more repeats. The papers are signed. The Judge gives his best wishes, smiles for pictures, and sends us on our way.
I stood looking at the picture you drew of us with the judge this morning. You drew that picture at brunch immediately after the adoption ceremony. It’s really just scribbles, being that you were so young. But you got it, Olivia. You understood. That picture shows a big blob at the top of the page–the judge– along with three blocks of color lined up next to each other–you, me, and your Anya. The three of us. Together. A family. Forever.
I love you, dear Olivia, with all of my heart and soul. Always remember this. Happy Adoption Day.