Custody Day: A Strong Girl from the Start

Custody Day: A Strong Girl from the Start

In honor of the anniversary of my daughter’s custody day, which conveniently falls during National Adoption Awareness Month, I am posting a letter I have written to her.  This will be the only Portrait in our series of 30 Adoption Portraits that was not written by a guest.

Custody Day
By Carrie Goldman

My dearest K,

Today is the eighth anniversary of the day we got custody of you.  You did not grow in my stomach, K, but you grew in my soul.

My labor with you did not last eighteen or twenty-four or forty-eight hours.  It lasted months, and it took more than doctors, midwives and nurses to deliver you safely into my arms.  It also took birth parents, foster parents, judges, lawyers, adoption agencies, social workers, counselors, friends and family . . . in the end, we had an entire “Team K” working to bring you home.

Although you did not go to a permanent home immediately after your birth, it does not mean you were unwanted.  I wonder if you can ever know how much we wanted you.

When you were in foster care, Daddy and I would finish the workweek each Friday, drive straight to the airport, take a plane to your state, rent a car and drive two hours to your town.  We usually arrived around midnight, but I was too excited about seeing you the next day to sleep much.

We visited with you all day on Saturdays, and on Sunday mornings we made the long trip back home.  Saying goodbye to you that first time was the hardest.  Once a mother has held her baby, it is difficult to give her back.

I pulled off the onesie you were wearing and clutched it in my arms all the way home to Chicago.  I buried my face in it so I could smell your sweet baby scent, and I missed you terribly.  I wept tears of resolve.

I would never give up on you.  A year earlier, we had lost a baby boy to a rare kidney disease, and there was nothing I could ever do to bring him back.  A baby who died before he ever really got to live.  But I had found you, K, and I would do everything I could to bring you home.  Where there is life, there is hope.  You were the answer.

Mondays and Tuesdays were numb days.  Wednesdays and Thursdays were just a way to pass time until Friday, when we could return to you for our Saturdays together.  Sundays were goodbye days.  I was filled with joy from seeing you, and at the same time, I was empty from leaving you so many miles away.

Daddy and I traveled to your home state a total of fourteen times while we waited for you. Bureaucracies do not care how slowly they move.  I would do it all over again because I love you so much.  I remember the day the guardian ad litem contacted me at work to tell me that the long, anxious wait was over and we were going to be able to adopt you.

Good news traveled fast, and within thirty minutes, colleagues were streaming over to my desk, offering congratulations, hugs and high fives.  Daddy and I packed our bags one final time and flew to meet you.

I remember when the judge signed the transfer of custody order, and you became ours.  You were already mine in my heart, unlimited by boundaries of law, time and place.  Now you were mine on paper, too, and nobody could keep us apart.  You were coming home.  Permanently.

Of course, you weren’t really mine.  You were your own person, your own unique self, and I would just be the lucky one to escort you through life.  You belonged to me, but also to your birthmother, and above all, to yourself.

I stayed alone with you in a hotel for another ten days while we waited to receive interstate clearance to leave.  Daddy needed to return to Chicago to his teaching job.  When I finally received approval to leave with you, it was quite a feat to get you and all your stuff to the airport.  Several kind people helped me get settled on the airplane, as I fumbled with your car seat, sling, blankets, bottles and diaper bag.

Word made its way to the pilot, who announced mid-flight that it was a special day because a little girl was flying home for the first time to be with her family.  When the seatbelt sign went off, many passengers came over to us.  They offered blessings upon your head and stroked your apple cheeks.  We had a hard start, K, but the tide was changing.

When we finally arrived home, there was a banner hanging in our front hall that said “Welcome Home, Carrie and K!”  It stayed up for the next four years, only coming down when we sold our condo.

Every time I walked in the door and saw the banner, it reminded me of that beautiful flight home with you.  For many months, my childless heart had been broken, smashed to bits by grief and loss, but now it was whole again.

And I would do my best to raise you to be whole.  Whole and strong, independent and kind, a girl who has an important voice and an unlimited future.  You would have what every girl deserves, what every child deserves.

I am thinking today of our journey home together, how I sat looking out the airplane window at the wide blue sky.  Sunlight drenched everything in sight, and you slept peacefully beside me.  As we flew together through the air, high above the earth, I knew we would be okay.

Happy Custody Day, my lovely daughter.  We wanted you from the start.


Portrait of an Adoption is hosted by award-winning author Carrie Goldman. Follow Carrie’s work on Twitter and Facebook

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  • Each morning this month I've looked forward to reading the adoption series and feeling the emotions of the people who have written their own stories. Thank you for sharing part of yours. Your daughter will love this letter and all the other things you have written about her. She certainly knows she is loved and encouraged to be herself. Thank you for doing all you do!

  • Thank you, Laurie, for reading the series and supporting the people who have shared their stories! Adoption has so many different perspectives and emotions, and it has been great for me to hear from other parties in the adoption triad.

  • You have posted a similar letter before, but I never tire of reading it. Every picture of Katie takes my breath away, not only because of her innate beauty but because her countenance reflects a love and nurturing par excellence! What a wonderful, thoughtful, empathetic soul you are, Carrie (or, as my husband would say, "high EQ" soul)

  • In reply to jiyer:

    Yep, I post this letter to Katie each year on her custody day! And every time it makes me cry! Thanks for your kindness and especially the support you have shown to every one of my guest posters. They (and I) really appreciate it!

  • Crying. So beautiful. Thank you, Carrie.

  • In reply to Mary Tyler Mom:

    My dear MTM, I will be there celebrating for you when your Custody Day arrives.

  • What a beautiful letter. Makes me cry but good tears! You are lucky to have each other and she is one precious little girl!!

  • Thanks, Teppi. We definitely are lucky to have each other. What started in sadness has become joyful. That happens sometimes!

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    Thank you for sharing that story with all of us. I was adopted as an infant, and I have no memory of my biological family. Cheers!

  • Erin, you are welcome, and thank you for reading the Adoption Portraits series. Cheers to you, too!

  • Oh my, another tearful lunch at my desk. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing all of these amazing stories this month. I've enjoyed each and learned something from each. Although each adoption story is a little different, they all have the common thread of love, which makes them very moving and inspiring.

  • In reply to annekip63:

    Thanks, Anne, for taking the time to read each story. Yes, many of them bring tears! Adoption is a complicated thing, with a lot of strong feelings attached to it.

  • Carrie, thank you so much for sharing this letter. It was so heartfelt and beautiful!
    As a birthmother myself, I've run the gamut of emotions reading all of these stories. I find myself relating to some of the writers, aching for others, and cheering others on.
    I am so grateful for you posting this. Adoption is opening up, slowly but surely, but there is still a stigma attached to it, for everyone involved.
    Some of the writers wrote about people asking questions-is she your real daughter? Don't you wonder about your birthparents? Do my birthparents wonder about me? And my personal favorite that I got-don't you love your baby?
    In writing this segment, I'm hoping with all my heart that people can learn, find closure, heal and find joy, no matter what their journey is.
    Thank you for writing this, for being an adoptive mom, and for the bravery for everyone sharing their stories. Thank you.

  • In reply to sosara77:

    Sosara, thanks so much for sharing your own thoughts. I've learned south during this series, both from the guest posts and from all the wonderful comments. I'm so glad you are reading the series!

  • In reply to Carrie Goldman:

    I mean, I've learned so much! Damn autocorrect!

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    Wow! That is precious! Bless you both.

  • In reply to Jennifer Allwood:

    Thank you, Jennifer. We are going to celebrate Custody Day with a chocolate cake after dinner. It says, Happy Custody Day, Katie!

  • my goodbess thay is a touching letter. Katie is loved and im sure she knows that and always will reading back on all your post aboit herself and the family. May you have many more custody days :-)

  • In reply to Brandi Wall:

    Thank you, Brandi. I am hoping that I am around to see about 60 more custody days, which will make me a VERY old woman!

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    Katie is such an inspiration. As are you, Carrie. She as a strong, wonderful person whose strength and courage to just BE has inspired so many people. You as a wonderful mom, one who helps me, for one, to help my sons be themselves. A beautiful letter. Happy custody day!

  • In reply to angelbuttons77:

    Thank you so much, angelbuttons. It is still hard for me to believe how many people know about Katie! One time I googled "Katie Star Wars" and almost passed out from the number of results! Thank you for your continued support!

  • That has to be the most beautiful, eloquent thing I have ever read. I hope Katie reads and re-reads that letter a million times. What an incredible tribute from deep within the soul. I have no personal ties to adoption (not adopted, not a birth mother, did not adopt) but I am strongly pro-life. My parents became pregnant with me very young and chose to marry and raise me - I am lucky! There are so many people in this world who want to welcome and love a child, it pains me to think of it. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and the stories of love and hope you have shared with us. God bless the women who have made the very difficult, selfless choice of carrying a child and giving him/her a chance. Thank you for the priceless reminder of how truly precious human life is, in this month of Thanksgiving!

  • In reply to sklanders:

    Thank you so much for reading and enjoying the series. I really appreciate your support of the women who are birthmothers! And I'm glad you like my letter to my lovely Katie!

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