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.
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.
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