When our baby girl was placed in our arms, she was just a few minutes old. Our adoption plan went exactly as we hoped and was seamless and beautiful. Photos of our family make everything look beautiful and easy.
There is a lot of sweetness in adoption.
But not everything in adoption, even in the best of situations, is sweet.
When we took Sister to her first doctor's appointment she was 36 hours old. I filled out the paperwork, just as I had with Wesley. Except this time I wrote a different last name. Sister is not a Johnston officially. She has always been a Johnston in my heart, but repeatedly I wrote her birth name over and over and over. Thankfully her first and middle names are the same. Many adoptive families do not have that experience. I signed everything as guardian and left a lot of the family history blank. It was heartbreaking because it highlighted the fact that Sister might not be forever mine.
When she was two weeks old we were back at the doctor. We were sent from there to the hospital to have her two week bloodwork done. I can't remember what it's called - where they squeeze blood into little circles on a card and mail it to the state. Whatever. To the hospital we went. I remembered doing this with Wesley and expected it to be fairly painless.
We checked in and I explained (again) that my insurance card would not be helpful to them. She's not covered under my insurance. Yes, I know babies are covered under mama's insurance until they are 30 days old. She's not my baby. She has her own policy and the card is in the mail. We proceed to another check-in station.
I answer about 12,995,234 questions. They have all of Sister's birth mom's information because it is a sister hospital. I have to choose "guardian" on the list of relationships. My heart breaks.
I walk down the hall, fighting back tears. My heart says she's my baby, but she's not REALLY my baby. This experience is a reminder that this is different.
After two registrations and a long walk, Sister and I reach the third waiting room. We check in and an older gentleman asks if her newborn screening was inconclusive. Nope - just here to do the mandatory second one. They don't have her first one because she was born at a different (45 minutes away) hospital. We need to fill our a special form. He comes and sits with me to fill it out.
He's stumped me. I don't have her address with me. We skip this one.
"Mother's social security number."
Again, I have no idea. He's being very kind, but in my mind he's asking, "What kind of mother doesn't know this!?!"
Finally we are taken back to the room where he will draw the blood. Relief is coming soon - we will be able to go home as soon as he's done.
"Who are you to this baby? Are you a friend? Aunt?"
Sigh. "I'm her guardian. I'm hoping to be her adoptive mom, but right now I'm just guardian."
He lights up. His son is adopted. They brought him home from the hospital. He's 32 now. Just met his birth mom. He literally shines talking about his boy. We connect and my heart lightens. He gives me a gift of belonging. He understands.
"Just say 'mom.' Next time, you say 'mom.'"
I know he's right. I know I'm her mom.
I'm the one who knows her noises. I know when she's hungry and when she needs to be swaddled. I'm the one who snuggles her at 4:15am while she eats. I'm the one who tells her how loved she is - by God, us, and her first family. She's my girl.
But she's not. Not yet.