Monday, January 17, 2011

The Story of Joseph - Becoming Family

"What if we kept him?"

Once the question we couldn't take it back. Jesse and I started talking about what it would be like it we adopted Joseph. "We could teach him to read!" "We could start a college fund for him!" "We could take him to Disney World!"  (It sounds funny but back when we had been planning on not adopting Joseph it made us sad that he might end up with a family that would never take him to Disney World.)

"We would have a son!"

We stayed up late into the night discussing adoption and the next day I called Sabrina to tell her about our change of heart. She was surprised but then she laughed and told me how much paperwork I was going to be saving her. Once we had talked for a bit and she confirmed that we really, really wanted to do this she promised to get the ball rolling on her end.

The first step on our end was trying to teach Joseph to call us Mommy and Daddy instead of Jesse and Jenny. Luckily he was a late talker and had never really learned to call us anything by that point. That was the easy part.

Next we began to tell people our plans. The reactions were mixed. MOST people were very supportive but we did get a few negative reactions. One that will stay with me forever was "That's dumb. Why would you want to adopt if you could have one of your own?"

None of that really mattered though. The people who were most important to us were on board. It was fun telling people. It was like announcing a pregnancy. "We're going to have a baby! And he's a year old!" We started planning our lives after the adoption and looking forward to raising our son.

Before we could move forward though some formalities had to be taken care of. Jesse and I had to take classes on adoption and raising adopted children. I really don't remember a single thing about those classes. I think I was so young and just excited to be a mom. None of the logistics of it really mattered to me. I just wanted my boy.

Once we had completed our classes and a couple of home studies a date was set to go to court and finalize the adoption. The only thing standing in our way was that the county had to make an attempt to contact Joey and Julie to make sure they didn't object. This involved (among other things) putting a legal notice in the paper about our intentions to adopt Joseph. I was terrified of that notice. I was so convinced that someone in Joey's or Julie's family was going to see that notice and come forward.

Somewhere along in the adoption process my feelings towards Joseph shifted. I had always loved him of course. You don't care for a child for a year and not love them. But when we started trying to adopt him I let down the little wall I had been holding up in my heart. Joseph wasn't just a child I was taking care of any more. He was MY child. The thought that something could go wrong and that I might not get my child terrified me.

After the notice came out in the paper and attempts to contact Joey and Julie were made we had to wait a week. I don't think I slept at all during that week. This little notice in the paper that read like a glorified lost and found ad kept me on edge. Every time the phone rang I was certain it was Sabrina calling to say someone saw the notice and decided to protest our adoption. No one came forward to claim Joseph though. To this day I don't know if they ever got a hold of Joey and Julie. I just knew that now we were able to proceed. A court date was set.

On February 12th, 2002 Jesse and I went to court to adopt our son. Joseph's social worker Sabrina was there as were several members of my extended family. In the courtroom I held Joseph on my lap as the judge asked us all the legal questions involved with an adoption. When I answered that yes, I would raise him as my own child, the same as I would raise my own biological child I teared up and had to choke out the answer. I could hear my family behind me doing happy little sniffling cries too.

At some point during the proceedings Joseph wiggled off my lap and started walking in a circle around the table Jesse and I were seated at. Just as the judge declared us a family, forever and ever, Joseph knocked his head on the corner the table and began to wail. Everyone, including the judge, had to laugh.

And then I had my son.

We changed dropped Joseph's original middle name (in fact, we didn't even know he had one until we filed adoption papers) and made his old last name into his new middle name. We didn't want to erase that part of his history. Who he was, where he came from, is a part of who he is today. There are parts of this story I would like to change (the allegations of abuse, the weekend visits at the group home, Julie's disinterest, Joey being lied to and scared off) but in the end it all came together to make Joseph who he is. To make our family what it is. It wasn't all easy and it wasn't all in pretty but in the end, it was all good.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, we made sure to take Joseph to Disney World.


Dave2 said...

On a day where it's been tough going all around for me, I was happy to read this ray of sunshine, so thanks for sharing it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Jen, what a beautiful and touching conclusion. Even the head bump seemed appropriate! Every kid does that at least once on the edge of table! I'm so happy to be Joseph's Grandma! Love to all!

Grandma Judy

Anonymous said...

2008?? I think you mean 2000.

Grandma Judy

Stimey said...

You know what I did this weekend? I went back and re-read every installment in the Story of Joseph. It was time so well spent. It was so wonderful to read the story of you becoming a family. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

I also look forward to you finding a book agent with this as your proposal. Because you should.

susan said...

Aw, yay. :) I just went back and re-read the whole story, too. I agree with Stimey - book deal!

Anonymous said...

This is such a beautiful story! My little brother is adopted and I can't imagine loving anyone more or considering anyone more my real, true sibling.

How wonderful that you got your son and were able to give this child so much love and support! Yay!

I am going to go back through the story and read the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting the final chapter!