Friday, December 13, 2013

Adoption Day

Friday the 13th, what a perfect date for what we face today.  The date brings a smile & a shiver. Our family has worked and waited many long months for this day; our Adoption Day. Today is the day a perfect stranger, a judge in Florida, will decide if my spouse can legally adopt the girls. It’s a very rare occurrence in our state, there are a small handful of same sex parents in Oklahoma who have pursued and been granted a 2nd Parent Adoption.

2nd Parent Adoption was designed for a step-parent to legally adopt their spouse’s child. It is legal in about ½ of the states, but mostly for heterosexual couples and even then, you have to be a legal resident of that state. It is happening for us because I heard about a county in Florida, where a loophole exists, allowing out of state residents to hire an attorney to act on their behalf to pursue the adoption. It was all very complicated and very expensive, BUT very legal. So far, in 2013, our attorney has successfully handled over 200 such adoptions.  
What this adoption allows us:
-If I died, there would be no question, no worries about where the girls would go. No one could fight to take them. Without this adoption, they would be wards of the state until guardianship could be appointed.
-They can now be on my spouse’s health insurance. She has worked 24 years for the same company, (only using 1 sick day in all those years) yet they’ve denied allowing me or the girls on her health insurance repeatedly.
-She can take them to the hospital, by herself, if needed. She can make decisions for them in medical emergencies and not fear being separated from them (this happens often to same sex parents).
-The girls will be legally linked to all of my spouse’s family as if they were blood relatives. This is especially important regarding inheritance & taxes.
Once the adoption is final, she & I will be equal parents with equal rights and responsibilities like any other set of parents who are listed on their child’s birth certificate. The birth certificate is another round of this fight. Thankfully, the attorney is handling this and she expects we will have a Birth Certificate, for each daughter, re-issued with BOTH our names on it very soon. (Right now, it’s just me, making me look like a single mother.) Our attorney is only aware of one other same sex couple who have managed to get Oklahoma to re-issue a birth certificates listing both parents, lucky for us, she was their attorney also!
Baba holding her "commemorative" birth certificates that the sweet nurses at the hospital created for us.
So why do I feel such a contradiction of emotions today? Today is the culmination of a lot of work, a lot of waiting and worry. It will finally be over. Why am I not thrilled on our Adoption Day? Maybe because this should never have had to happen.  Why does my spouse, whom I legally married before our children were even a dream, have to adopt our children? My spouse who was there through every step of planning and conceiving her daughters, now has to respectfully request a stranger grant her these rights to her own children?
Isn’t this wonderful?! Adoption! It is now legal for us, people “like us” to be equal legal parents of our own children?! The children we conceived together and have cared for since birth, for 13 months. Oh, we are so, so lucky!! Pardon me, if I don’t feel enthusiasm over the situation.
We had to pay someone to come into our home, inspect every room, every cabinet, (checking for the safety and well-being of our children).  We had to present her with years of our financial information to prove we could afford to take care of our children (tax returns, bank statements, titles to vehicles). Give her copies of my college transcripts, letters from friends and family “recommending” us as parents. Write autobiographies, family biographies describing relationships with our parents, siblings etc. Then there was the interview. We answered all her invasive questions; our 6 year old answered all her questions (then we had to answer all his questions about her questions). Pages of answers. It was such a numbing experience, telling a stranger every detail of your life.  Have your life laid out to be examined, so she could then put it all a 40+ page report to the judge.  All to determine if you were “fit” to parent your own children. Oh, and that part of the process alone cost us nearly $1,000. That was a tough check to write.

As you can see by these photos, we definitely needed to be screened and investigated extensively to prove we are "fit" to be the legal parents of our children.
I am proud that we are helping pave the way for other same sex parents in our state. I feel the weight as we’ve pushed these squeaky wheels into motion. I’m excited that this is finally almost over.  I’m also angry about it. In a time when having two loving parents seems to not be the norm, why did we have to fight so hard? I have a spouse who has wanted to be recognized as their legal parent from the beginning. She’s longed to pay those health insurance premiums each month.  Yet, we had to jump through ridiculous hoops to do it.
I guess I’m writing all this to say I’m just such a pissed off, happy mess today! Some families call this date every year their “Familiversary”, the day their family became legal. We just don’t feel right celebrating it that way. We don’t want smiley pictures with the judge beaming at our babies. We will go to an office today, be sworn in and be granted equal legal rights to our children.  There will be no balloons or cake or photo announcements sent. We shouldn’t have had to go through all this. We shouldn’t feel lucky to have rights to our own children. It’s messed up. It’s a relief a HUGE relief and that is it.
*I don’t mean to take away from families who do have big or even little celebrations over their 2nd parent adoption. It’s just not how I feel about the experience with my family. My feelings, my blog. Congrats to those who do celebrate, to each their own.