Shortly after we hear the amazing news that we’re one of the families being considered for DJ, we’re told that the meeting in Oregon to make the final decision has been postponed until March 13, another month away. In the big scheme of things, I know that the postponement is not the end of the world, but it completely feeds into my fears that once again we’re going to get our hopes up only to have them completely obliterated at the end.
The weeks leading up to the meeting are among the longest of my entire life. It feels almost impossible to concentrate on anything else. And after years of being fairly closed-lipped about our adoption process, I find myself telling everyone that I talk to about DJ. I watch the video we have of him a dozen times and cry every time…out of fear, out of hope.
After what feels like a lifetime, the meeting is only a week away. We’re contacted by the caseworker from Portland who will be representing us to the selection committee and set up a conference call for March 5th. By the time that 1:30 comes, I’m a nervous wreck. This interview is both better and worse than the last. Better because we know that we’ve gotten this far and that we must be somewhat likable. Worse because the stakes are so much higher. This person, a total stranger, is going to be the one to convince the committee members that we’re the best parents for DJ, a child we have never met or even talked to on the phone. No pressure!
Even the logistics of the phone call are stressing me out–each on our own handset, I’m sitting at the dining room table and John is in the living room. So everything that John says, I hear twice. He also gets up in regular intervals to pace around the house. His pacing in general makes me nervous, but I’m also a little panicked because I want to be able to make eye contact as we give our answers so we won’t start speaking over each other and I can give him “the look” when his answers start to get off target (meaning: makes us sound anything less than ideal parents).
The call starts off a bit forced, but that’s totally to be expected, right? The caseworker–we’ll call her Beth–seems friendly and competent, a good combination for making our case to the committee, I think to myself. Like the interview, she asks us a lot about our experiences growing up and our current relationships with our families. As usual, we talk a lot about my family with whom we spend a lot of time with. I worry that maybe we’re laying it on a little thick with how great my family is and how supportive they’ll be when we have DJ, but it’s really true, I remind myself. We also talk about our friends, another huge part of our support network.
Throughout the call, we try to emphasize how much thought and work we’ve put into preparing ourselves to become parents. We’ve attended years of trainings, watched videos, read books, and discussed and dissected every aspect of parenting that we could think of, especially in regards to adopting an older child like DJ. We don’t expect it to be easy; we know that whoever our child is that they will have gone through a lot by the time that they get to us, but we explain that we’re committed, that we won’t give up our child. We’re also supportive of our child maintaining healthy relationships with biological and foster family members; we know from the research that this is much better for the child than pretending their life began when they came to us. And I know in my heart that these words are not mere lip-service but a promise that all good parents make (and re-make and re-make)–that we’ll do whatever is best for our child, even when it’s not what is easiest or best for us.
The phone call ends, and I’m feeling really good about the conversation. Beth likes us; I’m sure of it! Not that it’s a popularity contest or anything…oh wait, it kind-of is a popularity contest. Anyway, I feel confident that we’ve done all that we can to put our best food forward, and I’m slightly relieved to have things out of my hands again. The waiting sucks (sorry if my nieces or nephews are reading this, but sucks is putting it nicely!), but at least it’s a familiar frenemy at this point. We also have a new task: put together a family album to “introduce” ourselves to the committee and eventually to Dominick.
Fortunately, I’m on Spring Break so I have a fair amount of time to devote to the photo album in order to get it to the committee in time for the March 13th meeting. I know it sounds easy, but do you know how daunting it is to put together a photo album that sufficiently represents 13 years of marriage, 6 siblings and their significant others, 9 nieces & nephews as well as friends and other family members? Of course, my lifetime reticence toward being photographed is now coming back to bite me in the arse. Panic ensues which leads to a semi-frantic email to my siblings and close friends for pictures. And boy, do they deliver! Within hours, I have tons of pictures from my sister-in-law (who is really more of a sister) who is out-of-town visiting family in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, I get even more pictures from siblings and friends. In the meantime, I’ve been scouring our photo albums and boxes of pictures as well as various online photo accounts–what the heck is my Shutterfly password? Since when do I have to have a Pro account on Flickr to see my pictures? I’ve even broken out our old laptop in order to find some pictures for the book. How many pictures represent a life–or at least a decade of two lives? About 126 pictures. I start to calm down and feel more confident that I’ll be able to pull something together.
It’s a strange thing…putting your life into pictures, knowing that this will most likely be our child’s very first introduction to us. I’m also reminded of all of the great times that John and I have shared with each other and with family and friends over the years…holidays, camping trips, Steelers games. Which reminds me, trying to find a group picture of my nuclear family *not* in Steelers shirts virtually impossible. In fact, the photo album looks a lot like an homage to the Pittsburgh Steelers and slightly less to the Pittsburgh Penguins. But that’s us, yinzers through and through.
I am simultaneously giddy & nauseous for the last 24 hours leading up to the committee’s decision. It has been impossible to think about anything else for days. I literally count down the hours and then minutes until 7:00 when we’re expecting the call from Oregon. John and I sit anxiously on the couch holdings hands and surrounded by the dogs. Finally, the phone rings and we hear literally the best news ever: we’ve been selected for DJ!!!
By the time that I hang up the phone, I am so happy that I feel like I’m going to explode, and John has already texted a few of our friends. John holds me as I cry and shake, and he cries and shakes, too. The only way that I can describe the rest of the night is a flood of emotions. I smile so hard that my face hurts, and I burst into tears with every new telling. Our family and friends amaze me with the depth of their happiness for us. I realize for the first time that they know (almost) how hard the last ten years have been for us.
It is, hands down, the best day of my life.