"V can't find a ride to the courthouse". My heart sunk as I heard these words over the phone from C, our caseworker. We had a 9am appointment at court with V to finalize the adoption. Was this a way for her to back out? "There's no way someone from here could go get her and be back at the court by 9" said C. I thought a moment. "Could you have her call me?" I asked. "We'd be happy to pick her up and bring her back" I said through clenched teeth. Nothing but the fires of hell were going to keep me from missing that court date today. I had waited too long and worked too hard for this. "Let me see if she'll do that" C replied and we hung up. A few minutes later, V called me. "Gary and I will be there in about 45 minutes. Can you be ready?" I tentatively asked her. "Oh sure" she said "Thank you so much for offering to give me a ride up there!"
She was ready and waiting and all smiles when we picked her up. She got into the back seat with Hannah and we started off. Gary and I tried to make small talk with her but she is a very, quiet girl. She answered our questions with yes or no but didn't offer any more information. She didn't ask us anything. Every time I looked back at Hannah, she was staring at V with her big eyes, sucking on her fingers and clutching her white one (her blanket). I so badly wanted to talk, with Gary, about what was going to happen at court but felt I couldn't with V right there. I was so glad when the trip was over.
At court, we waited outside the chamber while V was in there. She was there to terminate her parental right to Hannah and I guess the judge was also reading over the agreement we had drawn up with C, the birthfather. Suddenly, the door opened and the court clerk came out. "Judge M. has denied today's procedure due to the wording on this document. He will not sign on anything stating it's an 'order' when it is not. It's a 'gentleman's agreement' and no more." I burst out crying. Our attorney said, "Can he give me 10 minutes to straighten this out?" He agreed. "This is good" said J, our attorney, putting her arm around my shoulder. "We want it to be an agreement. Maine doesn't recognize open adoption orders. Let me call my office and this will be ok". I don't know what she did or how she did it, but within 10 minutes, she had a new agreement drawn up and signed by C's attorney and back in Judge M's hands. "You may come in now" said the clerk.
We walked in, Hannah in tow, and I was shaking like a leaf and felt I had a huge pit in my stomach. I didn't know what to expect and all I knew was the luck we had so far with this adoption. A very stern looking man was sitting at a huge dark, desk studying the papers in front of him. The ceilings were very high with floor to ceiling windows and a large American flag was on a pole in the corner. It was very quiet. The clerk gestured that Gary, Hannah and I sit at the large table facing the judge. After Hannah just spent 2 hours in a carseat and another hour waiting outside on a bench, she wanted nothing to do with sitting. "Oh please, dear God," I prayed "please don't let Hannah have a fit in front of this judge when I'm supposed to be portraying that I'm a mother in control of this when all I want to do is faint. Thank you so much God". He didn't listen and I struggled with her to keep her from becoming totally unglued. I did the utmost bad-mommy thing. I bribed her. "Please Hannah," I begged "just a few more minutes and then I will buy you a new stuffed doggy!" "Ok Mommy" she said and proceeded to draw her brow in a frown, to put both elbows on the table, hands together, her chin resting on her hands and fingers drumming impatiently on the sides of her face. At this moment, Judge M looked up and at her and his whole face literally lit up with an inner chuckle. I shit you not. He went from this stern, frightening looking guy to a man with a smile of a 1000 suns. I knew it would be ok. He said something along these lines... "Mr. and Mrs. L and Hannah" he said "I would like to thank you for coming here today and permitting me to do the most wonderful job a judge can do...make a family truly happy. I have spoken with V who has signed the proper paperwork and has conveyed to me the utmost reassurance that placing her daughter in your home was her decision and she is at peace with that decision. I commend her for being mature and knowing what is in her child's best interest. It is with great honor and pleasure for me to make legal what you have always known in your hearts to be true. Congratulations!"
It truly was one of the happiest moments of my life. Even though in the picture I look like I'm caught in the headlights. And doesn't the judge have a great smile?