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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

No place like home



A previous post from Live Journal, now a chapter in THE BOOK:





It was two years ago this week that we finally made it back to Michigan with Anna. Due to the various legal issues involved with interstate adoption, and the fact that she was born close to Thanksgiving made the whole process slow to a crawl. Throw in the fact that November is also National Adoption Month, and you get a whole judicial system that was clogged with en masse finalizations and other celebrations that put our little situation on the back burner. We were lucky to be able to stay at my parent’s house during this time. Yes, it was stressful, but we have heard tales of people holing up in cheap hotels for months on end while their adoption is finalized in a foreign country. We at least had free WiFi, and cable at my folk’s, and safe drinking water.
I had ventured back to Jackson a couple of times after Anna was born to check on the house, get mail, and check in at the college. Tod had not, since he was Anna’s guardian at the time. We didn’t feel comfortable having him out of the state should anything happen. We could go ANYWHERE in the state of Ohio with her… all the way down to the West Virginia border, over to the Pennsylvania border, or down to the Kentucky border… we just couldn’t cross any state lines with her until the papers cleared both states. Our lone trip away from my parents’ house was to visit Tod’s brother and his wife over the Thanksgiving weekend. Since they also live in Ohio we were good to go.




Each day we waited in hopes of returning to our home to start our new life with her. I will go on record as saying that time did indeed stand still for us for those three long weeks. Our families were busy getting ready for the holidays and we were stuck sitting on the couch watching day time TV and playing with Anna when she was awake. I have never longed to be home so much in my entire life. It was difficult to establish any kind of routine, as it wasn’t our place. We didn’t know how a baby would fit in to our home. We had conceptualized it in our minds, but we really had no idea.


How will a two storey house work with late night bottle feedings?
Will it be warm enough?
Do we have her in the right room?
How will the pets react to her?
About a month after she was born, we decided to both go back to Jackson for the night together without our daughter. Tod had a professional development workshop he was supposed to attend and was eager for the change, and I had to get back to work as it was coming up on finals week. We packed up my car to the roof and headed north after begrudgingly leaving her with her new grandparents. We were both nervous, as this was the first time we had both been away from her together, and the nervousness showed in our voices and our chatter as we headed out of town.
As we entered the city limits of Jackson, Tod’s phone rang. It was Monica, our lawyer. She asked where we were, and we told her that we had just pulled into Jackson. She quickly asked if we had the baby, and we assured her that we did not. Sure as shit, not even two minutes after we entered the city without Anna, we were finally cleared to bring her back to Michigan. The paperwork was finally done.
We both cheered and immediately called my folks to have them start packing up Anna for her journey back to Jackson. In retrospect, it was a good thing that we did make this trip without her, as the month down in Ohio had generated a lot of stuff for us. Dirty clothes, new baby gear, gifts, and other items associated with new parents. I don’t think we would have had room for her if we wanted. I had visions of the Joad family heading west from Oklahoma. We weren’t Okies looking for work, we were two new Dads without a clue.



We pulled in to our house, quickly unloaded and went to drive back to Ohio. Oscar, Tod’s dog, would not leave his side. He followed Tod each time he went to the car and demanded his attention. His behavior was a little needy, but we understood his missing Tod and packed him up in the car for the trip back to my folk’s. Little did he know how his life would change as this new source of fun and never ending food came into his life. When we arrived back in Perrysburg, Oscar ran in, gave their dog Darby a quick sniff and then went straight to Anna to size her up.
We had promised Hillary, Anna’s Mom that we would stop by on the way home. I wasn’t looking forward to this last goodbye, as the day we took Anna home from the hospital was a bleak and depressing day for all involved. What was supposed to be a joyous and happy day for Tod and I was filled with tears and sobbing. We called and let them know that we would be stopping by for a brief visit. We picked up our daughter, said a tearful, but thankful goodbye to my parents and headed out to see her Mom. The visit went well, as Hillary had some of her friends over to meet Anna and her new Dads. The sadness that prevailed at the hospital was replaced with joy and happiness as Anna moved into her new home in Michigan. It wasn’t a final goodbye, but a goodbye for now.



We pulled into Jackson late in the evening. I had imagined a cheerful photo for her baby book with Tod and me holding her on our front porch as we went in for the first time as a new family. Instead, under the cover of darkness, we snuck our new little bundle into OUR house, locked the door and went to bed exhausted but happy. The first few days and weeks back in Jackson were wild. We attempted to retain some sense of normalcy in our lives, but we quickly realized that there was a new sheriff in town and she was callin’ the shots.
My most vivid memory of those first few days back was the insanity of us trying to get our Christmas tree in the front door while Anna cried in the background. Our friend from church stopped by and saw that we were both out on the porch struggling with the tree. She immediately asked where the baby was and climbed over the tree to go see her, shaking her head and muttering under her breath. I think she was questioning the Judge’s decision to place this little baby with two complete morons. She took care of Anna for us for a moment, and we began to set up the tree. When I was in college, I worked for Jacobson’s, so I became pretty adept at setting up trees and decorating for the holidays. Not so much anymore. What used to be an afternoon of intense work turned into several weeks of “can I get it done in time?” insanity.
During our time in Ohio, we became very close with Hillary and her family and friends, but we desperately wanted to be with our friends back home. That first weekend home, we took Anna out for her Jackson debut. We met our friends at one of our favorite restaurants for dinner and a celebration of some kind. I don’t remember what we were celebrating, but I do know that Anna stole the show and stole everyone’s hearts.



We had become regular members at Hillary’s church in Toledo during our time in Ohio. We found many similarities to their church and ours, as they are both United Methodists, the one big difference being the Rainbow flag on their altar and the mostly LGBT congregation in attendance each Sunday. Their church was a fully welcoming and reconciling church, and we were accepted as a new family with open arms. We weren’t sure what to expect with our church, as it was an older congregation and we had heard that folks were a little concerned with us adopting. Never mind the fact that we were Gay… ADOPTING???




That first Sunday at Trinity was a whirlwind of smiling faces, hearty handshakes and hugs. Anna was whisked from our arms the moment we walked in the door and was passed from person to person during the time before the service. We went and sat down in our regular seats in the back of the sanctuary, this time with Anna sleeping on Tod’s shoulder. During the announcements, our minister, Pastor Bea came over to our pew and took Anna from Tod. She walked around with Anna in her arms and passed by each pew, introducing her to the congregation and charging them with her care and upbringing. Bea drew a line in the sand for us, challenging the congregation to accept and welcome this little girl into their lives without prejudice, living up to the UMC’s motto of: Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds. We’ll never know for sure who was against us coming to the church and adopting a child, and at this point, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we were home, physically, spiritually, and emotionally, and in the immortal words of Dorothy Gale, “there’s no place like home.”