For those who don’t know a lot about open adoption or adoption in general. I urge you to do your research. Look into adoption agencies. Talk to people. Ask questions. Ask me if you want to, but part of the process is terminating the parental rights of the biological parents of the child. From an adoptive parent perspective this was probably one of the hardest things I sat through during this adoption process.
First, this is supposed to happen within the first 30 days after the child is born. Of course in our case it was more like 45 days. Jackson was born on August 12, 2017 and the termination of parental rights hearing was on September 22, 2017. This also means that Jackson was in our care under what is known as a “legal risk.” That means at any given point Heather could have changed her mind or his birth father could have showed up. A lot of people were “worried” about us during this time but I didn’t for one second question, worry, or even think Heather was going to change her mind. We had an amazing relationship and I just knew she wouldn’t do that.
But, we know nothing about his birth father. Part of me is/was ok with that because we have such a great relationship with Heather and I didn’t want him showing up at the last minute saying he wanted to be a part of Jackson’s life. But when Jackson was tested for a heart murmur this year, a part of me wished we knew a little more about his birth father, so we would at least know his medical background.
With that being said, during the adoption process we had to publish to make his birth father aware of Jackson’s birth and the adoption. I know it sounds crazy, but that is part of the process. In case you don’t know what published means, do you remember what a newspaper is? Inside of the newspaper there is a classifieds section and in that section there are legals listed. We had to list in that section to see if Jackson’s birth father would respond. He didn’t. This process brought in a huge mix of emotions. At the time, we didn’t want the birth father to respond because we wanted the process to be smooth and well, continue. Now, it would be nice to know for Jackson’s sake.
Heather had to appear in court before a Judge. We decided as a family (all of us, JJ, Heather and I) that we would go with her. We didn’t want her to be alone in this situation or setting. Her grandmother came with and JJ’s brother was in town from Texas, and he came with us. Let me first tell you that they do NOT encourage adoptive families to go. I now know why. It was extremely hard to listen to the judge ask Heather several times if she understood that her rights would be terminated. I remember the judge even said to her, the adoptive parents are in court with you today, and you understand they could leave here today and choose to not see you again. We were sitting there, holding the child they were referring to and Heather was so calm and poised in the hearing. I would have been terrified. But she was so strong in her decision and made it clear to the judge that this is what she wanted.
This was the first time that we saw Heather since the day we left the hospital Jackson wore his onsie we had made for him that says, “I love my birthmom.” Afterwards we all went out for lunch at Kewpee’s. A Racine tradition for many, including Heather and her family! It was an emotional day for us and I can only imagine how Heather felt about it. I think back to when the judge questioned Heather repeatedly and said in a stern voice that we, as Jackson’s adoptive parents, could leave this courtroom and never speak to Heather again. I remember feeling and actually saying to myself that we would never and I mean NEVER leave this courtroom and never speak to Heather again. In our minds from day 1, this process has never and will never be about us; it’s all about our love for Jackson. And, our love for Jackson includes Heather and her family.