Adopting My Own Child
I may be Maggie’s mother in theory, but not legally.
It’s been almost two years since Maggie was born. I was at the hospital when my wife was in labor for over 12 hours. I held onto her hand as the doctors performed a necessary C-section. I watched with bated breath and child-like curiosity as they pulled Maggie out from my wife’s stomach. I changed her diaper for the first time (and many, many times after that). I cuddled with her, changed her clothes, and nurtured her the best way I knew how.
From the hospital to our home, I stayed up at night coaxing Maggie back to sleep. I woke up early to tend to her needs. I cared for her as a stay-at-home mom as the days melted into weeks, months, and now years. I watched in awe as she continued to grow and evolve, learning how to sit up then crawl then walk in what seemed like a blink of an eye. I marveled at her ability to problem solve and how the simplest and most ordinary things were gold mines of magical discovery.
I’ve experienced every waking (and sometimes sleepwalking) moment a parent is supposed to experience with their child. Only, under the eyes of the law, Maggie isn’t legally mine. At least not yet. When Maggie was born, my wife and I were so caught up in the moment that we didn’t think to request that both of our names be put on the birth certificate. Since we are legally married under New York State law, our request would have been granted. A couple weeks after we brought Maggie home from the hospital, things settled into a routine. And then it hit me. I dug out the birth certificate and saw my wife’s name written on one line. The other line was blank.
I felt as if someone had just pulled a cruel joke on me. I had connected to Maggie the moment she was placed in my arms. Yet, there was no concrete or legal definition for that connection. In other words, I was her “parent” in theory. It was an unsettling thought, especially from a legal standpoint. What if something happened to my wife? Would I have any legal standing at all to lay claim to my own daughter?
Naturally, we contacted our lawyer and he informed us that I would have to legally adopt Maggie. Now, we are in the middle of filing the necessary paperwork and I am waiting for the next step in the process—a supervised visit by a social worker to observe Maggie and I in my own home. I’m not sure what else is involved. I know a couple in Philadelphia that had to endure background checks and fingerprinting. Every state is different but it wouldn’t surprise me if I had to go through that as well.
It’s unfair. It’s tedious. And, if you ask me, it’s a waste of time and money. But for legal purposes, it’s necessary. I remind myself that every time I think about having to adopt her, even though the bond that we have created so far and the sound of her sweet little voice when she calls me “mama” is enough for me. I don’t need a legal document to remind me that Maggie is my child.
I know it in my heart.