Last week, we went to see Mara’s guardian ad litem, the lawyer who will be writing to the judge to express why adoption is in Mara’s best interests. She seems quite convinced that adoption is the best outcome for Mara, but is also worried that we’re not able to offer Mara the best outcome because we’re not both able to adopt her. So she grilled us about what we were doing to make sure I wouldn’t be disenfranchised if we broke up, then later called Lee back to ask how long we’d been together and talk about it more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that she’s saying these kinds of things and they’re truly issues in the lesbian community and the larger community. (Does she ask straight couples what they’d do if they divorce? I guess it doesn’t matter since they’d automatically have to see a judge for custody stuff.)
Then while we were in her office, Rowan called. His phone had been confiscated for most of the prior month and I haven’t been able to get back in touch with him, so it may be again. What he had to tell me is that his adoption is already done, so things must move much faster where he is. I’m a little bit heartsick because I know he sort of regrets it and I think he was coerced, and of course I’m a little envious because if he were going to join any family forever and legally I’d want it to be ours.
The twist there is that joining our family legally means having no legal familial connection to me. To some extent, I know that’s been a solace to Rowan in the past and maybe also now. It seems low-pressure and genuine that Lee and I love each other and have formed a family without paperwork from the government attesting to that. Similarly, we love him and consider him family despite knowing that there are no laws tying us together, and I guess now there never will be. He liked the sense that we were serious about being a family of choice (because it’s our only option, granted, but also because it’s sort of how we think of ourselves) and that was reassuring when he didn’t really want to feel he was somehow replacing the family he grew up with by plugging in Family 2.0.
So I’m conflicted about not being able to adopt Mara and conflicted that we/Lee didn’t get to adopt Rowan, but I’m also glad that I’ve gotten to play the roles I have in both their lives. They have both had extended family relationships prior to entering care that go beyond the nuclear family, and so being part of something a little different is not exactly new for them. In Mara’s case, most of her siblings live with an aunt, I think her mother’s half-sister biologically. Her youngest sibling lives with Samara, who was her mother’s stepsister, half-sister of her half-sister, if that makes sense. I don’t know if there was a legal marriage that made them stepsisters, but I know that the state doesn’t consider Samara kin in the same way it does Mara’s aunt. So the older siblings are all in a permanent guardianship, basically equivalent to adoption in practice but without any termination of parental rights or changes to the birth certificate. The little sibling, on the other hand, is in a temporary guardianship, more akin to foster care. Samara has raised this almost-three-year-old since birth and yet because she doesn’t have a legally recognized familial relationship to Mara’s mom, there’s no official permanency.
I don’t know how Mara will feel about the different kinds of legal and non-legal relationships in her two families as she gets older. I don’t know entirely how I feel about them except sad. Getting to read Mara’s file as we officially went into pre-adoptive placement tells me that Samara was present for her birth (and listed as her mother’s sister, which is clearly how they view each other) and it makes me glad that I’m building a connection with Samara so that someday Mara can know more of her past, her family, her story.
But anyway, Rowan’s adopted and we’re never going to adopt him. I’d mostly gotten used to the idea that he’d never want us to adopt him, but still thought he’d come live with us eventually. (He still might; he’ll be 18 in a year….) We should get the date for Mara’s adoption finalization very soon, and the date itself should be fairly soon. I’ve had to tell Lee to stop asking me how excited I am about the adoption, because in fact it makes me sort of queasy and weepy that I’ll be standing there in the court with all the other spectators as Lee adopts Mara. I’m thrilled that Mara’s becoming a legal part of our family and I do absolutely consider myself a mother the same way Lee is, but it still hurts. It’s doesn’t hurt Lee, has never particularly impacted her, but that’s where we are. Oh, and we’ve started inquiring on a kid or two out of state, teens who are having trouble finding homes. We haven’t gotten any fostering calls that have worked in terms of timing or space, but that’s more likely to happen first. Change is coming, I know.