When I left off. Nicole had just been born and the legal wheels were in motion to begin the adoption process. This was hardly the end of the story. There are several legal hoops to jump through before the adoption happens. In addition, there are several emotional hurdles to overcome as well.
Nicole's adoption was what is known as an "open" adoption. "Open" meaning that the birth mom and adoptive parents all know each other and can have the ability to maitain contact. The choice of where the adoptive child goes and how the adoptive family is chosen is a matching process performed by the Provincial Adoption Registrar who creates a "short list" of perspective families. These profiles are then given to the birth parent/s and they select based on their own personal criteria. We as perspective adoptive parents have no part in the process other than providing input for the profile such as pictures and an introductory letter. This also makes these adoptions very unique and personal. What we experienced could be very different from someone else's adoption story.
After Nicole was born; this "lack of control" could not have been more evident. We were on cloud nine but we could not see her yet. To be respectful and with the social workers advice we wanted to wait until the birth mom invited us to see the new baby girl, who at this point did not have a name. Perhaps the birth mom did not want to see us, she could have second thoughts, there were many possibilities as to how this would play out. I think this is where the social workers did such a great job. They kept talking to birth-mom and kept us informed about what was going on. They kept everyone on an even keel during a very emotional time. The first news we received was the basic height and weight information and that the baby was perfectly healthy. Mom, however, had some post delivery complications which put everyone on edge. From our understanding the complications were not minor in nature. This just added to the stress. So the night our daughter was born we went ...shopping; not because we needed to but because we were going stir crazy sitting at home and "waiting."
Thursday slipped away and then it was Friday. Still; no news. Sometime on Friday we were called by our social worker to let us know we had been summonned to the hospital. We agreed to meet on Saturday morning. We were going to see birth-mom first and then the "BIG" introduction. We were also informed that birth mom would be meeting with her lawyer on Saturday afternoon for her to declare her intent to adopt. This is a critical part of the legal process. This would allow us to take our newborn daughter home from the hospital. So...Saturday was the BIG day.
With great anticipation and mustering every bit of parental confidence we could we headed to the hospital on Saturday morning. We met birth mom and exchanged some small talk. Keep in mind that we had only met her once before and only for about 45 minutes. We were basically strangers. Our birth-mom is an extremely easy going person and although I wouldn't describe her as chatty but nonetheless easy to talk too. Then the big moment. Our little girl was wheeled in from the nursery. You would think that moment would be vivid in our memories as "the moment" but it is not. I think we were so concerned about etiquette and trying to be respectful I think we lost ourselves for a bit. Our girl was truly perfect. The day before we had found out that our girl did have a name and that it was Ashley. This was chosen by her birth mom for the registration of live birth. Our initial reaction was that we liked the name and intended on keeping it. We did have the choice of choosing our own name, but we were ok with Ashley. Baby names were not high on the priority list at this point in time. Our visit on Saturday morning went well. After a few hours, and knowing that the lawyer was coming in the afternoon we made arrangement to come back in the evening.
When we came back, that night, we found that the lawyer had come and gone and that the papers that needed to be signed; were signed. We were very pleased to hear that the lawyer spent some time with our birth-mom and they even went on a walk together. It sounded like they made a good connection and things were going very well.
That night we visited some more and gave baby Ashley her first bath. We found out that the plan was for birth mom and baby to be discharged the next morning, Sunday. We would be taking "our" baby to "our" home the next day. Needless to say we were a little anxious and a whole lot excited. Could it really be this easy?
When we went home that night and made final preparation for the next day's homecoming. We had a bit of a "moment" as we were trying to get used to the idea of having baby Ashley around. I remember talking to Susan and referring to "Ashley" and Susan said "who?" It was probably at that point that we figured that we needed our own name for her. We liked "Ashley" but it just didn't have that "fit like a glove" feeling to it. It was that night, quite by accident, that the name "Nicole" came up. OK...it's corny...but the name Nicole actually came about while we were watching a movie...the Interpreter...with Nicole Kidman. Yes...our daughter is named after an Australian actress.
Sunday morning came and we buckled the baby seat into the car and headed to St Boniface hospital to fill it. We were kept fairly busy, at the hospital, doing administrative stuff and getting last minute instructions. Our social workers where their to help with the transition. The only request our birth-mom made the whole time we were in the hospital was that she wanted to spend time alone with baby Ashley, say goodbye, and then she would leave. I remember it very well. Our birth-mom walked out of the hospital room with a back pack over her should and left...without a baby. Ashley was now ours. This was "our" moment. This was when this all became real to us. This was our birth story, at this moment. We spent a bit of time gathering up some items and said goodbye to our social workers and strapped our little girl into her car seat. I remember what our social worker said when we left..."have a good life." That really sticks out in my mind as although it was a very trivial statement it meant a whole lot more. Although we still had some legal process to go through...we were done. Our baby was coming home. At noon on Sunday, with church bells ringing, we walked out of St Boniface hospital with our daughter, Nicole. We took pictures outside the hospital, a ritual we repeated two years later.
Our 21 day waiting period came and went. At any point in the first 21 days, the birth-mom can change her mind. This is probably every adoptive parents most feared time but with us it came and went with no issue. In August of 2006, the final adoption was legal. A new registration of live birth was filed with the name of Nicole Ashley Anne Lepp being born to Donald and Susan Lepp on April 27th, 2006. That single piece of paper hardly tells the whole story.