By- Trey Darnell
The short five minute ride to the Abilene Fairfield Inn & Suites was a breeze. Harper did not even notice that she was riding solo in the back seat. It was the first and only time of the trip that she didn’t have company watching her every move. The hotel staff was waiting patiently for our arrival. Before we even opened the car door, several staff members were peeking out of the lobby. Hoping for a quick peek of the new arrival.
As we made it to the room with our cart full of bottles, diapers, luggage, baby clothing and everything else that would fit into the Honda Pilot, we were met with a pleasant surprise. The entire hotel staff had signed a banner that said “It’s a Girl.” They had even filled the room with pink balloons and pink flowers. We were in awe of the amazing hospitality that we had received from the hotel staff. It felt like Texas had rolled out the red carpet and welcomed us with open arms.
This would be our first night alone with Harper and our first chance to settle into our new roles as parents. For those of you that have adopted or are in the process of adopting are aware that you are theoretically babysitting until relinquishment documents have been signed and the termination process is complete. For an agency adoption, there is no reclaim period in Texas and the relinquishment documents cannot be signed until 72 hours after the birth of the child. Our counselor would be traveling to Abilene from Houston and had scheduled the meeting to sign all the documents at three o’clock the next afternoon. A world record for holding your breath? I had it in the bag.
Matthew and I had already planned to stay through the weekend and leave on Tuesday morning. It is not uncommon for an adoptive family to leave town immediately after the relinquishment documents have been signed, but we chose to wait five days after. It was necessary to us to spend as much time as possible with Mercy and Dylan (birth parents) and the rest of the birth family. Matthew and I wanted to reassure the entire family that this was not a goodbye. It was a new beginning. We are very committed to the idea and meaning of an open adoption.
(Thursday August 22, 2013)
The day had arrived that could make us dads. The hotel graciously offered a vacant suite for our counselor to use to obtain signatures on the relinquishment documents. Mercy and Stacie (Dylan’s mother) came to the hotel a couple of hours before the meeting. While Stacie and I talked about everything from food to medical insurance and the Army, Matthew got carried away with the digital camera. It seemed like every couple of seconds the sound of the camera shutter echoed through the room. I have never been a fan of getting my picture taken. My mother has an infatuation with pictures, so I blame her for my dislike. She can go to a two hour birthday party and take over 1,400 photos. What is the saying? You marry your mother. Matthew had so much fun. The results were phenomenal. Check out our Facebook page for all the photos.
Cindy, our counselor from the Independent Adoption Center, arrived and quickly asked who wanted to go first. My heart started to beat faster. I felt nauseous. My mind couldn’t think straight, and every possible outcome was playing out in my head. Cindy reentered the room and summoned the next person. All this was happening very fast. After what seemed like only four or five blinks of an eye, she returned and asked Matt and I to sign two forms. Two forms that officially made us dads!
Cindy posed for a couple of pictures, asked if we had any questions, gave a hug and left. I was effective in holding my composure as plans were being made for later that night. Everyone gave hugs and said a quick goodbye as we would see them in just a couple of hours. The hotel door seemed to slam shut, and Matthew started to do his quirky happy dance. We hugged each other and hugged Harper and then one of us asked “Now what?”
What would any person in the trenches of the social media world want to do after a moment as monumental as this? A Facebook status update of course! I quickly typed up a statement and added a picture. Before I pressed the post button, we began to worry about Mercy. While we were overjoyed, we wanted to be respectful of Mercy and the rest of the family. We agreed that we could tell our parents that they were officially grandparents and give them permission to share the good news with family but not through Facebook.
As the afternoon quickly faded away, we headed to spend the evening with the birth family. It is hard to describe the feeling of being a new parent. Amazing! We wanted to ask permission to share the news with our friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. After popping the question about making a post on Facebook, Mercy and the family said they were somewhat disappointed that we hadn’t shared the news already. A world record for fastest Facebook status update? I had it in the bag.
Over the next several days, we spent as much time as possible with Mercy, Dylan and the rest of the family. We even watched the MTV Music Awards together. How could we miss *NSYNC’s reunion in honor of Harper’s birth? I think I squealed (inside) five or six times during the 90 second performance. Another great aspect of our relationship with Mercy and Dylan is the similarities in our music taste. Off topic side note. Over a year ago, I had just arrived in Denver, Colorado. It had just been announced that Whitney Houston had died. While checking into the hotel, I mentioned the news to the 19 year-old front desk employee. She had never heard of Whitney Houston. What? Really? Bodyguard? No? A world record for living under a rock the longest? She had it in the bag.
The weekend quickly ended and we were less than 24 hours from leaving Abilene. We had decided to schedule Harper’s one week appointment with the pediatrician that administered care in the hospital and decided to invite Mercy to join us. Later that evening, Mercy, Dylan and Liz (Dylan’s sister-in-law) invited us to their home and cooked a wonderful southern meal. During dinner, I could feel the emotions starting to rise to the surface. Excitement of starting our journey home and the sadness of saying goodbye to Mercy and Dylan were at their highest. Abilene had come to feel comfortable. As the night came to an end, we made plans for our final goodbye before checkout the next day.
(Tuesday August 27, 2013)
Mercy arrived at our hotel a couple of hours prior to checkout. Our plan for the first leg of our trip home was to drive three hours to Dallas and spend a couple of days. Slowly making our way to the Texas and Arkansas state line while we waited for Texas and Tennessee ICPC (Interstate Compact for Placement of Children) approval. Mercy and Harper were able to have some alone time while Matthew and I loaded the car with all of our stuff. Over the past week, we had undoubtedly acquired more stuff. The Honda Pilot had no room left. Before the trip would be over, we would return something for the lack of available space.
As checkout time came and went, we began to say goodbye. It felt as if we were slowly inching closer to the door. Matthew and I wanted to reassure Mercy that we would be back soon. This was the beginning of a new journey for all of us. We inched a little further to the door. All three of us hugged with Harper sandwiched in the middle. Tears were clearly flowing. We had made it to the door and said the last of at least 15 goodbyes. Mercy walked slowly to the elevator and pushed DN, the door closed, and we feel apart. We were delighted to leave Abilene, but we felt as if we just broke the mother of our child’s heart. This will be a moment that I will never forget.
It is very possible that we sobbed for 15 minutes leaning up against that door. In my mind, it felt like the all so common scene from the movies where you see a person on both sides of a door crying, and neither one of them know what is happening on the other side. After we captured our composure, we snuck out of the hotel so the staff wouldn’t see us leave. The car was loaded to the brink, and we were ready to say goodbye to Abilene. This time I road in the backseat with Harper.
Our next stop? In-N-Out Burger …