Cora’s adoption was finalized on April 7, 2016, a day we coin “Zimmerman Day” in our home. Unlike some other adoptive families, we grew our family through adoption first, and then through a surprise pregnancy that led to our daughter Raelyn 8 months later. So when it came time to decide if/how we were going to celebrate Cora’s adoption finalization day, I struggled to find a way to celebrate what was an important day in our family, at the same time not leaving out our younger daughter, who didn’t have a corresponding day. We came up with “Zimmerman Day”, the day that our whole family shares the same last name. It isn’t a big holiday around our house, there are no gifts, no special hats or tiaras, but there is one messy homemade cake with a big Z on it, and as many sprinkles as will stick to it (which for the record is A LOT). Both of my girls get so excited to help make the cake and help decorate it, and the grandparents usually come over for dinner and cake. I don’t know how Cora is going to feel about this day when she’s older and has had time to understand the significance of it, but for now she loves another day between everyone’s birthdays to celebrate our family.
Finalization days are often celebrated as a “forever family” , but I can’t help but have mixed opinions about that term. Finalization day is a day where Cora became ours legally, but it is also a day where she was no longer legally her biological family’s child, so there is a mix of sadness there. I know that “forever family” is used by many adoption professionals and other organizations that work in adoptions to describe a finalization day, and I bet I’ve even used it somewhere on my blog myself. I am lucky enough to get to be my daughter’s mom legally and forever as of our finalization day. But she had a family before I held her for the first time and she continues to have one even after that finalization day. We are her legal family, but she still has her biological family. Her “forever family” consists of BOTH of these groups.
At times in the future, I know I will likely have hurt feelings relating to my child’s birth family and Cora’s very natural yearning for them. I have heard enough adoption stories and heard enough about how adoptive parents feel to know that there will be times I will feel jealous of her birth family and times I might even feel out of place, even though I’m her legal mom and the mom who raised her. It is natural that my child is going to want to know where she came from, what her biological family looks like and what are the things that make them them. She will likely tell me I’m not her “real mom” at some point in her life, and she will likely want to contact her birth family, visit them, want to spend a holiday with them, or she might refer to both her birth mom and me as her mom someday. That is likely going to hurt me, but you know what? IT IS NOT ABOUT ME, it is about my daughter, it is about what makes her whole and what makes her life feel more complete. She could always see us as her primary family, or later in her life she could see herself as having two families she gets to experience with. All I know is that there will be more people to love her, and she deserves all the love she can get. I have to make sure she knows that whatever feelings she has, I’m okay, and I’m going to support her through it. That’s the only thing I can do as her mom.
So, for now we’ll celebrate Zimmerman Day (and now I must go clean up all those sprinkles that have made there way all over my house)!