Luckily, Jackson was a champ with only a minor cry-fest toward the end of the flight. When we got to San Antonio, I was introduced to the loveliness that is the kid seat in the family bathrooms in Terminal A. These should be required in all bathrooms by law!
My best friend, Amy, finally got to meet Jackson, and Kirby experienced the unwelcome change of no longer being the center of attention in the house. She's still waiting for him to leave.
I was able to take 6 weeks off of work to stay with Jackson when he came home. Like many women in the US, I have no maternity leave, so I was thankful that I had enough sick time and vacation time to allow me to take that much time off.
Transitioning from one home to another, one family to another, is never easy. It was a rough first month home. Jackson and I both were adjusting to change and figuring each other out. I felt like I was swimming in a pool of unknowns. Taking care of and loving Jackson was easy. The hard part was navigating between the foster care systems in two states. Before leaving Las Vegas, I had to hound the case worker for the documentation I needed in order to travel with Jackson. The papers were finally emailed Thursday just in the nick of time since I was leaving on Friday. When I asked what to expect in regard to when I would be contacted by someone in Texas to swap over his Medicaid, etc., I was told that they might contact me within a month but it may be longer. In other words, no one knew. So there I was with a baby that only had Nevada Medicaid (I couldn't add him to my insurance prior to adoption) and I was just praying he wouldn't get sick because my only option for care was an emergency room.
A little over a month after bringing Jackson home and countless phone calls to the Nevada and Texas ICPC offices, I finally had a visit from Jackson's Texas case worker. I had a ton of questions but she had no answers. She was nice, but had no knowledge of the ICPC process or how I needed to navigate the system. I realized at that point, that essentially, I was on my own. If anything was going to get done it was going to be because I made it happen. So off I went to apply for Medicaid. I've always been on the other side of Medicaid, providing care to children and billing Medicaid, and had minimal knowledge of the entire application process. The only tip I received from the ICPC office was to indicate that Jackson's salary was $0. The first time around, Jackson was denied Medicaid... yup denied. The reason: "he is not old enough." What?!?!? Evidently, what I applied for was children's Medicaid - not that I was given an option, but, whatever - and since Jackson was only 10 months old at the time, he was only eligible for infant Medicaid. So, I had to reapply and finally, shortly before his first birthday, Jackson finally had Medicaid coverage in Texas and not a moment too soon as he was sick as a dog. When I was finally able to get him to a quick care clinic, he had double eye infections and an upper respiratory infection and was green under the gills. You can just see how poorly he felt!
Shortly after finally getting over his illness, Jackson turned 1! We celebrated his birthday while I was home in Las Vegas for my niece's first communion, so we just had a small celebration at home in Texas on his actual birthday.
Jackson's birthday was pivotal for many reasons. I knew that there was no chance that his birth parents' rights would be terminated before his first birthday. While federal regulations have recently dictated that parental termination occur in a more timely manner, to avoid children essentially sitting in foster care for their entire childhoods ineligible for adoption, it still takes longer than I feel it should to actually terminate rights. Jackson turned one on May 13, and the termination of parental rights was set for June 9th.
I was teaching the morning of the termination hearing and about an hour before the appointed court time, I received a phone call from a case worker that had, the day before, just been appointed to Jackson's case. She informed me that she wasn't ready for court. She hadn't had time to bring herself up to speed, etc. and wanted to postpone the hearing. In no uncertain terms, I informed her that her unpreparedness was not Jackson's problem. Thankfully, the states attorney was prepared to move forward and I received a phone call, from my mother, shortly after the court proceedings, telling me that the termination was approved.
While termination was the outcome I wanted, it was a bag of mixed emotions. My preference would have been that Jackson's birth parents would have willingly terminated their rights. I wanted them to feel like they had made the choice on their own and could never say that their child was taken away from them. That didn't happen though. My elation that another step in the adoption process was completed was shadowed with feelings of grief for the birth parents. Every day prior to termination, and after, my prayer has been that God's will be done. While I fully believe that this was God's will, it's still a tough pill to swallow. There is both beauty and tragedy in the fact that Jackson will not be raised by the woman who gave birth to him. I truly believe that Jackson was always meant to be my baby boy, but I am not looking forward to having to explain that to Jackson in the future.
A month later, I was finally ready to share about Jackson on Facebook. Prior to that time, I was not willing to share with more than a small circle of friends due to all of the uncertainty surrounding Jackson's situation. On July 10th I posted:
Some gifts you have to wait to share. Those are the best kind of gifts. This gift came home 19 weeks ago. I couldn't have dreamt of a better gift.
Soon he will share my name, but until then you just get glimpses. He's practically perfect in every way and I will gladly share more of him via text or private message.
His name is Jackson Benet after my Papo, JB.
At that point I could not share pictures of Jackson's face, so I perfected the faceless pics! The adventure was not over yet. There was no set adoption date and there was minimal communication from his new case worker. I just prayed that it would be finalized sometime in 2015.