On the one hand, absolutely nothing changed when Nat's adoption decree arrived in the mail last week.
On the other hand...well, you know.
About three weeks ago I took Nat to our family doctor for the first half of her flu shot. At the receptionist's desk, I was handed a release form to allow the shot. The receptionist asked "Are you her mother?"
"Yes" I answered, and signed the form.
Now, afterwards, I thought, "I wonder if that was one of those things that happens to transracial adopters that is supposed to bug me?" Because it didn't bug me, but I did remember it later to wonder if it might not happen to white mothers of white children in the doctor's office. Then I wondered if it might not happen to straight mothers whose husbands had ne'er been seen in the doctor's office. Because Cole and I have taken Nat to the doctor enough times that maybe all those nurses and receptionists who dote over Nat and know her well don't know if maybe only one of us is her parent.
So I wondered about these things afterwards.
But at the time, I felt a twinge of panic, because at the time, I wasn't her mother, in the legal sense. I did have a slip of paper in my wallet from the adoption agency stating my right to custody of her and my right to make medical decisions for her, but I was not, technically her mother that day. And since she is insured through Cole (who was not there, but also not her mother anyway that day) I had a brief moment of anxiety that I wasn't being entirely honest. I even had a blip of wondering if I had the right to sign the form and permit the shot. (I did, but nevertheless, I had that blip.)
It was the same feeling I have when I'm asked if I'm single or married. The answer depends on why the question is being asked and how official the reason for needing to know. In the doctor's office the answer, bizarrely, is "single." Which is entirely untrue, yet, if I said "married" that would be legally untrue and well, you get the dilemma.
Monday, I took Nat back to the doctor for the second half of her flu shot. As I was driving there, I had this sudden thought that "I hope they ask me if I'm her mother again!" Not because I'd answer any differently than last time, but because I wanted to know what it felt like to declare my familial relationships in a way that is both personally and legally accurate. They didn't ask. But I'm looking forward to the first form I have to fill out that asks me to state my relationship to Nat.
I think maybe that's when the legal adoption thing will really sink in. That's when I'll feel a wave of relief and shout or cry or whatever people do. Meanwhile, I'm quietly her mother just like I was last month and the month before etc. back to the moment Emily, the social worker laid her in my arms and said "here's your daughter."
It's really quite remarkable to me to have this recognition of my family. It makes me greedy for more official-form-filling-out-style recognition of the rest of my family, too.
Recently, someone asked me about how same-sex parenting works for us in this state, and I told her that we were both equal parents, declared so at the same time in the court making Nat a legal bridge between us that can't be formed in any other way. It's too much pressure to put on a child, but Nat is the true substance of our marriage to the extent we can be said to have one. We now share the same next-of-kin, even if we can't be next-of-kin to each other.
Next to next...
It reminds me of the parabola my algebra teacher told us about in 9th grade. It keeps getting closer and closer to the edge of the graph, but will never actually touch it.