This morning, in the historic McIntosh County courthouse, our home county where about 2500 people live, Nathan officially adopted Hunter as his son. I’ve held my emotions in check and not until now as I sat at my computer to remember this day have all my emotions come blubbering out on the keyboard. For our family’s sake, I want to share a bit about the day and back story.
Court only happens about once a month in our rural area and we waited a couple of hours before we entered the court room for our private hearing this morning. There sat the court reporter, clerk of court, district judge in the front and our county sheriff in the back. It was casual but yet I felt the load of the past 19 years of life as we walked in with our attorney. It was 19 years ago that I was a senior in high school with big plans and track scholarship opportunities ahead in my future.
By the time Christmas rolled around of that year I found myself with morning sickness and knew my plans could be changing. I’ve shared about that journey before on my blog and certainly speak of it often at events. Hunter made me a mother on August 20, 1997. He was the best decision of my young 18 years of life. He lived with my parents during my freshman year of college and then full-time with me. (Until he leaves me for college next year and let’s avoid that topic today. Gulp.)
Hunter starting praying for a “dad that lives with us” in first grade. He had a biological father but longed for a full-time relationship. Ten years ago, Nathan began answering Hunter’s prayer.
Step-parenting is not easy. We will not sugar coat it. Nathan moved into our home when he and I married. Hunter had just turned nine years old and started third grade. His life was interrupted despite his prayer being answered. Nathan and Hunter worked on their relationship together. I learned to stay out of it. They needed their own time and activities to do together.
We became a tight-knit family which was needed as Hunter walked through difficult challenges he could not control and changes in relationships. In fifth grade, he requested his last name be changed to “Pinke” and he kept my maiden name as a part of his middle name. He said to Nathan and me, “I’m a Pinke now.” And he was. Nathan and my in-laws have never treated Hunter any different than his sisters, Elizabeth and Anika. We are all one family unit, no matter what was documented legally.
Half of his life later, he sat next to me at the beginning of the hearing today and said, “Mom, this is pretty cool.” If you have a teenage boy, you understand that is a comprehensive, meaningful sentence for him. I knew how he felt.
Indeed it is pretty cool. Hunter testified today about how Nathan and he have a bond, a father/son relationship and his desire to be legally adopted by Nathan “because he’s already my dad.” I couldn’t see Nathan’s face as Hunter testified but based on Hunter’s smile I knew he was looking at Nathan’s tears.
I fidgeted and looked at my hands, taking deep breaths, holding back my tears. I could literally feel God’s presence right in the courtroom. It was a big moment. Nathan also testified and shared his desire to adopt Hunter and the depth of their relationship, specifically answering questions of how he supports Hunter. Again, moments we will cherish forever.
The entire hearing took ten minutes. The judge thanked us and said he often sees the opposite of what we were doing today. His closing words were, “Thank you for your act of love today. And Hunter, I hope you focus on engineering more than football in college.”
As we walked out, the court reporter said, “And good luck in basketball!” I love rural people and courthouses. This is a beautiful one.I had my big camera with me and my phone turned off. Not until we got out of the courtroom and down the stairs could I get myself to stop shaking for a phone picture taken by our attorney for this hearing.
Our long-time attorney, Patti could not be there today due to a conflict of another hearing. She’s loyally advised me for many years and I wanted her to see this moment along with my family and friends who have supported and loved us through this long journey. Thank you is not enough to say to each of you but it is all I have. We are filled with gratitude. Thank you.
Another attorney from Patti’s firm was present and I joked she was in elementary school when I gave birth to Hunter and that is true! We were thankful for her being prepared and organized today which gave us all a calm demeanor.
We celebrated at the local cafe where Hunter and Nathan felt it was appropriate to both order the “South Border Mustang Burger”, adding bacon to their burgers. Hunter said, “After all that is what we are, together.” We are South Border Mustangs, the name of our local school sports co-op where we have attended hundreds of games together and where our family business and family are rooted.
Each of us have different family stories. Everyone has twists, turns, mountains and valleys. One thing I have learned in living and walking through ours is God has a greater plan than you can see. I could not have planned this moment or day. It’s greater than me. It’s greater than Nathan. It’s greater than Hunter. It is perfectly written though for our family.
Today is a day we will never forget and always cherish, our family’s own adoption day. I love you Hunter James. I love you Nathan. You two belong together. Thank you for showing me what our adoption story is. Thank you, Lord, for giving me purpose and a story greater than I could ever plan, predict or write. I am forever grateful.
Anita Hoffarth says
It is a good thing that I’m reading this post in a room by myself, I’ve got tears running down my face. Our family celebrates adoption day on September 10 each year. Happy adoption day to you all!!
Thank you Anita. We definitely will always celebrate it! And it’s North Dakota’s birthday, a date I always like to remember anyway.
So touching, I love this story. I’m crying now too: full disclosure.
I’m glad you can cry with me! Thanks Cristen.
You are so right about step-parenting … it isn’t easy but it can be very rewarding when all work together for one goal. One of my daughters (a ‘step’, but we avoid the term) was recently tossed very unexpectedly into a step-parenting position. She recently said to me, ‘I hope I wasn’t horrible but I totally take back any of the mean things I said or did to you’. Ahhh….I just smiled.
We also avoid the “step parenting” verbiage except to explain it and yes I know that smile.
Sarah Wilson says
What was that called…blubbering over the keyboard? Happening here too 🙂 God is so, SO good, Katie. I’m in awe of the plan he is unfolding for your family. What a glorious day! Love and hugs to you all! – Sarah
Love you Sarah. Thank you. I’m all about the blubbering!
What a beautiful day for you all! I have a similar story of raising a son alone although the circumstances of how that came to be were different. He too longed for a dad. We got one when my son was 10 years old. It was great until 16 came and trials happened. We are all a family but my husband has never been able to overcome the “step” and my son has never fully had the privilege of feeling like he had that dad he so longed for. We have in 20 years come to accept it for what it is. Congratulations to your family for eliminating the step and turning life into what it was meant to be. I admire that.
Hi Diana, thank you for sharing a part of your story and thank you for reading ours. Every one’s is different and I thankful for loving homes like yours all around. Trials happen but we can stand strong together.
Janice Person aka JPlovesCOTTON says
It always cracks me up that you do not appear tall in your family! Great smiles and lots of tears. Such a great way for you guys to kick off National Adoption Month too!
Yes I am SHORT in my family! Thank you for the kind words and for the National Adoption Month heads up. I didn’t know!
Janice Person aka JPlovesCOTTON says
Several friends who have adopted always take time to celebrate it in November. It is an important topic for many families this time of year!
Thank you for sharing your personal stories with the world. They are so beautifully written (what a gift you have!), and we can just feel the love emanating from the page. Congratulations on this day!
Thank you so much. What a kind compliment!
Kelly M. Rivard (@KMRivard) says
Katie. I love you.
Kelly. I love you too!
Cannot tell you how happy this made me…I was lucky enough to find a father for my son when he was 5…At 11, my husband adopted him. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world that I found someone so special that could take on some else’s child as their own and love us both unconditionally. Thanks for sharing!
Amen to this Shelbi and high fives from ND!
Tears. Wow, such a beautiful story!!
Thank you Laura!
Jeanette Geiszler says
Thanks for sharing your special story.
Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment Jeanette!
Anna Wastell says
I just love so much about this. All the tears over here.
Thanks much Anna!
God’s richest blessings to you!!!!
Thank you Dorine!