Today’s the day! You’ve been waiting six months or more for this day to arrive (and maybe much longer) and adoption day is finally—finally here. The knot in your stomach is starting to untie. The breath you’ve been holding since forever is beginning to be let go. It is really happening. Today. 

6:00 a.m. – 6:30 a.m.

Shower, dry hair, and get dressed. Change the entire outfit at least twice despite having made careful choices this past week to avoid said costume changes the day of. Decide upon the first outfit while your spouse rolls his eyes. Just smile and nod. 

6:30 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.

Wake up the rest of the people in the home. Usually, they’re all up and rearing to go by now on their own—figures that today of all days they’ll decide to sleep in (obviously). Feed the smallest people before dressing them in their adoption day clothes. Wonder why you bought them princess dresses and crowns. Cry a little in your room. Watch them spill special adoption day pancake syrup on their clean bodies. You knew pancakes were a terrible idea, but you asked your sweet child what food would make them feel special on adoption day. 

7:00 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.

Clean sticky children. Yes, they are theoretically old enough to do this on their own, but you don’t want the syrup to end up in more places. Also, you don’t want to need to clean the bathroom this morning. Help them put on special adoption day clothes. Listen to sisters argue over exactly identical princess crowns because one is sparklier than the others, apparently. 

Gather cute signs you spent far too long painting the night before. Are they too much? Maybe. Worth it? Oh, yes. Why do you wait until the last minute for these things? (You know that it’s because you were afraid adoption day wouldn’t come and then you’d just have sad reminder signs to get rid of.)

Find cute clothes for after adoption or during the adoption party later. Waste far too much time looking for clothes you won’t need until this evening. Find them. Lose them again because your brain is at capacity for information at the moment. 

Wake up older children for the third or fourth time that morning. Try to remain calm and cheerful. It’s a happy day—not a day for scolding and frustrated tears. Keep yourself together. It’ll be okay.

7:30 a.m. – 7:45 a.m.

Field text messages from friends who are inexplicably at the courthouse before you; they’re asking where you are and when you’ll be there. Explain once again the judge won’t be there until 8:30 so you won’t be there until just after 8 at the earliest. You’re the only people on the docket in the morning, so you won’t have to wade through other people or wait for other cases to be concluded. Remind yourself to feel thankful that you have friends to bear witness to this day. Try not to be annoyed that people beat you to the courthouse. 

7:45 a.m.

Why can’t anyone find their dang shoes? Really. It’s not like they can just walk away on their own. They were supposed to lay out their shoes the night before. Everyone promised they did. You forgot to check (you were painting signs and crying happy tears), and now no one can find the right shoes. Why does this always seem to happen when there isn’t time for it? Every. Single. Time. You’ve had this exact argument with these children 10- 12 times in the past two weeks. And yet, still, no one knows where their shoes are. How? Why? No one will ever know. I’m sorry, this is a mystery that may never be solved until it doesn’t matter anymore. 

8:00 a.m. – 8:05 a.m. 

Leave for the courthouse. Argue that it doesn’t matter that their princess dress is “too poofy” for the car seat, they still need to be buckled, and also, yes it will fit if you let grandma arrange the way it is. Stop wiggling. We need to leave. Oh my gosh.

Thank God again that this adoption is taking place in the same town as you as opposed to the one last time that was 45 minutes away. Usher small people into the courthouse. Wave hello to friends and family that came to bear witness to this auspicious occasion. 

8:05 a.m. – 8:10 a.m.

Talk yourself down from a panic attack. Promise yourself you can have a small one later. As a treat. 

8:10 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.

Get ushered into the courtroom. Hand friend your good camera with instructions to take lots of pictures.

8:15 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

Get everyone settled, fix adoptees’ hair, and notice syrup inexplicably in the youngest’s hair. Sigh because there’s literally nothing you can do about it now.

8:30 a.m.

All rise for the honorable judge. Swallow hard trying to suppress a sudden bout of tears. 

8:35 a.m.

Promise to care for children as if they were your biological children and love them forever—an easy thing to promise since they’ve felt like yours for a long time now. 

8:40 a.m.

Take pictures with the judge, pictures with the caseworkers, pictures with the grandparents, and pictures with friends. Post pictures on social media because you finally can and oh my goodness look at those baby cheeks how did they get so big so fast? 

8:50 a.m.

Celebration, tears, and hugs

9:00 a.m.

Break up a fight between newly official siblings. 

9:10 a.m.

Head home for a nap before festivities later. Argue that everyone needs a dang nap and there is no negotiation here. Negotiate anyway. Fall asleep in their room while they pretend they aren’t even sleepy. 

Congratulations, you are now an official adoptive family. You are on your own from now into perpetuity. Try not to hyperventilate about it. It’ll be fine. Promise. 

Christina Gochnauer is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with her husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from “hard places” in her church and community.