Continued from Our Adoption Story…
Of course, M and T eventually did agree they wanted to adopt Charlie’s baby. They started calling her periodically over the last few months of her pregnancy checking to see how things were going. I’m not sure of what exactly was discussed, but I know during one conversation Charlie asked if they were going to change the baby’s name since she had one picked out. They said they didn’t know if that was something she would want. She thought about it and told them she thought it would be okay. I believe this may have been in an effort to make her baby feel like their baby. Looking back, we let them lay out a lot of the “rules”. We didn’t protect our granddaughter, our daughter, our other children, or ourselves. I believe because we were dealing with family we felt a false sense of security. What could go wrong? Even my husband eventually started to feel more at ease with the idea of his brother adopting his granddaughter.
In hindsight there were clues which should have got our attention. We were confused by M and T seeming to avoid speaking directly to my husband or me when they had something to say or request of us. They always told my mother-in-law and father-in-law who then relayed it to us. We asked my in-laws about it, but we didn’t receive much of a response. We didn’t push because Charlie was over 18. We didn’t want to cause problems for anyone.
When we were within a few weeks of Charlie’s due date, her father and I asked if she wanted her grandmother to be there when she had her baby. My mother-in-law was always one to stand up for any “injustice”. We thought it would be a good idea to have more than just us looking out for her welfare. It was an emotional time, and we wanted to make sure we were being fair to our daughter. We thought her grandmother would provide another check. In hindsight, inviting her was our single biggest mistake. Her loyalties did not lay with our daughter, granddaughter, or us, and we didn’t fully understand this until it was too late. There are some things that are difficult to admit to yourself. Being betrayed by a parent or grandparent is one of them.
I began to suspect my mother-in-law’s sympathies lay with my brother-in-law and his wife while Charlie was in labor. As I said, M and T always communicated through my in-laws. They called my mother-in-law during Charlie’s labor to get updates. I listened during one call as my mother-in-law told M how everything was going. After she got off the phone, she said M wanted the “birth record”. Thinking she was talking about medical records I asked, “Why would he want that?”
“I guess because he thinks he’s going to be the father of this baby!” She replied.
My mouth dropped open, and I stared at her. I couldn’t believe how she’d reacted to my question, but I didn’t confront her, either. I didn’t tell her Charlie could change her mind, and she had that right. For some reason, I felt as if I owed this woman something and couldn’t speak up.
I was the first one to see Olivia. I was the first one, other than doctor’s and nurses, to hold her. I cried when she was born. I took pictures of her and her mother right after her birth. I carried her out of the operating room to show her to everyone. I attached myself to my granddaughter, but I wasn’t her mother. I tried to keep in mind her future wasn’t my decision.
M and T arrived while Olivia and Charlie were still in the hospital. We made a point of talking with them about how we wanted a relationship with the baby. They said they understood, and M said we would even be considered her grandparents. Although they seemed open to our request, the conversation still left me uneasy. I felt this way even more-so when my younger daughter called me grandma in front of M when handing Olivia to me to hold. “She’s not grandma,” he said. “She’s aunt.” “She’s not aunt until my sister signs the papers,” She snapped back.
Olivia was born on a Wednesday. She and Charlie were discharged the following Saturday. We asked Charlie if she wanted Olivia to come home with her with everyone staying with us or if she wanted her to go with M and T to a hotel. She said she wanted them to go to a hotel. We assumed she meant with Olivia. So, they left with the baby and stayed at a hotel in town. We found out after they left to go back to New York, she’d meant for them to go to the hotel and Olivia to stay with her at home. She’d wanted time alone with Olivia without them around. She’d been too afraid to speak up when she realized the mistake.
That Saturday night, we invited M and T over to eat. My mother-in-law called them, “mommy and daddy” in front of our daughter. It was so insensitive and, I understand now, coercive. Looking back, it really is obvious she didn’t care how our daughter felt. She didn’t care how we felt. I learned later she’d even yelled at our daughter while still in the hospital for letting Olivia’s father visit. She’d told Charlie she was ashamed of her.
In Illinois, mother’s cannot sign the voluntary termination of parental rights until at least 72 hours after their child’s birth. Since the 72 hour mark fell on a Sunday, Charlie signed on Monday the 29th. Sunday night my mother-in-law would not leave Charlie’s side. I had to text her to ask how she was doing without feeling we were being monitored. I asked if she was sure this was the right decision. She admitted she was having second thoughts. I told her to sleep on it, and we would discuss it again in the morning. Charlie was still on pain medication at the time. She’d just had major surgery. She’d just had a baby. It was insane of us to ask her to make a life altering decision at a time like that yet we didn’t see the obvious issues.
Monday morning I asked again. Charlie admitted she didn’t want to lose Olivia. I asked her again if she was sure. “Yes”, she said. I went to talk to R and told him Charlie was having second thoughts. He got upset. He couldn’t understand how we’d let it get this far. We both agreed if she didn’t go through with the adoption, we would all be ostracized from his family. We told Charlie what we believed would happen. I couldn’t stand up for her. I was terrified of losing what I considered our only family. I was terrified of disappointing them. In the end I told her she should just follow through with her plan, and I went to work. R took her to sign the papers. She didn’t even get to see her baby one last time. Apparently, there was another miscommunication, and they didn’t bring her to the courthouse.
I drove home from work that night knowing we’d made a huge mistake. What we’d done to our daughter and granddaughter was unforgivable. I was physically sick over what I’d done. Since my mother-in-law was still at our house, I called R on the way home and told him to ask her to leave. I couldn’t stand the thought of having her there. I knew I’d sold my daughter and granddaughter out for her. R offered to get her a hotel room in town, but she declined. Apparently, she made the 7 hour drive to her home that same evening.
Charlie also realized she’d made a mistake. It took her a week to get the courage to call her uncle and ask him to return her baby. She told him it was a mistake. She’d felt pressured. She was miserable. He asked her all kinds of questions about how she was going to support the baby. He knew we were going to be the ones to support her and her daughter yet he chose to pretend we didn’t exist. He finally told her he would have to get back to her. I believe it was the next day when he called and told her he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t do that to his wife. R spoke to his brother later and told him we were going to support our daughter, and we were going to speak to a lawyer. M, his brother and my daughter’s uncle, told him it was going to get ugly.
To be continued…