Once we'd decided to move forward with adoption and chosen a local agency in Buffalo to do our homestudy we paid them a load of money for the pleasure of doing a bunch of paperwork. We had to be fingerprinted, supply 20+ years of addresses (big thanks here to my dad who remembered the address we lived at for 6 months when I was 8 and to Stewart for keeping a record of his addresses while he was a missionary in France for 2 years), find people to write recommendation letters for us, and take classes on how to not be sucky parents.
We chose my brother and his wife to write our family recommendation letter, and three couples who are long time family friends to write the non family letters. We never saw the letters but from what our social worker said, they were all very positive.
After all the paperwork was done and our background checks came back (clean, I might add!) we were assigned a social worker who was with us the rest of the way until we matched with our birth mother. I met with individually one evening, Stewart met with her individually the next evening and she came to our home to meet with us together the following Saturday. She said it was always interesting to meet couples alone and then to see how they interact together. She said that it's especially interesting to see who was the alpha in a relationship, but that she could always tell. At the end of our meeting I asked her who was the more strong one in our marriage and she thought for a minute and then admitted that she couldn't tell. I take that as a compliment.
Another high point to the meeting with the social worker was when she asked us about our hopes for our child. I told her that I'm sure that everyone she meets with gave her an answer like wanting their child to go to a good college, have a career they love, and someday have a family of their own. So instead I told her that I wanted my child, boy or girl, to throw a baseball well. She said she had never gotten that answer before. Before she came over, she told us not to stress out about the meeting. She said she had a morning meeting once where the couple had baked a ham so their house smelled good. She told us that was not necessary but I still thought about making cookies. In the end I decided against it in favor or going for a run to reduce my stress. And the meeting went really well.
At this point all we had to do was to take the classes required by the agency. We had class on Friday night for four hours or so and then all day on Saturday. Some of it was kind of absurd but I left the first night feeling like our fertility issues were fairly small. It's amazing how personal you can get when you know you're coming from a similar starting point. With other women I met that night I discussed miscarriages, missing ovaries, drugs, surgeries, etc. Stewart and other husbands discussed almost losing their wives to these things. It felt kind of like a sick support group. One social worker started her presentation by asking how many of us had seen the movie Juno (all of us). She then told us to throw that idea out of our minds because that never happens.
At one point we did some role playing in groups of three or four couples. One of the situations our group had was to show how we would deal with our parents treating our adopted child different from their other non-adopted grandchildren. The other couples were very diplomatic and said that they would sit their parents down and explain how that hurts them. For us that didn't really feel right. Our families already knew that we expected them to treat our child just as well as they treat their other grandkids and if they ever didn't we would sever our relationship with the offending parent. We wouldn't let our kid be around someone who would treat them poorly just because he's adopted. Fortunately this isn't something that is an issue in our family at all. I actually kind of feel like Gavin is especially special to all of his grandparents and I feel kind of bad for his cousins. But they get to hang out with him so it's still a win for them.
Anyway, after the classes and the paperwork and the meetings with the social worker we were set. Stewart graduated from law school on May 18, 2013 and when I stopped at home between lunch and the ceremony I found a letter in our mailbox saying that we were approved by the state of New York to bring a baby home. It made a great day even greater. But then began the looking and the waiting. More on that later.
(I couldn't find a photo of me with Stewart at his graduation but this is him with four of his closest law school classmates. I will forever love these guys and their families. And now I miss them all over again)