On August 25, 2008, my adopted daughter, Mariela Abigail, was born at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple, Texas. Her birth came less than twenty-four hours before Eathyn, my fifth child, was born. Mariela was born with a cleft lip and a cleft pallet, and spent several days in the neonatal intensive care unit before being sent home with her biological parents. Over the next several weeks, Mariela endured severe abuse at the hands of her biological parents–suffering a displaced fracture of her right arm, five fractured ribs, two fractures in each leg, and a broken pelvis. The severity of the injuries caused the parents to take Mariela to the hospital.
The next few days were a whirlwind of activity as we prepared our home to bring in another infant. Of course, Cindy wanted the nursery to look “perfect” so we spent hours shopping to find the right furniture, bedding, and decorations. We also had to get our legal “ducks in a row." My family completed the home study and background checks required by law. We also scheduled an emergency court hearing to obtain custody.
The court hearing was the most stressful part of Mariela’s transition into our family. The unknown of how the Court would rule and whether the Judge would make the “right” ruling weighed heavily on our minds. I think we felt like most people in this situation; we had no control over how the Court would rule, and not being in control added additional stress to this already stressful time. Thankfully, the Judge ruled in our favor and the following day we brought Mariela home.
That was just the beginning of the legal process. I had been through the process of adopting, as a lawyer, hundreds of times––but never as a participant. I found the process to be taxing and lengthy. It consumed my wife's and my mind, and all my free thoughts. My wife and I were frightened at the thought of Mariela ever being returned to her birth parents. At one point, the Court sent Mariela to her biological family as an “experiment” to see how she would do.