The Entrustment Ceremony

I asked my talented and thoughtful husband to write the next part of our story. Enjoy...

In the last entry, Dani described the third surprise of our adoption: the blessing and joy of open adoption. She perfectly articulated how the three days in our hospital with Baby Girl and Emily (birth mom) showed us that our family didn’t just grow with the addition of the little one, but also with the addition of Emily, who now has a special and important place in our family.  

The next important chapter of the story is the entrustment ceremony, but I noticed that the last entry referred to our daughter as Baby Girl because we hadn’t decided on a name yet. I should explain how we eventually give her a name.

Up until the moment she was born, we were expecting a boy and still undecided on a name. When we found out our baby was a girl, we first had to recover from the shock before thinking about names. We knew that we wanted Emily to be part of naming her, and we began discussing it with her towards the end of our three-day hospital stay.  It was important to her that the name start with a “C,” so from there we brainstormed a few names and presented Emily with two that we liked the most. Together we decided on Celia.

As you may know, I have a ridiculous name: Sheldon. It is a name that has caused me to endure much mockery from children and adults alike throughout all stages of my life, so I am a bit sensitive when it comes to names. I have two requirements when it comes to naming my children and “Celia” satisfies both:

1) It has to have a real and personal meaning to it.  Celia means “heaven,” and if you have been reading our adoption story, you will know that our placement with Emily was a veritable “match made in heaven.” (Cheesy, I know, but Sheldon means “a valley with steep sides”).

2) It has to have a literary precedent. As a lover of literature, I want my children to feel a personal connection to the great stories of classic literature. (Dani has vetoed naming any sons Ulysses, although I am not sure how she came to posses this veto power). The name “Celia” was popularized in Shakespeare’s play As You Like It, and as with most of Shakespeare’s heroines, she is witty and intelligent, attributes I want my daughter to possess.

Shortly after deciding on the name, Emily was discharged from the hospital. We met up with her at the adoption agency for an entrustment ceremony before we took Celia home. The entrustment ceremony was very informal. It was just us, Celia, Emily and a few of the social workers. We prayed and took photos. But despite the informality of it all, it was the capstone for what was both the happiest and saddest day of my life. The reasons for this may be obvious, but I would like to explain them in greater detail.

Me, Emily, and Celia

Me, Emily, and Celia

To begin, before we were ever matched with Emily, we were required to complete a certain number of hours of adoption education. One of the first courses we took explained that no matter how joyous the occasion may be, at the center of adoption is loss. This isn’t meant to be heavy-handed or depressing. To really understand and appreciate anything, you have to see it for what it is. And adoption is the story of loss. The birth mother loses the opportunity to parent her child. The child loses a connection with her biological family. And the adoptive parents are usually adopting because they have lost the ability to have biological children.

At entrustment ceremonies, there is a symbolic gesture wherein the birthmother hands over the baby to the adoptive mother. For us, this wouldn’t be the last time Emily held Celia, but it was the first time they would be separated. I cannot think of that moment, watching Emily cry over Celia, without tearing up myself, without feeling Emily’s pain and understanding how courageous she is to have made such a sacrifice. In tears, Emily handed Celia over to Dani to say she trusts us with this precious life.

I didn’t feel the weight of just Emily’s loss, but also my daughter’s. This is her birth mother, who loved her so deeply that she was willing to do anything for her, even enduring the pain of separating herself from her. I felt Celia’s loss of not being raised by her biological mother. Because I love my daughter and her birth mom, the day I took my daughter home was the saddest day of my life.

I don’t ignore the sadness when I say that day was also the happiest of my life. Because there is such profound loss, there is a profound need for redemption. At the entrustment ceremony, I experienced God’s spirit of redemption. We were all broken and lost, needing God to intervene, and God found us and brought us together to help each other heal.  I wasn’t happy just because I was now a father. I am joyful because God the Father restores this broken world, and this adoption is one small part of that universal story.

As I am inadequately trying to express how I felt, I think I realize the difference between joy and happiness. If I didn’t understand and feel the sadness of that day, I would be simply happy. But when the loss and sadness are felt in conjunction with the happiness, there is joy, which is permanent and profound. In other words, that day’s happiness doesn’t replace the sadness. They coexist. The same applies to my understanding of the Gospel, and our adoption story has greatly increased my understanding of the Gospel. Only when we truly understand the depth of our meaninglessness, our existential dread, do we experience the joy that comes from God’s grace and salvation, which gives us true meaning. As Christians, we can’t ignore our meaninglessness. We must remind ourselves again and again, we must carry it with us always, so we understand what it was God has saved us from.

Well, enough of the theology. After the entrustment ceremony, we drove home with our little daughter in the back seat of our car. On the way to the hospital, I think I averaged 84 mph. Driving home that day, I didn’t exceed 48.