Our sweet girl wasn't truly OURS yet - even after she came home. We were simply her custodial guardians. The Thai Adoption Board requires a 6 month post-placement period where you must complete medical requirements, have a social worker visit your home multiple times, and send photos and reports back to Thailand. After that you are allowed to legally finalize your adoption - but only when the court has availability (which for us, was not until September). During this period of time when our adoption was not yet final we could not share public photos of our family, our daughter retained her birth name, and our adoption agency retained the rights to our child. The paperwork we were required to sign in Thailand actually stated that our agency could "report against the adoption" and either place our child with a different family OR send her back to Thailand if they chose to. While I knew that situation was highly unlikely (and that this contingency only exists to protect adopted children placed in an unhealthy/unsafe home) it was a terrifying thing to have in the back of my mind all these months. To know that someone else held that power over our family was frightening. To know that we completely adored this child, and would absolutely lay our lives down for her - but she wasn't legally OURS - was an excruciating thing. And I was reminded of that reality at every doctor's appointment (when they called out her birth name, instead of "Kate Jackson").
Even though Hurricane Irma gave us a good scare (and caused me several sleepless nights worrying about our court date being cancelled) - the "silver lining" (to the hurricane clouds) was that Irma brought my brother and sister in law to town! Jaron & Michelle had to evacuate since they live in Florida. So even though we thought my parents would be the only family close enough to attend, "Uncle Jaron & Auntie Shell" just happened to be in Alabama on the perfect day! Kate was thrilled!!! (and so were we - especially once we heard their home was left unscathed in Florida, and that all our friends - and theirs - survived the hurricane with minimal damage to their property too. We're so thankful!)
We're also thankful for our sweet friend Alison of Alison Wilkey Photography who took these beautiful photos. It's hard for us to get pictures of our family when we're always the ones behind the camera. But Alison generously gifted us this session, and it was such a blessing to have someone else "worrying" about the photos! I loved having her there with us, and I still can't believe she got so many great shots of our wiggly girl!
Today #myThaidarling officially became Kate Suwichada Jackson. As her special adoption gift, we gave her a custom locket with a family photo inside. The inside is engraved with her Thai birthname and her Thai nickname, and the back is engraved with her new initials. We wanted something to symbolize that she will always and forever be ALL of these names. Who she was for 4 years did not disappear today. Her identity is forever linked to her birth family, the wonderful caregivers she had in the orphanage, and now to us - her forever family! We want to always honor every part of who she is and where she has come from, and we hope this gift becomes an heirloom she will cherish for years to come.
Sweet Kate, today you are ours FOREVER. We promise to protect you, provide for you, and to do everything we can to help you accomplish your dreams! We promise to accept you no matter what you do, how you feel, or who you become. We promise to help you find ways to honor your past and embrace your present. We promise to always celebrate your birth country and culture, and to help you understand and appreciate it however we can. We promise to always have your back, and to give you every bit of support we have to give. We promise that we will always be your BIGGEST fans! But most of all, darling girl, we promise to LOVE you. Forever and ever. You are our greatest gift! 💜