April 24, 2012

Adoption Day!

This post's title has an exclamation point because I feel so excited about this post! There is plenty in my life that I am thankful for and there has been plenty that I still doesn't sit right with me, but today was one of those days when everything that is good in my life was fully appreciated. 

Shortly after we moved to Boston and got settled in, Matt and I utilized his company's legal services and hired ourselves a family lawyer to help us process an un-contested adoption. We had talked about this even early on in our dating relationship, and for Matt, legally adopting the girls (although he has long since considered them his own) was something that was very important to him to do. So back in February (I think?) we met with our lawyer for the first time, got all of our paperwork signed and turned in, and then we played the court's waiting game. We heard back from our lawyer at the end of March that we had a finalization hearing set for the end of April. 

Today we met our lawyer and Judge Kaplan at the Edward W. Brooke courthouse in Boston. Our appointment was set for 9 a.m., which, I realize is a normal hour for normal people but my girls sleep in until 8 or 8:30 usually so needing to be in downtown Boston by 9 a.m. made me very nervous about how the rest of the day would play out in terms of their temperament. Matt and I were up by 6, the girls got up at 7 and we were out the door shortly after 8! With traffic, one missed turn, and a venture to the 5th floor of a downtown parking garage, we made it with just enough time to get through security. 

We came prepared to spend lots of time waiting on other cases and the Judge's schedule, but I don't think we were there more than 25 minutes before we were called into a side courtroom to meet with Judge Kaplan. The bailiff was kind enough to take some photos for us of the event using Matt's iPhone (it didn't occur to either of us to bring my camera....I didn't realize that would be allowed in the courtroom!). I'm glad to have some photos of this day, even though they're slightly blurry and have a finger in the way some of the time (he was really a very nice old man).

Here's all of us up on the Judge's bench

Us with Judge Kaplan

Us, Judge Kaplan, and our lawyers

Judge Kaplan signing off on our case!

Everyone saying, "Yaaaaaay!" and clapping...even the girls!

Even though this day was very much centered around Matt, I made sure to wear the necklace that Sean gave to me on our first Valentine's day after we were married. It's just a little part of the memory of him that I get to take with me. Remembering Sean made this day that much more special for me, and I hope that the girls will feel it someday too. 

SO, Matt and I now have two daughters together:

Sophie Michael Martella Sewell and Olivia Sean Martella Sewell.

"Martella" is now a middle name and isn't going to be used as a last name (no hyphenations or anything like that). Even though their names are now a mile long, I've become very sensitive about the meaning behind each and every one of their names. I may have told all or none of you this story before, but I'll share it again here, for the sake of this post.

When Sean and I found out we were having twins we knew that we wanted to have a 20-week ultrasound to find out what the genders were. We talked a lot about names that we liked for both boys and for girls. Sean's favorite name for a girl was "Sophie". He said when he thought of that name, he could picture a little girl who had big eyes like me, with lighter hair like him, and she'd be adorable. My favorite name for a girl was "Olivia". I envisioned a little girl with lots of spunk, sass, and who was a sweetheart through and through.

When Sean died, I was 16, almost 17 weeks pregnant, and my ultrasound was literally days away. It still breaks my heart to think about it. When I went in for the ultrasound, Baby "A", who was the baby situated on the bottom-most part of my uterus wasn't in a good position to view, so they began with baby "B"--the one on top. Baby "B" turned out to be a girl, and since Sean and I had decided together that if we had a girl we would use the name I had chosen, she was named "Olivia". By the time the technician was done with baby "B", baby "A" had repositioned and turned out to be a girl as well, thus receiving the name her daddy had chosen, "Sophie". 

Sean and I hadn't settled on middle names yet since we wanted to find out what we were having first, but had talked about the idea of using family names as middle names. When Sean died (remember this is before I knew I was having girls), and I don' know if she'll remember this, but Kathy turned to me and said that if there was a way to honor Sean with the babies names, it would mean the world to them.

When I had settled on "Sophie" and "Olivia", and when I thought about those words spoken to me by my mother-in-law, I knew that their middle names, their "family names", should be a direct reflection on their father. I picked "Sean" as Olivia's middle name since she was the baby named first, and "Michael", Sean's middle name, to go with Sophie. 

Almost 4 months later, Sophie Michael Martella and Olivia Sean Martella were born. I saw so much of Sean in them then, and continue to see him in them as they develop both physically and emotionally. 

As you can see, this is a lot of meaning behind my daughter's names! It was important to me for them to take Matt's last name, "Sewell", as theirs  since he has stepped into their lives to fill a crucial role that will be irreplaceable for them. He is their father; their daddy. They cry for him when he leaves, they give him tickles, slobbery wet kisses, and ask him to read them stories while they sit in his lap. Having a part of his heritage passed on to them, even in the form of a surname, is very meaningful to both of us. 

All in all, even with the excitement that Judge Kaplan encouraged us to show regarding this event, Matt and I don't really feel any differently. We never needed a legal document to feel like a complete family, and we went on about our day as normally as we could (the girls' nap schedule...and bedtime now for that matter, was completely thrown off today), although we did celebrate by going out to dinner together. This is definitely a significant step for all of us, but we're grateful that we have established ourselves as a family outside of what the law recognizes. Families truly do come in all shapes and sizes, from all different makeups and backgrounds, and as for ours--it's simply perfect.


  1. Karen, that is beautiful! You have a wonderful little family and I loved this post. -Heather (Purser) Haskin

  2. Karen, Matt, Sophie & Olivia, I had a letter/comment all typed up but then I decided, there was no need to bore you with MY feelings. Basically, I wanted to tell you that I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! I'm SO THANKFUL for the LOVE that you and Matt continue to share with us. THANK YOU for being such a loving Mommy AND Daddy to my precious 'Great Nieces'...I know Sean would be honored to have his AND your little Angel's being given such LOVE! It means more to us (The Martella Family) than you will ever know that you have NOT left Sean and the rest of the Martella's out of your new lives. Thank you SO MUCH Karen AND Matt for not leaving us behind and allowing us to be a part of your new lives "Sewell Family." We will always be Family :) I pray that someday we will all be able to get to know you, Matt & your little Angels in person. The only 2 times I have been able to be around you Karen was when my Sweet Mother passed away and when My Sweet Nephew (Sean) passed away...I LOVE YOU ALL, Aunt Laura

  3. Amazing! Wise beyond years, both you and Matt. God has blessed you both with the ability to teach people how to view life. Love you and miss you guys!! Emily Kriech