I've been meaning to write about this since it happened, back in October, and for obvious reasons, now seems like the right time.
Back in late 2008, we found out that the rules had changed for people adopting from where we live, and we were going to have to make two trips to Ethiopia. We were also going to have to appear in Court in person. What can I say? We were incredibly upset. All that extra time and money, not to mention the thought of having to meet a baby and then leave it behind. We got the news a long time ago, and a lot has happened since, but I do remember how awful it made me feel, especially when it came totally out of the blue.
I do remember that. But we did end up going to court, and here is something that I will never forget: A tall, older man, probably a grandfather, leading a tiny girl by the hand through the doors of the adoption court. Her, scurrying to keep up, chattering away to him and tugging on his clothes. Him, reaching down to touch her head. The love between them was palpable. I didn't see what happened to her, but I think I can guess.
Something else I will never forget: the sharp and obvious divide between those who seemed to be there to represent adoption agencies, and those who must have been there to formally relinquish their children. For one group of people, laughing and chatting to each other and a chance to catch up. Another day at work. For so many of the others, a quiet murmuring, or silence, and eyes cast down. A sense of disenfranchisement so intense you could taste it.
And something else: We were one of only three white couples there, and I think we three couples were the only PAPs in court that day. I know one other couple was also British, and the third seemed to be speaking Spanish. And that was it. And I knew we were only there because we absolutely had to be - I'm not claiming any kind of moral superiority, because we didn't make a choice, just did what we were told. But I did wonder. Why is it that birthfamilies have to be there, and on the whole, we do not? They are ushered into a room with a judge and make some kind of declaration, and relinquish their child - to whom? Where are these new parents? Why aren't we all here to promise these children a lifetime of love?
So. There are definite upsides to taking two trips. And I'll post more about those personal upsides another day. But appearing in court? Well, I think these new rules are right. Not because it benefits us, but because I feel we should be there, and be there humbly. It is an inconvenient journey. It is definitely expensive. It is, in so many ways, heart-wrenching. But not, surely, in comparison to the journey taken by these other mothers who are also there, the journey that ends with empty arms.
This is a very serious thing we do, taking somebody else's child. I think I'm only really realising how serious now. And if relinquishing parents have to be there? Well, I think we should be there too.