At six-thirty in the morning we strapped Kira into her car seat and entered the rush hour of Houston traffic as the whole city attempts to funnel oversized motor vehicles into the downtown area. We were on our way to the court house to put the final exclamation point onto our adoption. We arrived early and hung out in the basement of the court house sipping coffee and observing Kira socialize. She’s not quiet. And, much worse, she’s cutting a huge first molar. I can see the gums tear and the blood coagulate. It was going to be a long morning. She’s letting us know it hurts.
A court house is not a place for a baby. Her presence quickly separates people into two groups: those who adore babies, and those who don’t. And believe me, there’s all manner of life hanging out at the court house. I heard a woman remark to her two friends, “that’s the darkest baby I’ve ever seen.” They didn’t know I heard. I wanted to say, “it’s the prettiest color you’ll ever see.” There were some daggers thrown at me from hard stares because my screeching child was not getting her way and letting everyone know. I had to wear my bullet proof protection that morning so the stress of feeling we were bothering others because Kira was misbehaving wouldn’t add to my stress. I simply don’t care what they think. When I was a new mom I was so concerned about my children not disturbing anyone in public, anywhere, anyhow that I worked myself into a panic attack. I realized by now on the fifth child the anxiety of trying to satisfy everyone is totally unnecessary. Babies are babies. Sometimes they are sweet, and sometimes they are just plain awful. I can only do the best I can do and not give a further thought to it. And, that my friends, is one of the benefits of being an older mom.
Our lawyer met with our judge two weeks ago to confirm she would waive the six month waiting period before finalizing our adoption. She said in our case because Kira was abandoned that she would. (It’s already been four months since we got guardianship from Uganda for her.) But the man who sat at the bench yesterday morning didn’t look like a Lisa. He called my lawyer into his chambers and said he wasn’t going to approve our adoption this morning. Our lawyer assured him that the other judge said she would so he said he would call her and confirm this, which she did. Then he ordered to have a court recorder come to write every word we say for the record. Meanwhile, running an hour and a half late, I was in the hallway with a tantrum throwing 14 month old. Smile. On each side of the hallway was a court room entrance. The police officer from the other courtroom came out to the hallway and informed me she could hear the baby in her court room and it was disruptive. She needed to be removed. I had a few things to say but I bit my tongue, smiled politely and said, “yes ma’am.” And then I did nothing because we had every right to be there. (a good example of passive aggressive behavior)
Finally the court recorder arrived, the judge called us forward and we stated our case. Kira was cranky, throwing everything on the ground, reaching for what she could not have, and pinching my arm. Occasionally she would look at the blank faces behind us and say, “Hi.” That was cute but no one cracked a smile. I was a sight to see by the audience of lawyers and clients who were all present to legalize divorce. The judge said to Kira, “Congratulations you are an American”. Case closed. I was relieved because it was only a five minute process in front of the judge, and we were out of there.
After the stress of the morning I can say the reality of what happened was a fuzzy, blurred distant reality. I just wanted Kira to go to sleep in the car all the way home so I could decompress. My lawyer, and my very good dear friend was so excited for us and we were a slump of weary, an unenergetic pair waving a miniature American flag in one hand and a Ugandan flag in the other muttering, yippee. It will take some time to sink in that it’s finally over. The legal chapter of becoming Kira’s parents has closed. A new chapter begins where Kira can celebrate the fact that she is: AFRICAN and AMERICAN. She’s not African-American. There’s a big difference. And the way we raise her will show how. I just know from where I sit I don’t know how to raise her with our country’s history of the African-American, and it doesn’t really fit who she is. I only know how to connect her with Uganda and her heritage there. And being American she can discover what that means for herself. It’s going to be an interesting journey.