October 21, 2011 was our day. It was our court date. For over a week, the girls had been asking if today was THE day when they would get to wear their pink dresses. We got dressed. I put little pink headbands on the girls. Sylvia's shoes were much too big and she had to stuff them with some toilet paper to keep them on. JoAni's shoes were pretty tight but they did fit (by the time we would head back to the States 4 weeks later, you could barely pry them on). Ryan's size 3T pants would barely stay on even when Josh rolled the waste band down 2 times. He also rolled up Ryan's pant legs. The girls were absolutely glowing.
I have heard of SO many court dates getting rescheduled. We had been warned that sometimes you would show up and wait all day only to find out that the judge wasn't going to be in that day. When a court date gets rescheduled, you don't get your new date right away. You get it when you get it. In the meantime you sit in limbo. So we were thrilled when we arrived at court and an hour or so later were informed that the judge had been seen in the building. Our attorney came to us at one point after 2 or 3 hours of waiting and asked us to not get impatient or give up and that we just needed to wait. We told her that we would happily wait until 8pm if it meant our case being heard that day.
We learned that our children's grandmother and aunt had arrived. The village elder and another woman from the community also came to testify. The kids were very excited to hear that they were there. It felt wrong to try and keep them apart. So we went to find them. They were all so happy to see each other. We got out their crayons and they showed the pictures that they had drawn. I had put together a little photo book which included pictures of our family and house back home that was to be given to the judge. The girls were so very excited to show their grandmother and all the others.
I had packed a couple little packages of cookies in my backpack. It was lunch time, we were still waiting, and we were all hungry. So I broke out the cookies but I felt nervous the whole time, thinking that someone would see us sharing cookies with the kids' family and think that I was trying to bribe the family, as if 2 little cookies per person would bribe a person to give up a child. Ethics in adoption is a big deal and so you have to be very careful, but looking back on it now I feel pretty confident that those cookies didn't cross the line.
After about 4 hours of waiting, we were called into the court room. When we entered, another family's case was in the process of being heard. The judge called the adopting mom forward. He asked her many questions. The couple already had one adopted child and they were in the process of adopting 2 siblings. When he asked her if they wanted biological kids, she replied that they didn't know yet. Her answer was not very clear and kind of bounced around. Right away I could feel that the judge didn't like her answer. I don't think he was looking for a yes or no. I just think he was trying to get a picture of what the situation was and didn't appreciate a vague answer when he was trying to determine if they were suitable parents for these two children.
We sat waiting for a good hour before our case was heard. The room was very hot and insanely humid. Sarah sat on my lap. Ryan sat on Josh's lap to the left of me. Sylvia and JoAni shared a chair to my left. Somehow they understood the importance of that day. At one point the kids had to pee. I was rather proud of myself for herding them in and out of the courtroom as quickly and quietly as 4 young children are capable.
The judge questioned the aunt, he called the village elder, and the woman from the community. 75% of the case took place in Lugandan. The whole time I was bracing for the moment when he would call me and question me like the prior adopting mom. It never happened. I would like to think that he saw how well we were getting along with the kids and how they looked well cared for. Then came the grandmother. She was moaning, wincing, and even howling as three people carried her into the room. It's hard to explain what I witnessed. It was clear that she was in support of this adoption. It was clear that she was speaking clearly and telling the judge exactly what she thought, no holding back. When he was done questioning her, he said something and she did a little victory arm shake up in the air. Clearly she felt that it went well. The judge told us that he would give a decision in a week.
After all was said and done we packed up and headed out. Our coordinator told us that he thought it went well. JoAni looked up at us and said "we go to America?" She was so hopeful. I felt horrible that she thought it was done, that she thought it was over, and that it would be that easy. Over the next week or so, I managed to communicate to her that we needed a yes from the judge and a yes from the US embassy in order to go to the States. It was difficult to be honest and help her know what to expect, without scaring her with the idea that it could fall apart. How do explain something so complicated with so much at stake to a kid?