"Love is not a victory march,
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah." - Leonard Cohen
November is Adoption Awareness Month.
It is also the month that seven years ago, after two years of journeying through the adoption process, we became parents to our first son.
It was November 5, 2009. We'd been at in Sri Lanka four weeks at this point and had visited the orphanage at the convent each day for two short hours. There had been meetings with lawyers, social services and our son's biological mother and throughout it all, this day, our court day, looming large on the horizon.
My memories of this day are sharp and vivid. I remember how it felt as we sat in the sweltering court room in Colombo waiting to be called into the judge's private room. Sat with beating hearts and sweaty hands in our formal attire, while behind us our son sat in his biological mother's arms and beside her sat one of the sisters from the convent, eyes closed, silently praying her rosary in the midst of the noise and heat and crowd.
Finally, it was our turn. We were called, one by one to answer a long list of questions before the judge. We had been told that each answer was to end with a small bow and the word "Sir". I could feel my legs shaking. I was afraid I would forget my name, my age, my reasons for this adoption. It proceeded with an air of unreality. We all answered what was asked, it was translated, transcribed, the symbolic act of William being placed in my arms by his biological mother in front of the judge was somehow managed.
I felt so clumsy. Inept.
Several more minutes passed. We were done. It was done. It was really, really done. We walked out of the private room. Couldn't meet anyone's eyes. Down the stairs. Out the doors. Into a heat that suddenly felt oppressive and heavy. We took our new son, were told by someone, no, no, no, not here...wait until we are farther away from the court building.
Down the street. We walked quickly, eyes on the ground. My husband and I, our guide, our son's biological mother and our son and the kind nun. An odd group. "Now." On the side of a crowded narrow street. I met her eyes. Held out my arms, wasn't sure what to do. Nothing felt as I thought it would.
(I don't want to write about my son's biological mother's grief or try to imagine what she may have felt at that moment. I don't want to cheapen it with my words and interpretations.)
But I remember.
Taking our son in my own arms. This time not symbolically. The nun reaching over and making the sign of the cross on his forehead. His piercing screams as I took him. The sight of his mother walking away, bent over. Sobbing. The nuns arms around her. Keeping her from falling. Our guide saying "let's go". The people on the street stopping whatever business they were busy with and watching us and the drama unfolding before them. The car ride back to the hotel which only lasted minutes. I held my new son in my arms in the backseat. Cried. Cried. Cried. "I'm so sorry baby. I'm so sorry. So sorry."
There were no outside the court building pictures. It was love on all sides but it didn't feel like victory. Not at the moment it occurred. It was gut-wrenching heartbreak. It was incomprehensible. It was life in an imperfect world.
I couldn't write about it then and I find it hard to write about it now. This day was agony. This day was joy. An end. A beginning. A changing of hands. An answer to prayers. An uprooting.
A lifelong opportunity to honor this woman by loving her son well.
No, love is not always a victory march but somewhere under all this pain, there were strains of a cold and very broken hallelujah.
|William on the plane from Sri Lanka to London.|