Winding through the narrow red clay streets of Nairobi in early morning commuting traffic, I was weary. Eva and I were headed to what I hoped would be the final hearing on her adoption. I had been living in Nairobi Kenya for over 5 months. I had rented an apartment in Nairobi, leaving behind in Indianapolis my husband Tom and our 4 children in order to meet the court imposed requirement that I live in Nairobi with Eva for 3 months before we could complete her adoption. One document away from getting her a visa and taking her home, I was frantically hopeful. So many times, I had been through this torture that was Hearing Day. It followed a night of no sleep as I played the negative “what ifs” over and over in my mind. Afraid I would miss my alarm, Eva would be sick, our taxi would not show. In this foreign country, there was just so much out of my control. We left our apartment hours early to ensure that no traffic could keep us away. I could have walked to the courthouse about 7 miles away in the time I allowed for our taxi to deliver us. The courthouse always left me teary. Somehow, I had come to Kenya in October sure that everyone would be on our side as we sought Eva’s adoption. Couldn’t they tell by looking and surely by talking to me that I would be the best mother for Eva. I had traveled so far and sacrificed so much, wouldn’t I be rewarded and even congratulated for my effort. That was not the case; I unexpectedly faced skepticism and worse, resistance to her adoption. It seemed like so many of the officials were proud of the many obstacles they put in front of me and were not cheered as I met each one.
Over-sensitivity is an easy description of me, but add to that the loneliness of being away from my family, and I was just a wreck. This building had been a source of great tension for me for the past 5 months. We had been faced with delays and disappointed by the Judge’s insistence on additional documents. Every time I entered this building, filled with mostly Africans, I stood out against the backdrop of compliant Kenyans wiling to walk through the halls without meeting my gaze. The delays and inconveniences were not saved for me. It was just that they were so hard for me to accept. I had 4 children on the other side of the world and could think of nothing but my return home. “Be Patient” was a phrase I heard countless times when I expressed my frustration at a cancelled hearing or a missed appointment. I could not be patient. I was so tired. I spent my days pushing thoughts of our other children out of my mind. Trying not to think of them knowing that the tears would flow and I would still be here, waiting and waiting for the Judge to realize that I was Eva’s mother.
Crying at every little thing. I entered ready to play the “court dance” where I paced the halls trying to make it look to everyone that I was a good mom, loving with Eva and yet stern enough that I looked like I really thought of her as mine. It was exhausting. Today, this hopeful last day, I had my new friend Susanna and my cousin Jean with me. Susanna and Jean were also waiting to adopt and Susanna had been here many more months than I had.
Like most adventures with a small child, I was wiped out by the time we were called for the hearing. My bag of tricks was empty. I was now tired and hungry which was a dangerous combination for my emotional self. Inside the courtroom, the Judge did not appear happy. I was confused and did not understand how the document we got from our social worker in the United States was not satisfying his question of our suitability to parent. He was agitated by my obvious emotion as I cried and clung to my attorney. He sneered at me as my attorney tried to calm me. I knew displays of emotion were not seen as sincere, but as showmanship of a foreigner trying to take unfair advantage of the Kenyan court system. All morning, I had a sense that I had reached the breaking point. I could not call home again with disappointing news. I was sure that as I reached my perceived finish line, that I could not do another lap around any track. It was a complete lack of reserves. I had nothing left and it scared me. Now it appeared to my paranoid self that I was going to face another delay. I had been bouncing Eva on my lap for almost an hour in this unventilated room. Slipping her treats and toys to keep her quiet and occupied while my attorney and the Judge went back and forth about whether all the documents were in order. Then without so much as a sigh or break in his scowl, I think I heard the Judge say “From this day forward, she will be forever known as Eva Amani Obuyanzi Barnard.”
This beautiful baby girl was ours… a Barnard. It had been an incredible adventure and I was just rational enough to know that the adventure was just beginning. Yet we had come so far. This baby girl had pushed all of us to our breaking point yet we all knew that it was worth every tear, mile and minute of our journey.