Jennifer and I sat to the left of the judge assigned to our case. Penelope stood between us, pacing and saying “all done” before we even started. A stack of documents, some in Chinese, some in English, lay before the man who would decided whether to approve domestication of Penelope’s adoption.
The judge appeared to be a firm yet caring man. He commented approvingly on us going to China to complete the adoption.
“It’s required” I said.
“That’s good. I don’t feel right about domesticating an adoption if it wasn’t completed in the child’s birth country.”
He asked us to raise our right hands and if the documents were true and accurate. I wanted to say “After all we had to go through to get the documents, then have them certified and authenticated by the Chinese consulate, I can assure you they are accurate and truthful.” Instead I said “Yes.” His honor’s chambers didn’t seem like the right place to vent any bureaucratic frustrations.
Within minutes he had the document titled Domestication of Foreign Adoption in front of him. With his left hand he signed the last piece of official paperwork in our paper chase. It was like the closing of The Beatles “A Day in the Life”, a symphonic cacophony crescendo followed by John striking the piano. FINITO!
Jenn and I were experiencing the build up too, with paperwork. As the judge extended his hand and said congratulations, I got choked up. I couldn’t speak. I looked over at Jenn and saw tears in her eyes. I knew if I said anything I was going to break down.
“He can’t speak” the court clerk said with a smile. It was obvious how elated we were. I knew this was going to happen.
That morning I read the paperwork one last time, looking for mistakes. I found the “county” of China and changed it to “country”. Everything else was perfect. I reread the first paragraph:
The minor child, YAQIN ZHAO, was born on APRIL 1, 2010, has been adopted by the Act of the Country of the People’s Republic of China, pursuant to its law and as of this 13th day of NOVEMBER, 2012 is deemed and held to be for every purpose the lawful child of JENNIFER URIZ and JEREMY URIZ, as though born to the petitioners.
“As though born to the petitioners”. I felt my throat closing and my face flush, on the verge of tears. I didn’t understand why at that moment this piece of paper was getting me choked up. After all the paperwork completed here and abroad, why this one? Why this paragraph?
Because from the day we turned in our application until we held Penelope in our arms we didn’t know how the process would turn out. A constant fear adoptive parents have is a break down in the process. Or worse the child you hope will be your daughter or son suddenly isn’t. The reasons change during the process. Early on it was concern about making sure all the documents were in order with the correct seals and dates. Then it was concern about Penelope’s health. There were no updates from November until shortly before we left in May.
And the greatest fear of all; that she would not be there when we arrived.
As we now know, that fear was unfounded. The paperwork still remained. Domestication is not required but it seemed to be an important part of the process to us.
So what does all this domestication stuff mean? It means our adoption is on equal footing with any domestic adoption. It means anytime Penelope does something requiring a birth certificate her life will be easier. Rather than providing the Chinese birth certificate she can get one from the state of Georgia. It doesn’t change the status of her adoption or our relation to her as parents. It’s just the final seal of approval to make things as smooth as possible for Penelope when she gets older.