I was glad that we got to the courthouse early because it meant we were able to take photos outside before most other people started showing up. Clara was in a great mood and looked so darling in the yellow cardigan and floral dress my mom bought for her. Paul and I dressed our lawyerliest (partially at my insistence that I could not bring myself to go in front of a judge without a suit jacket - it would just be too weird for me.)
After taking photos outside the Santa Clara Superior Court, we went through security.
The Court had put together a little program for all of the families having their adoptions finalized today in celebration of National Adoption Month. There were 35 children being adopted by 28 families. It was so amazing to be a part of that. There were children being adopted through the foster care system, little twin girls from India who were probably 18 months old, and our little Clara who was the youngest child there. There were a couple of short messages delivered by judges and adoption advocates. Then we were all dismissed to the various courtrooms we had been assigned to.
We went to Department 10 on the 4th floor for our finalization hearing before Judge Valencia in his chambers. Clara fell asleep just as we were getting on the elevator and took a little 10-15 minute catnap while we waited in the courtroom for a family that was in line ahead of us to meet with the judge.
In addition to me, Paul and Clara, the other people who were present included the judge, his bailiff, a clerk, the court reporter, and a volunteer who took care of our paperwork for us and took our photos with the judge after the hearing was over. Judge Valencia commented on Clara's purple shoes. The hearing only took about 15 minutes. We went on the record and I held Clara on my lap while Paul and I took the Oath. The judge asked us about our adoption expense report, we signed some paperwork, and then the judge asked us to repeat the following after him:
We, Paul and Amy,
Solemnly swear to treat Clara
In all respects as our natural child.
We are prepared to accept
This gift of a child to raise.
We will share our lives with her,
Help to mold her mind,
Nurture her body,
And enrich her spirit.
We will never betray her trust,
Dampen her hopes, or
Discourage her dreams.
We make this commitment willingly.
We will cherish Clara
All the days of our lives.
I could hear Paul holding back the emotion in his voice as we repeated the words after the judge said them. All I could do was just smile. Clara started chattering along with us - she has been making very purposeful noises lately like she is actually attempting words and conversation rather than just emitting random baby noises - and I smiled even bigger. And just like that, we were legally made into a family. We were a family before, but this felt special and important. It felt right. And I was thanking my lucky stars and my Father in Heaven for the blessing of today and of Clara and of Paul and Kayli and adoption and so many other things that make life so wonderful.
Afterwards the judge invited us to take photos with him in his chambers. He even asked if he could hold Clara for a bit. I was so glad that her stranger anxiety didn't kick in because she had been in such a great mood the entire morning. Instead, she seemed pretty fascinated by the judge's mustache and kept trying to touch his face. Funny girl.
While our volunteer went to wait in line to file the adoption decree with the court, Paul and I joined the other families for a post-finalization refreshments and a celebration where each child was given a blanket donated by Project Linus (we chose a white and yellow crocheted throw that is really darling), a stuffed animal, and a balloon. We left the courthouse by about 10:15 so that Paul could change clothes before heading to the office.
I can't hit "publish" on this post without inviting you to link over to Kayli's blog to read her take on finalization that she posted this morning. She is amazing. She is our angel and my hero. I hope she knows that.
I've used enough superlatives for one blog post, but let me just sum up today by saying that I felt so much love for our perfect, happy, intelligent and beautiful little girl. Looking forward to December and eternity now...