Getting ready for court this morning, I wasn't very nervous. I really felt calm and peaceful. Hector was slightly nervous as he had no idea what questions the judge might ask of him. I just trusted that we would answer from our hearts and that we would be absolutely fine.
Marina picked us up around 9am and took us straight to the courthouse, where we waited on a small bench while she collected the social worker, the representative from the orphanage and the prosecutor. Meanwhile, two witnesses also filed into the hallway waiting for our court as well. This is when my stomach went crazy with butterflies. I realized then that we would essentially be on "stage" and would need to fight for our little girl. We waited until about 10:15 before we were allowed into the courtroom. I decided to show Marina our photo album at this point and she quickly brought it over to the witnesses, the social worker and the orphanage representative. They seemed to enjoy the album and I heard a lot of "syndrome de Down" talk but otherwise we have no idea what they thought of the photos they saw. I had compiled an album full of pictures of our home, our vacations as a family, tons of photos of the boys, photos of our nephew Andres who has DS and is 19 years old, photos of our community and all the gorgeous babies with DS, photos of Joaquin doing his therapies and photos of our families and our wedding day. I hope they enjoyed it and I hope it opened up a few eyes about the potential of children and adults with DS being fully included in society.
We waited another 10-15 minutes for the judge to arrive and when he did we realized we had seen him in the hallway a few times going into and out of different offices. He was a young judge maybe early 30's, very tall and a large frame with a bit of a boyish "pudge" about him. He had a half grin on his face and kind eyes although he played VERY serious in his courtroom.
The prosecutor was a mid to late forties something woman who looked a little bit like the editor of Vogue Anna Wintour but without the "glam" factor. She seemed very firm and very by the book and showed very little expression and very rarely looked at us. Oh the nerves were really starting to go crazy and I worried I might pass out.
The social worker reminded me of Tammy Faye with her makeup but was wearing a polo style shirt and jeans, very casual and relaxed. The orphanage representative had the soft, warm look of a grandma in her early 60's with a nurse type practicality about her. We learned that Sofia's parents were married and this was their first pregnancy and that Sofia has no siblings. We also learned that her biological parents were considered highly educated, her mother studied economics and her father studied law. Both the social worker and the orphanage representative wanted us to know that what we were doing for Sofia was absolutely necessary and kept stressing to us that if these children (children with DS or any other disability) are not adopted by age 4 or 5, they will die in the institution setting. Grim but true.
Up and down we stood each time the judge spoke with us. We answered all the formalities and then the true questioning began. Hector courageously volunteered to take the majority of the questions and all I can say is that I've never been more proud of him and his composure and his wonderful, thorough and thoughtful answers to all the questions that were asked of him.
Then it was my turn and I really got it easy since Hector had explained most everything about us but of course the first question the judge asked me was what I though of Sofia and that is when the tears welled up in my eyes and I got pretty emotional. I did my best not to burst into tears and was able to get through my questioning with composure.
I really think we sailed through the questions because of our experience with Down syndrome and having Joaquin. Once the questioning began, we realized we were going to do just fine. It seemed that everyone really wanted to know about the therapies available, the medical benefits and what type of future we can expect for Sofia. Everyone just seemed eager to know that there really is a place for a person with DS in society. We told them that people with DS can go to college, drive a car, get married, hold a job and that there is huge potential in each individual. We also stressed that Sofia would be raised knowing where she came from and that we would teach her about her culture and give her the opportunity to visit if she ever wanted to. The only question asked of us by one of the witness was if Hector's parents were alive and how old they were. We're guessing he wanted to see what type of longevity Hector might have...maybe?
The judge agreed to only ONE court date during the proceedings which was a HUGE victory for our region. I think everyone in that courtroom was shocked and it was at that point that we really were able to BREATHE again.
The judge excused himself for about 15 minutes with the witnesses and prosecutor following him to make his final decision. When he returned he officially pronounced us the parents of Sofia Andrea Sanchez.
The 10 day waiting period was not waived and we are in the process of working out a return date with Marina when she gets back from her vacation. Unfortunately it looks like it might be closer to one month before we are able to return and get our precious girl.
After court, we wanted to present Sofia's original "baby groupa" with a gift from us. We decided to give it to her baby groupa and not her current groupa since that is where she spent her entire 14 months before being recently transferred. High on the orphanage wish list was a couch for the groupa room so that when the staff feed the babies, they have somewhere to sit. Right now, there is nowhere for them to sit and this makes feeding time very uncomfortable for the staff and the babies. We decided we would LOVE to purchase a couch for them so we went to the local furniture store and picked out the biggest couch we could find, bought it on the spot and hired two workers to deliver it to the orphanage later that same day. I will tell you it was the BEST $300 we have ever spent. It felt amazing to give back to the orphanage in some way that would make their lives better and more comfortable. When Marina called the director to tell them what we had purchased, she said the director was screaming with joy! How cool is that? There will be money given to the orphanage as well from our adoption but they like to use that for medications for the children since they have so many sick babies. They rarely if ever budget for luxury items and a couch is considered a luxury there.
We also found out that Sofia's orphanage is one of the poorer ones and is often overlooked because it is not in a big city. They are in desperate need of everything. So, we plan to pack light on our next trip and bring two full suitcases of clothes for the children so if anyone in the Sacramento area would like to donate clothes we will do our best to take as much as possible with us next trip. They also need diapers so if anyone would like to donate money towards a diaper run when we get there, we would be happy to collect that and keep it separate in a "Diaper Fund" and purchase those when we get into town.
All in all it was a great day albeit very emotionally exhausting. We left a small bag of toys and pj's and Sofia's polka dot jacket and pink hat in her locker so they know we are coming back for her. We weren't able to see her one last time as it was her nap time when we got there but we pray that God watches over her and the others the next few weeks until we return and bring her home.
On another very special note, Marina said that we will be allowed to get good pictures of the other children in Sofia's groupa (mainly Liza) when we return and we will get all the details on her and some other's if we can to put them on the Reece's Rainbow website. I can't wait...because I'm going to HOLD Liza when we take her photo!