Those are her initials. Her full name is Kiana Maria Ghomeshi. And the court approved my adoption of her today. Tomorrow the fifteen day waiting period begins during which if a family member of hers shows up the adoption will not go through. Tomorrow is also the day that the Canadian-approved doctor comes to examine her. This could also affect the adoption process. But if all goes well, in 15 days she’ll be declared my daughter and I’ll get to spring her from the baby house and post pictures!!!
Kiana (kee-AH-na) is a Persian name meaning “elements of nature.” Maria is the name she was given at birth. I had been fully prepared to keep her given name if it was something that sounded okay in English. I like a lot of the common names here: Ainura, Gulnara, Moldir, Zhunara for girls and Zhumbec, Tamirlan, Damir, for boys. I hadn't been prepared for something I hear all the time in English. I decided it might make a nicer middle name. They also call her Masha and Marishka and Malinka (which just means baby, I think.) I call her Kiana-Maria for now and will eventually drop the second part. I can now also confess that the song I sing most often to her is “Maria” from West Side Story, especially during our walks around the baby house.
About court: There are no funny hats. I went to the courthouse at noon. It was a swelteringly hot day. We went up a few flights of stairs and into a small room with a linoleum floor and plain white walls. There was cheap-but-functional furniture arranged against all four walls. There were three desks facing inwards, one for the judge, one for the prosecutor (a young woman) on the left and one for the secretary (another young woman) on the right. On the fourth side (the door-side) facing the judge there were three rows of benches. I sat in the front row with my translator. My coordinator and a student observer sat behind us. And the social worker and a doctor from the baby house sat in the back row. All women. The judge was the only man and the only person in costume (a long burgundy robe). The social worker and the doctor were very comfortable with the setting and obviously knew each other fairly well. The judge on the other hand (who is probably the same age as me) seemed a bit shy which he covered by being very brusque.
The actual process was solemn and serious. The rules of the court were explained. I had to stand up and state that I understood them. Each person was identified and had to stand up when addressed. I did the most standing up and sitting down of anyone cued by prods from my translator. It reminded me of the few times I’ve been to a church service. At the beginning I made a speech about who I was and why I was there at the end of which I had to ask the court to allow me to adopt Maria. The judge asked me a series of questions, none of them particularly hard or hostile. In fact, it all seemed respectful. Then the doctor of the baby house and the social worker each made speeches only about a third of which got translated for me. This was frustrating even though I realize that simultaneous translation is very hard. In each case they were telling a story about Maria that I desperately wanted to know every single word of. The judge read aloud the contents of my dossier (the social worker’s report, my medical report, the Interpol criminal record check.) It felt ceremonial rather than like a trial. The prosecutor asked a few questions of the baby house doctor and none of me, which I learned later was unusual. After all this the judge left for about ten minutes. The women all looked at my pictures – a small album of my home and family, and second one of pictures of me and Maria. I had been instructed to bring them for the judge but he didn’t ask for them. During this part I felt I was in a room full of aunts. When the judge returned I had to stand and ask again for permission to adopt Maria. He briefly reviewed the case, announced that the decision was positive and then, as if embarrassed, quickly left the room. The whole thing took about an hour. I was a bit stunned and perhaps because of that forgot to take pictures. I think I’ll regret this forever. I’ve got hundreds of pictures of buildings but none of this important day.
My favourite question: What do you like about Maria? I think it’s sweet that that’s part of the official record.
The question I found the strangest: Do you want to change her name, or her place and date of birth? I said I wanted to change her name. But why would I want to change her place of birth or birth date?
The point where I was most confused: when he asked what I do as the Director of the Institute for the Humanities. I had no clue. I fumbled a bit and then said apologetically, "it's a very small institute."
The point where the judge was most confused: over American and Canadian dollars. He didn’t understand why both appeared in parts of my dossier. He didn’t know that they both are called dollars and both use the same sign. Once we’d explained this he didn’t know what the difference was. He seemed quite bothered by this.
The part I liked the least: Children are available to be adopted by people from outside the country only if there is no possibility of their being adopted domestically. This too is part of the court record and both the baby house director and the social worker had to address this point. I think it is reasonable to want children to stay in the country of their birth. But it takes away a bit from my ceremony to be treated as a last resort. Not that I am, really, but in the theatre of the court that’s the case that has to be made.
I visited Kiana-Maria in the afternoon and spent a couple of happy hours with her. I would have liked for her to have been present at court. I realize she wouldn’t have known what was going on but it was a very big day for her and it would have been nice for her to be part of it … if only just in the pictures … which I forgot to take anyway.