Having realized the possibilities of her adopting a child in Nepal were slim, M put a dossier in Mali straight away. It had been there only a month but she was off to Bamako to give a helping hand in the orphanage in the hope that it would advance her case. She was not expecting to be selected in the next commission, she said as we sat in the Grand Café discussing our chances, although miracles could happen..... Meanwhile I was fairly confident. Our Malian lawyer had, in January, given me reason to be. ‘You were this close in the last commission’ he said, joining his his elegant index finger with his thumb over his breakfast in Terminus Nord. ‘You will Certainly be selected in the next.’ I had abandoned the dossier in Haiti and decided to wait. Now, sitting in the ancient stone vaults of the restaurant in the Papal city, Marie and I raised our glasses in the hope we would both get through this hurdle, and that we would be Mums together.
I handed M two letters to take to Bamako, one for the head of the orphanage and one for the head of the adoption committee. In these letters I told our news and wrote about what a wonderful person my M was. I hugged my new friend and wished her a Bon Voyage.
Insha'Allah, we agreed.
Twice a day I receive and delete emails from the various adoptanafricanchild forums. Last Thursday, for some reason, I opened up the email and there, under new messages, I found dozens of blissed out cries. ‘Its my turn at last!’ ‘The Malian angel has descended upon us!’ ‘Martin will have his little sister at last!’. The yearly commission in Mali had taken place. Wow. In it, the next 125 (out of over a thousand waiting) couples, singles and families had been selected and in the months that followed they would be attributed their baby. On my mobile phone a text message flashed up from Marie. ‘Go to the French Adoption Agency site.’ I quivered as I tapped in my password to access my éspace personelle. It had been two years since our dossier had been in Mali, but three and a half since we had decided to adopt, and eight since we had been trying to have the family we so longed for. Those eight years had been filled with some sadness, of course, but also with wonder. The move to France, the launch of Shifting Light
, delicious operas, three cats, the acquisition and slow but sure bio-dynamic renovation of our beautiful house in the vines…I looked at the dates and the information. There was no date after February 2008 when our dossier arrived in Bamako. Was there a mistake, I wondered? I phoned the French Adoption Agency. No, they said, the website was up to date, and if the September date had not appeared on our éspace personelle, we had not been selected.
I checked my email to see if our lawyer had been in touch. In my box there was nothing from him. Instead there was an email from M. In her happiest hour, having been chosen. She was thinking of us, she said, and carrying us in her heart.
For the next two days I became one of those clicking- over- and- over- and- over- check- the- post- perhaps- there -has been- a- mix- up- kind –of- crazy- women. Where was OUR big white envelope? Where was OUR baby? I wailed. I seethed inside. The rejection, for that is what it felt like, was so unjust. Of course it bought up old grief and new despair. I was jealous of M. I was furious with our lawyer. Julian arranged emergency lap visits from our cat Poskie, brought me glasses of rosé and ran me a bath. He cajoled me into a fancy condolence lunch in Avignon. Afterwards I cried some more. And then I did what they did in the song. I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and started all over again. This time in the Côte d’Ivoire.
I found a wonderful lawyer who said our dossier was strong, and moving, and that we would almost certainly pass fairly swiftly through one of the next commissions that were held every three months. She was coming to France and we would meet. I looked up Ivory Coast in my Lonely Planet guide. I learned about the history and the tribes and slowly I began to get excited again.
And then the telephone rang. It was our lawyer in Mali. ‘But you ARE on the list’ he said. 'There has been a mix up with your maiden and your married names. You will hear from the adoption agency. Just wait.’
So that is what we are doing. We cannot celebrate. Nor can we move on with the Côte d’Ivoire dossier or indeed the Côte Rôtie. All we can do is sit in the sickly sweet fermenting air of the end of the grape harvest. And wait.