That was the headline I thought could run on Le Monde, Der Spiegel and Canadian media if I could not explain myself out of the box.
In 1997, we flew to France (Lisieux, Normandy) to get Rebecca Christened.
That same year mom and my sister had flown into Canada. Well it is not like I knew what to do with a baby. Our oldest one was raised by my parents in Uganda while I attended school.
My sister flew back home and left mom with us in Toronto.
When the time came to fly to Paris and fly mom to Entebbe, we travelled a bit strangely.
Our family never takes the same flight. Half takes one plane and the other half takes another plane.
So Thierry flew from Toronto straight to Paris.
Rebecca and I flew Toronto to London Heathrow and had to put mom on the plane to Uganda before connecting to Paris.
My travel agent faced issues on that one. She could not arrange for Thierry, Rebecca and I to be on the same plane on our return to Toronto.
That is how I stole a baby.
So at CDG, I check in and get stopped. Martha Leah Nangalama citizen of Canada. Rebecca citizen of Canada.
BLACK as black as they come. Kid is white, as white as they come. I have good DNA but it never goes into the colour. Those who know my kids know that the girls are totally white.
I was taken aside and the kid was taken aside. "Rebecca is your child. Where is the father?". I told them that he had left on the earlier Air Canada flight from CDG a bit ago.
Meanwhile, in the other room some wonderful woman was asking the kid "who is this woman you are travelling with". Reply "oh, that is Auntie Leah". All her life, she knew my name was mommy or Auntie Leah.
But when we flew into Uganda to get Annet home, she was also interviewed by a Canadian Immigration officer and kept referring to me as "Auntie Leah". That visa was denied based on that. Reason we flew home.
So I met the consular to ask why our oldest daughter had been denied a visa to move here. Imagine my shock when he told me the kid kept saying I was Auntie Leah. So he kicked the dad out of the room because I was getting very angry (I can do angry with attitude). I asked him to go and bring in Rebecca and ask her who I was. Becky walks in and says "this is Auntie Leah". Cultural differences. We got our Annet shortly after that one. The consulate has all records of my kids, siblings and parents. But they had a birth certified copy of Becky and I am on it as the mother. The kid calls me Auntie Leah. Not anymore but when kids are young, they notice everyone around you calling you auntie or uncle and they call you that until they learn that you are the parent.
They called the other Airline to verify and Thierry told them "she is not stealing the kid. She is the mother".
One Canada immigration officer at that Paris airport told me something I will never forget.
"Madame Martha, whenever you are travelling with any child, have a copy of a signed letter from the other parent that the child is not disputed or a custody battle."
Since that day, whenever Thierry takes the kids out of Canada, I write a letter, attach ID and sign it that he has authorization to take his kids. Whenever I travel with the girls, he does the same.
In 1997 France was facing a lot of Africans flying there to take their kids to Africa. So the authorities were justified to stop me.
Many kids get abducted by one or the other parent after a marriage breaks down and many go years without seeing their kids. Interpol has a very strict policy on missing kids. Most are taken by one parent to never be seen. Perhaps the reason why when we marry international people, we need to bring them home to visit the family. I did. Please keep in mind why authorities work hard for the protection and safety of kids.
Martha Leah Nangalama
Born in Bududa Uganda but incubated in Canada