Gotcha Day is a term that I had never heard before starting the adoption process. Even when we started to research the adoption process and started to see the term it wasn’t immediately apparent what exactly it was. Fortunately, the wonder of Google allowed me to quickly discover what exactly it was.
Gotcha Day is the day that an orphan finally gets to meet their new adopted family.
As you can imagine it is quite a big deal for everyone involved. Lots of pictures are taken, sometimes videos, and memories are made that will never be forgotten. Because many of the children don’t know their actual birthday for sure, Gotcha Day is often the day that many families celebrate instead. It makes sense to me since it is the day that they joined your family, just like with your biological kids.
April 10th is now a day that I will never forget because that was our Gotcha Day with our son Ty.
The tension of Gotcha Day started the night before for us because we were told he was likely already in the city at another hotel. In China, you have to come to the provincial capital to file the paperwork for the adoption, but the city he lived in was six hours away so they came the night before to make the day a little less stressful for Ty. So there we were sitting in our hotel room knowing he was so close, yet still having to wait, after a year of waiting.
When we found out he was coming the night before, we were hopeful that we would get him early in the day, but unfortunately it would have to wait until the afternoon. So we ate a nervous breakfast, and walked aimlessly around this lonely city of five million people as the minutes crawled by. We tried to talk about anything other than Ty, but as you might imagine he was sort of on our mind at that moment.
I couldn’t help but start to wonder how he was going to react to the whole thing. I know that we are good parents, and that we would love him as much as our other kids, and always try and give him the best of everything we possibly could, but how long would it take for him to feel and accept that? What if he hated us for years to come and those were the first things he learned to say to us was that he wasn’t happy with us?
Then I started to wonder about how I would react to the whole thing. Would I actually come to love him as much as my other kids? Would I be able to give him everything he needs? Not just physically or medically, but emotionally? I am gone fairly often for work, and sometimes for long periods of time. I already feel bad for the times I have to leave my kids, and he would need as much stability in his life as possible.
Stability, the reason that everyone joins the military right? Holy crap, what was I thinking bringing a kid who needs as much stability in his life as possible into a military family, and on top of that an aircrew member whose job description literally includes leaving home and family on a very regular basis to fly all over the world for days, weeks, and even months at a time.
That is my problem when I have a lot of time to think, which we did in the hours leading up to his arrival. I started to question my decisions. I start to look past my generally optimistic desires and start to look for all of the reasons that something is a terrible idea. A lot of us do this with all kinds of decisions and choices we make in life. I guess you could call it a form of buyer’s remorse, only I hadn’t bought anything, and I didn’t even have him yet.
Finally, after one of the longest mornings of my life, made dramatically better by sharing it with my dear wife, we went up to our hotel room to anxiously await his arrival.
Our guide showed up at our room shortly thereafter to wait with us until the people from the orphanage called to say they had arrived. If you go to YouTube there are tons of videos of Gotcha Days that you can watch, but be warned they will make you cry. Oftentimes they involve a group of people all receiving their child at the same general time. This is because there are often multiple kids from a province, or even from the same orphanage, getting a family on the same day so the families all wait together.
We were literally in the middle of nowhere China with nobody else from our agency, in a city our agency hadn’t even sent someone to in years. Fortunately, there was a family from another agency there at the same time who became an essential lifeline for us the day before this, and in the ensuing week. I am so grateful for their presence, and the companionship and friendship they provided at this momentous time.
Sorry, there is just so much to say about this journey that it is easy to digress. As I mentioned, Gotcha Day often takes place in a hotel ballroom or conference room where many families wait together for their child to arrive. Because it was just us we were able to meet him in our hotel room which made the whole thing a lot more personal from my perspective. So there we sat with our guide waiting for her phone to ring to say he was finally in the building.
After what seemed like an eternity, the phone did ring and she headed downstairs with our camera to bring them up to the room. At this time I turned on my GoPro that was placed inside the room to get a little more of our perspective. Crash Aunt and I couldn’t sit down or stop moving for what seemed like an hour but was probably more like five minutes. We just nervously walked around the room talking just so that are nerves wouldn’t be accentuated by silence. Then came the knock on the door.
We went to open it and there stood an adorable little man wearing two sweat suits (more on this later), and awesome little overalls. As I type this I am actually getting speechless because I don’t know how to put into words what I was thinking or even what I saw. Based on the video I know he just kind of stared at us for a minute, then came in and touched hands with my wife before turning around and walking back out.
In a lot of ways I kind of feel like that has been symbolic of exactly how the last three and a half weeks have been. He gets closer and does better, and then walks away a little bit. It’s okay though because I knew this would happen, and the getting closer is much more than the walking away.
I won’t give you a play by play of what happened after that because you can see that in the video below. What you can’t see are my emotions in the first few minutes of him joining our family. As much as I would like to put them into words for you, I don’t know that I can. To help you understand, I would say I felt exactly the same way the first time I saw all of my other children.
For those first few minutes there was nothing else happening in the world. I wasn’t worried about money, or work, or politics, or any of the other stressors I have in my life. And just like the births of all of my other kids, all of those worries I had in the time leading up to it were blocked from my mind and all I could do was focus on this perfect little man that was changing our lives forever.
As anyone who understands the feeling that I am talking about can tell you, those concerns ultimately work their way back into your mind, but God has this incredible way of allowing you to see Heaven if only for a moment as you have these incredible life changing experiences. It doesn’t have to be the birth/adoption of a child either. It could be a wedding, or seeing a dear loved one finally recover from a sickness, or finding peace after a long struggle. It is something I have also experienced when I have been standing on top of a remote mountain top gazing over the wonders of the world, that we are so quick to ignore and overlook, and also in deep valleys where the soft sound of a small stream speaks peace to your soul.
You don’t have to be religious to understand the feeling I am talking about, you just have to be willing to open your heart enough to experience it, and experiencing it is the only way to ever really understand what I am talking about.
I hope I don’t make anyone feel left out or excluded by saying that because it is by no means an exclusive club. Anyone can experience the feeling that I am talking about if they are willing to do it. You just have to be willing to get past your fears and inhibitions, and open yourself up to a truly moving and memorable experience.
I had originally intended to write about the rest of our day, but I think this is as good a place as any to stop. I hope that reading these posts is as therapeutic as writing them because I am having the most amazing time writing them.
I think the reason I am so anxious to share this experience is because I am equally anxious to hear about similar experiences of other people to feel that deep emotional connection with even strangers. We just don’t do that very often these days, much to our detriment. So if you have something you would like to share I would love to hear about it in the comments. If it is something more personal then please feel free to use the Contact Us button at the top of the page.
I know this blog is generally lighthearted and fun, and I promise, there will be plenty of that coming in the future, but I hope you enjoy a little more personal side as well.
I originally intended to edit this video, but I decided to just let the whole thing roll for your enjoyment. We actually meet him around the 1:30 mark, and the rest is just us getting acquainted.