The miracle of Gotcha Day in the adoption world
Gotcha Day feels a lot like taking off in a hot air balloon with 900 other balloons from the main field on the first day of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Gotcha Day is much like gazing at the start/finish line at the beginning of the Indianapolis 500 when the announcer calls, “Gentlemen start your engines.” More than anything else, however, (I know this because I’ve experienced both of those breath-taking events) Gotcha Day is a rare moment when anyone can experience love at first sight, even if one doesn’t believe in that sort of thing.For those involved in the international adoption community, Gotcha Day, the day when expectant parents finally hold their new son or daughter for the first time, is unquestionably a day of miracles, and I consider myself impossibly lucky and blessed to have experienced this magical day twice in my lifetime. My first Gotcha Day occurred about two years ago when my wife Beverly and I brought our daughter Isabell home from China, and it was just a few short weeks ago we – along with Isabell and my mom – returned from our second trip to China where my family received our second daughter, Lydia Gao Jie Gu Gmerek.Gotcha Day for me always dawns with the queasy, excuse-me-while-I-throw-up feeling that comes from knowing a life-altering moment is just hours away. And even though this was our second adoption, and we should have known what to expect, the feeling struck just as hard. The day is more strange, wonderful and stressful than what most people would expect at a time where you wake up in the morning without a baby and just a few short hours later some stranger hands you one for keeps.
Most of the weirdness, however, comes not only from the entire getting-a-baby thing, but the emotional reaction to the entire getting-a-baby thing.Maybe it’s because there are so many variables in international adoption, maybe it’s because the randomness of adoption is almost too overwhelming for a sane mind to comprehend or maybe it’s simply because every man, woman and child involved in the process knows consciously or subconsciously that they are about to be touched by the hand of God, but about the only expression you see on anyone’s face on Gotcha Day is a kind of edgy, nervous joy. Parental partners snapping at each other, however, periodically punctuates this shaky happiness. And about the only thing that makes you feel better is that just about every family is suffering through the dawning of Gotcha Day in the same mental sinking ship.No one is happy until that baby is placed in his or her arms, and then, in a space of maybe a half a heartbeat, you get slammed with every emotion the human brain can feel.When Lydia finally arrived at the office where we, along with six other families, were meeting our children, it was a shock. It seems that even though we didn’t realize it, Gmerek was the first name – alphabetically – in our group, and when the first baby entered the room I was busy yapping away with the other parents and getting the video camera ready to record.
And the next thing I know I’m face to face with the sweetest little girl.”What? She’s mine?” So with barely enough time to get our cameras ready and the video rolling, Bev and I leaped to meet our new daughter.And that’s basically Gotcha Day in a nutshell. Except, of course, for the tears that pour from the eyes of the most stoic of men, the sobs that escape from the most patient of women and the waves of joy as prayers are answered, hopes are realized and love finally has a small, loving outlet with which to connect.Lydia, like most of the babies on Gotcha Day, was about as unimpressed as a baby gets, and even though her mother and father were stunned with love, she simply stared at us for a good long time before she cried.You see, for the babies Gotcha Day is about as hard a curve as life can throw. Most are scared, some are shocked and the rest just grieve. Sometimes they grieve for days at a time.
For the parents, however, who have worked for years for this moment, well, I still can’t write about Gotcha Day without wiping away the raindrops that keep wetting in my eyes.I need to get my roof fixed. Lydia recovered nicely from whole ordeal, and she seems incredibly fond of her new family. And except for a bit of sibling rivalry, her family feels the same way about her.Welcome home Lydia. Welcome to your family.Andrew Gmerek writes a Friday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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