Bracelets for Our Brothers
Help Us Bring Our Brothers Home
On Gotcha Day
Posted on February 26th, 2017

For this child I prayed...

One year ago today, a judge said YES (and my teen reluctantly agreed) to our adoption of Stella and Evvie.

The other day I was reading a blog post from an adoptee about the term "Gotcha Day".   The author made a compelling case against using the term.  I always enjoy reading things from and talking to adoptees, because it gives me insight as a parent that my children are not yet mature enough to provide most of the time.  Adult adoptees are able to show love towards their adoptive parents, while offering feedback about what they wished had been different about their upbringing.  I'm sure one day my children will have a lengthy list of my mistakes, shortcomings, and ways that I annoyed them.  Some will be trivial, but some will be worth serious consideration. 

The issue of using the term "Gotcha Day" and celebrating it annually is one that has always bothered me, even before we brought the girls home.  I admit to using the term, mostly before I actually went and gotcha-ed my two daughters.  Our actual "Gotcha" day was anything but beautiful, happy, and was absolutely nothing that I had dreamed/romanticized in my head.  While adoption can be a beautiful picture of redemption (for the child(ren) AND the parents), the truth is, that it is ALWAYS born of sadness and loss.

Since pick up, especially, the idea of celebrating this sadness and loss has always felt unsettling to me, especially because of what our actual "Gotcha Day" looked like.  Filled with tears, hatred for us because they felt we were the ones tearing them away from their brothers (they know now that this was not true, they understand we never were informed of their existence until Trip 1 and it was too late then)-- the only stable family they'd ever known, and fear, terrifying and paralyzing fear.  While Neil and I had waited for this day with great anticipation, we had failed to completely calculate the trauma, the cost, the difficulties this day would bring to all of us.  We had failed, on every level, to account for what this day would mean for our children, and instead we focused only on what we would feel-- mainly a relief that the grueling process to bring them home was finally coming to an end.

Before traveling to Bulgaria for our pickup trip, we knew that we would be picking up the day before Evvie's 13th birthday.  I dreamed of all the ways we'd celebrate our Gotcha Day-- the first one, and then the anniversaries of the date to come.  I read countless blog posts and Facebook posts from fellow adoptive parents about what they did to celebrate the anniversary of this day.  I decided which ideas I liked, and which I didn't.  I also reconciled with the term "Gotcha" and decided we'd prefer to call it "Family Day".  I then agonized (oh, y'all, this was when I had so much time on my hands but thought I was "busy") about when we'd celebrate it.  I didn't want it to be celebrated the day before Evvie's birthday-- I saw potential sibling jealously or blurring of the lines there.  Technically, our "Family Day" was 2/26/16, the day we passed court, because at that time, we legally became a family.  So, it was decided 2/26 would be our "Family Day."

But then our pick up trip came.  Then we saw the reality of what that day meant for our children.  We saw them say goodbye to their brothers, presumably speaking to them and touching them for the last time ever.  We saw the hurt, the anger, the loss, the fear, and understood that maybe it wasn't a day to be celebrated at all.  Maybe it was just a marker in time that we, as parents, could keep up with to track progress and thank God for putting our family unit together.  The actual day became about survival, and was not celebratory in any way.

The more I've read about trauma, triggers, memories that children have of past events, the more I don't want to celebrate or help my children to remember this day this year.   We are fortunate that our girls still have no concept of time and cannot read a calendar, so we are sort of off the hook this year.  Reading about trauma has also helped me to understand the truth about this day for our children who were old enough to remember and hate everything about it.  It is actually a "truamaversary".  Just as someone who loses a loved one tends to be on high emotions and sadness each year on the date the loved one was lost, our family has been on high emotions lately as we get closer to that year mark.  Although our children are not really aware of time, Evvie does know that she was adopted right before her birthday, and she must know, on some subconscious level, that this date is approaching.  We have seen behavior in both children become more challenging in recent weeks (normal).  Just as someone would not typically throw a big party, or go out bowling, or have a big dinner out at a fancy restaurant on the traumaversary of a loved one passing, we will probably not do any of these things either. 

Lastly, what would we really be celebrating with regards to THEIR family prior to adoption?  That our adoption of them ripped them from their brothers?  That their brothers are still languishing in an institution oceans away?  Our family is not complete, so it doesn't feel right to celebrate "Family Day" without our whole family.

Please understand, especially fellow adoptive parents who do make a choice to celebrate this day, that I am not passing judgement on you or suggesting you should do differently than what you've decided works for you.  Perhaps your experience has been completely different than ours.  Maybe your children have processed or handle their trauma very differently than ours.  Maybe you, as a parent, have processed and dealt with your children's trauma better than I, as a mother, have with my own children.  For me, it is a work in progress daily.  For your family, you do what is right.  Go ice skating, see that movie, prepare all of the cultural foods your child misses, go through picture albums together-- celebrate!  Do it!  For our family, however, I don't know that these things are possible for us this year, so we will let it pass without much mention.

Once our whole family is reunited and settled, though, perhaps we will have a reason to have a Family Day.  Maybe my perspective on this day will be completely different when the girls' brothers are finally home and part of our household.

What I will choose to celebrate daily, though, is God is good.  God is loving.  God has chosen our family to endure these challenges, but to reap the rewards of those challenges together.  God has assembled our messy family in his perfect image.  It is hard, many days, to see his plan, but we trust it and continue to follow it.

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