Sunday, January 24, 2010


One of the most helpful and insightful aspects of this adoption journey has been walking thru this journey with other adoptive families who are using the same agency as we are. When we were in the paperchase it was so helpful to be able to talk and share with families who were in the same spot we were and I also loved hearing about referral day - that has been the day we were waiting for and concentrating on - getting our paperwork turned in, getting wait listed, and getting our referral!

The reality that referral day is going to be here SOON is so exciting. I know I am going to be an emotional mess when I get to see the baby I've been praying and loving in my heart and imagining for months!

At this phase in the process though, I think the most helpful blog posts are those of traveling families. Gotcha Day is the big day that our baby will be put in our arms and from that point on he is ours! Now that moment is very touching and very exciting, but sometimes it is not so picture perfect - the babies cry and scream and can be very afraid! Even more important to take note of is "Gotcha Night". Yeah, that is the parental experience from what I am reading.

Now, I have cared for many babies for many days and many nights - I know how to handle a crying baby and I have experienced sleepless nights but can I just say, that Gotcha Night makes me really nervous. We will be in a foreign country with a baby we just met hours before and don't know anything about - he will be terrified as he will be experiencing his own grief and loss and we are supposed to try and comfort him. We will love him and we've been looking forward to meeting him for months, but he will have no clue who in the world we are up to the moment we pick him up for the first time and take him away from everything he knows. Yeah, not going to be picture perfect, but it is a normal part of the process that we need to prepare for and expect.

One of my blogging friends who just returned a few weeks ago summarized it perfectly: Here is her take on Gotcha Day and Gotcha Night:

"After lunch, A took us back to the Union, where we were scheduled to meet with Almaz, the director of Hannah's Hope, at 2 p.m., to complete our Embassy paperwork and, more importantly, walk to the orphanage to meet our children. It was hard to focus on the paperwork knowing that such a huge a turning point in our lives was so imminent.

The meeting with Almaz took about an hour and concluded with her asking (in her cute Ethiopian accent) "So, are you ready to meet your kids?" Everyone scurried around to gather their cameras, camcorders and diaper bags and we headed out the gates of the Union and turned down a nearby cobblestone path. The walk only took about 4 minutes but was so heavy with anticipation that it seemed to happen in slow motion. We had all seen the videos and pictures posted by families that had traveled before us and had walked that walk in our imaginations hundreds of times before. We approached the red "All God's Children, Inc." gate--was it really happening or was it a dream?

Almaz opened the gate and a crowd of curious older children quickly gathered around us. She asked for the A Family to join her to enter the orphanage and recruited a couple of other people to film and photograph them meeting their precious little twin girls. After a few minutes, the As emerged with their babies, followed by one of the special mothers holding another family's little one. About every 30 seconds after that, another baby was brought out, with all of the families watching eagerly as it was brought closer to see if it was theirs. Everyone was scurrying around filming and photographing everyone else's first interactions with their children, until their own child was brought out. Miss K was the last baby to come out. We recognized her big brown eyes as soon as her special mother stepped out onto the front steps. As everyone else was busy getting to know their babies, Hus-B handed the camcorder to one of the Hannah's Hope drivers and I handed my camera to Almaz herself to capture the special mother placing Miss K in our arms.

It was a moment in time that we will always treasure. This child that had been born in our hearts even before she was born to her first mother--this child that we had longed for and prayed for for years, that we had loved from the core of our beings from the moment we first saw her picture in September, was finally here, ours. She quietly snuggled into me, seeming unsure of what was happening, but willing to trust my hold. It was an immediate connection on Hus-B's and my part. Hus-B eventually coaxed a smile out of her with some of his silly antics, but her interactions with us remained tentative.

After an hour or so of bonding, taking pictures and mingling with the other families and their babes in the courtyard, we walked into Hannah's Hope to see Miss K's home for the past several months. We walked upstairs and several of her special mothers crowded around us to love on Miss K. One in particular wanted to hold her and spent several minutes hugging her, holding her close, whispering to her and sobbing as she said goodbye. The special mothers' love of these children is simply amazing. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to give so much then say goodbye. Over and over again. She asked if we would send pictures, and we promised we would. She showed us Miss K's bed--not the one that a previous family thought was hers--but one of two little cribs cozily situated in a room about the size of a walk-in closet. Her special mother laid her down in the crib and then entertained her in what was a special game the two of them had enjoyed. Her special mother flapped her arms and said "MaMaMaMaMaMa" as she swooped in toward Miss K in the crib, in response to which Miss K kicked her feet and just squealed with delight.

The sun was setting and it was getting cooler outside. The special mothers were starting the children's evening routines and the just-united families began making their way back to the Union Hotel. From this point on, these children were our total responsibility.

We exchanged good-nights in the lobby and made our way to our rooms, wondering what adventures this first night would hold and what stories would be shared the next morning at breakfast. . .

The typical adoption story climaxes with "Gotcha Day"--that glorious, momentous, longed for day when parent and child are finally united to be family forever. When it all starts to feel real, however, especially with infant adoptions---is Gotcha Night.

Back at the Union Hotel, the little ones in our group began to realize that their routine was being disrupted. Nothing was familiar. They were tired. They were stressed. Their beloved special mothers were nowhere in sight. Their little worlds were being turned upside down. In our adoption education classes, we were advised that most infants cope with this traumatic change in one of two ways--they will either shut down and just want to sleep, or they will cry and openly express their grief. Most of the babies in our group chose to vocalize their unhappiness. Their cries echoed through the thin walls and hallways of the hotel that night. It was heartbreaking. And then there were the parents, many still dealing with jet lag, trying to make bottles, change diapers, comfort their babies--still trying to get to know them and figure out how they liked to be held and soothed--all in a tiny hotel room in a developing country. Not so pretty or romantic, but part of the process just the same.

Although I held Miss K for most of the time while we were at the orphanage, once we got back to the hotel, she wanted nothing to do with me. We could tell she was exhausted. We changed her diaper and prepared a bottle for her. As I tried to rock her to sleep, her big brown eyes would get heavy and start to close, then just as they shut, they would suddenly pop open and she would catch a glimpse of me and scream. She would clench her little fists, arch her back, stiffen her legs and wail. We could only imagine what was going on in her head--the memories, the emotions. I was not her first mother. I was not one of her special mothers at the orphanage. I was a clumsy, uncertain impostor. At times, she tried to get cozy; it seemed as if she was trying to take her mind to someplace familiar and comforting, pretending to be back in the arms of someone she loved. But she was too smart to convince herself to fall for her own game and just as soon as she would start to drift off to sleep, she would startle herself back awake, look at me and cry a sorrowful cry as huge tears rolled down her cheeks.

She finally fell asleep once Hus-B took over. Perhaps he was so different from her previous caregivers that it was less confusing to her. Or perhaps it was just his special Daddy's touch (our older girls both prefer for him to put them to sleep as well). He walked around, gently bouncing her and patting her back. If he tried to lay down or lay her down in the Moses basket or between us in bed, however, her eyes would pop back open and she would start crying again as soon as he would let go of her. I tried to relieve him a couple of times--to no avail. All night long, we heard other babies crying throughout the hotel. It was somehow reassuring to know we weren't the only ones.For most of the night,

Hus-B stood and walked around our room and held Miss K as she slept. He eventually successfully laid her down between us and she stayed asleep. He thought it must be about 1 a.m. since the call to prayer had not yet begun (we later learned that the time and duration of the chanting is different each day). He picked up his iphone from the nightstand to check the time--4:55 a.m! Since we had to be ready to leave for our 9:00 Embassy appointments at 7:30, we had a scheduled a 5:00 wake-up call. Afraid the ringing phone would wake Miss K back up, Hus-B tiptoed out the door and rushed downstairs to cancel the call. He arrived at the front desk at the same time as the desk clerk--who obviously wasn't expecting to run into any guests--showed up to make her 5 a.m. calls. She was so startled when he came around the corner that she almost jumped out of her pajamas. Her usually perfect hair was going in every direction. But our room stayed quiet and Miss K stayed asleep.

I got up and got dressed while Hus-B and Miss K slept for about an hour. I excitedly looked through all of her cute clothes to choose an outfit--and matching hairbow, of course, for her to wear to the Embassy. At about 7:00, the three of us went down to breakfast where we met up with all of the other bleary-eyed new parents and laughed and sympathized with each other as stories of sleepless first nights were recounted over crepes, oatmeal and Ethiopian coffee. Miss K appeared to like her rice cereal mixed with formula. Despite the rough night, she woke up bright-eyed and cheerful."

This journey is NOT a fairytale. It is real and it is painful and very difficult. It is a journey we signed on for knowing it would be happy and sad. I value these "real" blog posts so much as we prepare to meet our son for the first time!


Platinum Rose said...

I think it's so wonderful that you at least can go into Gotcha Day and Gotcha Night with realistic expectations of what it's most likely going to be like, and not some fairytale. That way, when it does happen, you won't be completely devastated and think it's going to be like that forever!

chantel said...

So glad you found my blog, I will add your to my stalk/watch blogs :) So exciting you are so close!