Here is Miss Olivia, looking happy, holding a plate full of Whoopie Pies, the baking of which is our Gotcha Day tradition:
Olivia is twelve years old, and for those of you who don't know what a Gotcha Day is, it's "The Day You Get Your Child" in normal adoptions. Most of the time, this is the day you first meet your child AND within a few days, usually, this child becomes your legal offspring.
Our Gotcha Day isn't quite as straightforward.
I first met Olivia when she was a few days old, in the Tianjin Children's Welfare Institute where I was volunteering. We had just moved to China a couple months before to work at an international school. Olivia was a tiny newborn in a crib closest to the baby room door and I noticed her right away because of her huge, sparkling black eyes. Talk about instant love!
We got to bring her home as our foster daughter when she was six weeks old (because during her short stint at the orphanage she'd become failure to thrive). The bringing-her-home part of our story is humorous--stuff of Sonnichsen-clan legend.
I'd wanted to bring Olivia home for several weeks and I'd been talking her up to the dashingly handsome sidekick (DHS a.k.a. my husband). Well, when I actually got permission from the orphanage director, the DHS was away at fall camp with his school kids and I had no way of contacting him. So, he got home from camp and....
We have a baby!
(Yes, he has forgiven me and we're still happily married.)
Fast forward six and a half years and we were FINALLY allowed to adopt our sweet Olivia and make her officially ours (gotta love China's adopting-parent age restrictions!).
So, as you can see, our Gotcha Day isn't quite like most adopting parents'. We decided to celebrate on the day I brought Olivia to our home when she was a baby, instead of the day she was officially adopted.
|a snapshot from her baby book
Celebrating Olivia's Gotcha Day is important for so many reasons. Obviously, it's important for her, to remind her of our love for her, to give her a special day that's different from her siblings, because her situation is unique.
Probably the biggest reason it's important, though, is that it's a marker every year for us to remember God's faithfulness to us. Navigating the adoption system when you have a specific child you want to adopt is difficult. When we set out on this journey we had empty hands--not enough money, no parenting experience, we weren't even old enough for the Chinese law! We had a child with a medical condition that required surgery and we weren't sure how it would all work out. (The $20,000 initial surgery price tag was a little daunting, to say the least.)
But God worked everything out. Even while we were still fostering Olivia, He provided a Chinese passport and American visa multiple times so we could bring her back to the U.S. for surgery at the Shriners Hospital in Portland, OR--a hospital that doesn't usually accept international patients, but they made an exception for us and give her all her surgeries free of charge until she's 18 years old. Besides that answer to prayer, the fact that our adoption even went through is a miracle. So many people worried for us, told us that we'd be fostering too long, that there were no guarantees ... and they were right to caution us, but I'm so thankful we took that leap of faith.
Gotcha Day helps me remember that all this happened, even though it seems a lifetime ago. We've settled in the U.S. now and are growing accustomed to American ways, but I never want us to forget where we came from and what we've been through.
So, Happy Gotcha Day, Olivia! We are blessed and you are loved.