Monday, October 21, 2013

Olivia's Gotcha Day

A bunch of you probably already know that our oldest daughter is adopted from China. Her name is Olivia and this post actually comes at a very good time (I'm participating in an adoption blog carnival through the invitation of my amazing friend Kim) because recently we celebrated Olivia's GOTCHA DAY.

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.


  1. This is a beautiful celebration and wonderful story. You have been truly blessed.

  2. A love story! Happy Gotcha Day Olivia and family. May God rain down all His choicest blessings upon you.

  3. What a wonderful day to celebrate! Olivia and your family was certainly blessed when you noticed her little bright-eyed self in that crib. =)

  4. This is such a beautiful story, and a beautiful girl! It's wonderful to hear how things worked out for your family.

  5. What a beautiful story, and what a wonderful thing to celebrate!

  6. Oh wow. And I thought MY husband was bad when he came home with a new truck one day a few years back. (I did forgive him too cause we were technically looking, and he found a great deal in a small town 45 miles away, so it wasn't totally out of the blue.)

    What a wonderful story. Happy Gotcha Day to Olivia!

  7. You have me in tears. What a beautiful story. Olivia is a special girl who is obviously meant to be part of your family. :)

  8. Happy day to all of you! It makes me so happy to read this story... and while I'm sure your husband was shocked I'm sure he couldn't resist those gorgeous eyes any more than you could. :)

  9. Happy Gotcha Day, Olivia! And Amy- what a beautiful story of your family's leap of faith. Thanks for sharing it again!

  10. Happy Gotcha Day indeed! Whoopee, and what a beautiful story!

  11. Happy Gotcha Day to Olivia and to the rest of your family! This is such a beautiful story and I loved reading it.

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  13. Happy Gotcha Day! I love adoption stories. All our babies are biological so far.... My husband grew up in Portland with foreign exchange students perpetually rooming with him and inspiring him to study Chinese in college. If he came home one day to a bright-eyed foster baby, he'd be over the moon...after he got over his shock...which might take a while.

  14. Hi Amy and Olivia ... what a beautiful daughter for a fabulous mother and DHS! can't leave him out ... I love the idea of GOTCHA day .. and seeing the photos.

    Your story line is so poignant .. and so good to know all worked out - and Olivia has a happy future ahead for her with you and your other children and family ..

    So pleased for you both .. wonderful post - congratulations and have lots of those sticky chocolate cakes with strawberry pink filling .. look so good! Happy times together .. cheers Hilary

  15. What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it.

  16. Beautiful! What a lovely girl to celebrate! And yay for whoopie pies - just had some pumpkin ones with a friend this week. Delish!

  17. This story is better than a fairy tale. I have friends with similar stories of how they brought their children home and I never tire of hearing them.
    God is so good...


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