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Gotcha Day, Part 1

24 September 2018

It’s one of those rare things that you prepare yourself so much for, even though you know nothing can really prepare you.

Sunday, August 26, we flew from Beijing to Guiyang (gwee-YANG). Our city guide met us at the airport, got us checked into the hotel, made sure we had everything we needed, scanned my WeChat QR code so we could be in touch, pointed out some places for food, and said she would be back around 12:30 the next day to take us to the Children’s Center.

“To meet your baby.”

Our appointment was for 1:30.

This hotel was nicer than the one in Beijing, which was a relief. We connected VPNs, unpacked a few things, and went out for a walk to get our bearings and scout food options.



Guiyang is a big city and, like most of the China that we saw, very densely populated. Most of that evening is a blur. We noted a couple of dumpling stands, stepped over small streams of sewer water flushed up onto the sidewalk, studied pictures of noodle bowls on restaurant walls, and peered down long alleys that were probably gateways to other realms.



I think we eventually found the sidewalk stand that we would come to (affectionately) refer to as, “the dumpling guys,” and managed to communicate an order and answer some, “Where are you from?”-type questions that one of the men translated on his phone.

At some point I’m sure the five year old got a bath and paperwork was triple checked and we eventually went to bed.

Monday, August 27, was to be “Gotcha Day.”

It was also the first day of our trip with no morning appointment (our previous weekend in Beijing had been culturally amazing, but very, very busy), so I was looking forward to sleeping in a little bit.

But that was not meant to be.



I accepted that sleep was over and laid there in the stillness. Thinking.

Thinking about everything that I had read and been told about this day.

“Just plan on it being a very crazy, unpredictable, stressful day.”

Neither of the other families in our travel group, from our adoption agency, were adopting from the same province, so they would not be there. But we knew there would likely be other families from other agencies.

There would be other kids meeting forever families for the first time. It was impossible to say how many. Along with nannies and orphanage workers, possibly foster families and other children who were not yet being adopted. It would likely be noisy. I’ve seen pictures and videos of the madness.

“Every first meeting is different, because every situation is different.”

Some kids smile easily at an offered toy or gift. Some are compliant but obviously awkward. Some kick and scream and cling to nannies or other familiar faces.

We had been prepped. We had a new race car ready to go, because we knew he likes cars. We had talked Niah through being the one to gently offer it when we told him to go ahead. We knew another child would likely be a more welcome first contact.

If he clings to a caregiver, we were supposed to ask an employee or our guide to be the one to peel him away so that it would not be us. I prayed they wouldn’t try to make him hug us.

There would also be more paperwork. Did I have all the copies ready? Did I have the list of documents to collect today and tomorrow? And which ones are supposed to have his English name on them? And what about the gifts we brought? When do we give those, and how do we know?

I stared at the dark ceiling in the hotel and recalled all the photos and videos I had seen of other Gotcha Days—as though I might still find a clue in the background that would unlock all the mystery for me—until the boys started to stir.

As we got up I tried to pretend that my morning routine was the same as every other day. Then I tried to distract myself with being amazed at the enormous breakfast buffet that the hotel offered.

But then there was nothing left to do but check paperwork (again) and wait. The boys eventually went out for a walk, and I flipped open my Kindle to find worship music.

I knelt on the floor between the beds and quietly sang, “It Is Well” until I believed it again.

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice

Are we doing the right thing? What if he just hates us? Do we eventually just carry him out of the building screaming? Am I really ready for that?

Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Is Niah ready for this? Did we prepare him enough? What if they never get along? What if they’re bitter at each other for their entire lives?

And through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
And it is well
With me

Are we good enough parents for this? Are we good enough people for this? Can we really help him heal? Can we really pull off being a multi-ethnic family?

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

Eventually I had to choose a voice to listen to, and I chose to remember the miracles that had brought us that far. I played the song again.

The boys came back and we went to get dumplings.



We ate (as best I could with a stomach in knots), prayed, and took the elevator down to the lobby to meet our guide.

Part 2 

One Comment leave one →
  1. Annemarie permalink
    24 September 2018 9:47 PM

    What a cliffhanger. So thankful I have seen lots of pics of him smiling or I would be up all night wondering what happened. Can’t wait to read part 2.

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