My friend Lisa sent me the link to this post about celebrating “Gotcha Day” at International Mom’s blog:
This post particularly resonated with Lisa since she has a bio child and an adopted child, and it was really timely for me, since Zoe’s “Gotcha Day” is Thursday.
At the risk of upsetting the adoption experts’ apple cart, I wanted to share this little tidbit. We don’t celebrate Gotcha Day, Family Day, Forever Family Day, Adoption Day, or any other day that focuses on the adoption of our children. We made this decision long before we became adoptive parents. As a family blended by birth and adoption, we felt it was not right to exclude anyone. By celebrating, we would have excluded our child by birth.
My family celebrates family every day, taking joy and pride in what we are – a blended group of human beings that have been brought together, through marriage, birth, and adoption and across oceans from different parts of the world. A family that deeply loves, respects, and is grateful for each member. That, we got. . . .
As Lisa and I discussed the post, we discovered that we both had other problems with “Gotcha Day” – one a problem with terminology and one a problem with the celebratory ideal.
I’ve mentioned before that when she was younger, Zoe didn’t like the term “Gotcha” because it made her feel like someone would jump out at her to surprise her – “GOTCHA!” Lisa feels the word is impersonal, and she loved the comment to International Mom’s post by Pam Thomas, who said:
The term that my daughter really hates is “gotcha day”, which she finds supremely offensive. She thinks, and I completely support her, that it has seedy implications of adoptive families snatching children away from birth family, country, and culture. Others may disagree with this, but I feel like the children are the real experts about this, and many of the children I have met share my daughter’s feelings.
The deeper problem for both of us is the celebratory aspect of the day. As I shared with Lisa, when I look at pictures of my shell-shocked kids from that first meeting, it doesn’t really look like something to celebrate. Yes, at the time, I was dumb enough to think that Zoe falling asleep in my arms was a magical moment of trust instead of the desperate inability to deal it was, but now I know better. In fact, I knew better by the time I met Maya, and that scared little voice questioning, “Mama?” still echoes in my ears, because I knew she wasn’t asking about me, but about the only Mama she’d ever known, her foster mom. And then the tears came – for both of us. Even though they are the two best days of my life, how can I celebrate my daughters’ worlds turning upside down in such a traumatic way?
Lisa agrees: “But then I feel like you, my God, that day was beautiful and scary for me, scary for her but she grabbed onto me that day and never let go. I have loved that she needed me and took me in as her mother (I am not worthy) . . . but "celebrate?" It's a day for much discussion and reflection...but "celebrate??" [In deciding initially to celebrate “Gotcha Day”] I feel I submitted to what everyone else thinks is right, heck I was a rookie mom and still am in a lot of ways.”
A day of discussion and reflection sounds about right to me. We don't do bells and whistles or bread or circuses for “Gotcha Day.” We watch the video, look at pictures, and try on the clothes they were wearing on the day we met as a way to record their growth (Zoe's still fits, Maya's not so much!), and then they get a small gift (I bought 18 gifts in China, one for each year until they reach adulthood). As you can see, we don't make it a sad and solemn occasion, that's not really my point. Zoe has even said that Gotcha Day is her favorite holiday.
So how do you feel about Gotcha Day or whatever you call it? How do you acknowledge it? Is it celebratory? Do you have a way to acknowledge the loss as well as the gain in Gotcha Day?
We’ve already deconstructed the must-believe adoptive parent tenets with regard to “adopt-a-whatever” programs and the naturalness of adoption this week. Let’s see what happens when we look closely at Gotcha Day . . . .