Tuesday, April 25, 2017


There is a term in the adoption community for the day you meet your adopted child. It is "Gotcha Day." The first time I heard those two words, I thought man, that is an unfortunate sounding phrase for such a lovely moment and day. However, I did find myself using that term quite a bit, especially in China. An alternate that people use is "Family Day." Whatever you call it, it is THE DAY. The day you spent months/years working toward, the day you spent all that money for, and the day you flew across an ocean for. When you wake up at 3 AM on the morning of this day, the chances that you are going to fall back asleep are pretty dang slim. Stella had gone to bed so early, and she woke up in the middle of the night starving. She had a little watermelon snack and we just stayed up talking about getting Vivi. We weren't leaving to get her until 1:30 PM, so we had some time to kill. I wondered how we were going to get through it.

Looking back now, I'm not sure I can tell you for sure how we passed the time. I know Stella and Brent went to breakfast. Then I went to breakfast with Stella. Our hotel internet was a JOKE, so I decided to go ahead and pay $10 a day for my regular Verizon service. This was perhaps the best $10 I spent each day. Stella and I went to the pool and I chatted with Heidi. The pool was unfortunately not heated, and it was way too cold for Stella to really swim in. It was such a beautiful pool, so that was a huge bummer. I remember feeling unnaturally calm the whole morning. I feel like this was only because of all the people praying for us. Then, all of the sudden we went from having all this time to no time. My parents called from their cruise right before we left and with that last phone call we were heading down the elevator to get our girl.

Ok, so now the calm girl I was all morning was totally gone. I was seriously freaking out. We got in the van and we were on our way. I took some videos. I took some pictures. I could not remember how to use my camera all of the sudden. Shutter speed, aperture, ISO were suddenly all foreign concepts to me. I could not calm down. And then our van broke down. Yep, it just stopped working. Plus as our driver was gliding to the side of the road he hit some guy's thing and broke it. So we had a while where we were just sitting in the van waiting. We watched the guy with the broken item yell at our driver and I calmed down and tried to remember how to use my camera while Stella started crying because she was sure that this was the end of her life. I was just trying to keep myself from getting out of the van and taking pictures of the amazing street we were on and better documenting the craziness.

Thankfully, we had another driver come and get us and we were very close to the place where we were meeting Vivi. Our driver walked us in to the elevators and mimed a number 8 and then mimed driving a car and then he just left us there. It was kind of comical at that point. We had no idea if we were even in the right place. We didn't know who that guy was. But we just decided to give the 8th floor a try and thankfully it was the right place.

It is safe to say that for me the feelings I was having I've never experienced in my life. It was a mix of anxiety, excitement, surrealness, and just overall FREAKING OUT. We walked into a room full of the sounds of screaming, and I knew that the other families already had their kiddos because their van didn't break down and all. I was shaking and thankfully Brent had the presence of mind to get out the official paperwork, sign stuff, and ask me for my passport (which I could have easily lost right then I was so scatterbrained). Plus, I wanted pictures and video! How was I going to make sure we had pictures and video!? Our guide walked over and pointed out this little toddler in a pink outfit and said: "That's your baby." I looked over and immediately thought: "No it isn't." But I took a picture anyway, because I was in a state of shock after all so what did I know?

These are our first pics of Vivi, in that 20 seconds that she walked past us I had taken more pictures of her then were taken her whole life.

Then faster than I would have liked, she was being walked over to us for the official "gotcha" moment. It was at that moment that I thought she didn't look anything like I had imagined she would. It also surprised me how fast she figured out she did not want anything to do with me. It was like one real look at me and she screamed NO THANKS LADY! Instead of just grabbing her and scaring her even more. I hurried and went to find a sucker in the little backpack we had brought for her. Just the sight of it calmed her down, but then when she was expected to come to me to get that sucker, it was like NO THANKS once again.

I picked her up and she just flopped back in my arms in terror. Here is this moment that I thought I had prepared myself for, mostly by trying to not have any expectations at all. I had watched hundreds of Gotcha Day videos, read all sorts of blogs, and nothing prepared me for holding Vivien for the first time. I was expecting her fear and sadness, but I was not expecting my fear and sadness for her. I was expecting her to feel like I was a stranger, but I was not expecting her to feel like a stranger to me. Of all the emotions I had, I believe that one was the one that rang the loudest: I am holding a stranger that is supposed to be my daughter. This thought was quickly followed by: What in the world did I just do to my life? Quickly followed again by: This can't be her, this is a stranger, not my daughter.

Oh how I had loved her for over a year and now I had her, and I really wanted to say no thanks. I'm not sure what possessed me to keep pushing on, because the total fear I was feeling at that moment was not anticipated and not fun. Thankfully I was not alone, but I was with two people who did not feel the same way I did. Brent and Stella were smitten from the beginning.

What in the world would we have done without Stella? Vivi did not want anything to do with any of the toys we had brought. But then Stella got out the Gerber puffs and started handing them to Vivi. She took them and suddenly it was like she flipped a switch and the screaming and tears stopped.  She gave Stella some good long looks, and she seemed to like what she saw. It is funny because looking through these pictures I found the ones where I am smiling, but I don't remember smiling at all. I bet I was just relieved that she had calmed down. 

I had to chat with the girls that had brought Vivi from her foster home, so Brent fed her some puffs to see if she would warm up to him a little. She didn't like it when I handed her off, but she calmed down and accepted him very fast. 

The orphanage girls had brought Vivi a gift and were there to answer any questions I had. However, that wasn't really that helpful, because they were not Vivi's caregivers and they didn't really know anything about her. I did learn at that time that Vivi had spent the last three months from after the Chinese New Year until that day with a foster family. Before that time she was in the orphanage. It was at that time that I decided for sure that we would visit her orphanage since that was where she had lived most of her life. They also gave me a photo book with pictures of Vivi in the orphanage. They were all recent pictures that appeared to be taken all the same day. I was disappointed that they didn't have any pictures to show her progress growing up, but I was happy to have them. Unfortunately in the chaos of everything I left them! I didn't realize until two days later that I didn't have them. I was so happy when our guide tracked them down and got them to us! Phew!

Suddenly the girls were leaving and our guide Judy asked if we wanted a picture with them. I thought we better, even though again I knew Vivi had no attachment to them. So we took the pictures, but Vivi did NOT want to pose for any pictures though. Bless her.

It was already time to go. I had no idea how long we had been there, but it felt like 15 minutes or less! I just wanted a bit more time to get settled. Before we left though I asked Judy to take a picture of all of us, since everyone was eagerly awaiting a picture of us as a family of four. Vivi doesn't look anything like herself in these pictures. She is clearly scared and resigned to just being lugged around. She wasn't crying but she was very easily agitated to the point of tears many times as we made our way out of the building.

We waited outside for a very long time, and no driver came to get us. Judy asked if we were willing to try and find a taxi. My arms were already pretty tired from holding Vivi, but off we walked. She was very hard to hold at this point because she was pretty much dead weight. She didn't really know how to grab on and be held. As we were walking on the streets to find a ride I was feeling pretty defeated and scared. What in the world were we doing? This whole thing had been mostly my idea and I was already over it. After all the tears and effort we suddenly had her and it was so strange to me.

Judy asked us to sit tight for a second while she found a taxi and Brent put out his hand to Vivi for a high-five. She very seriously looked at him and gave him one. I couldn't believe it! And then she did it again. Already we were getting signs of life from this little terrified girl and it was all I needed to keep going. We got in the taxi and I remember how difficult it was for Vivi to hold herself up in the car. Her core muscles were so weak that she kept flopping back and forth. It was in the taxi that I finally noticed her flat head. It was such a strange feeling to feel these strong emotions for a child that simultaneously feels like an alien in your arms, but there was still this connection like she was mine. I felt that with Stella when she was born. I didn't love her like a mother, but I knew she was mine and that I was responsible for her. So anyway, my heart broke when I saw that flat head knowing it signified the hours she spent laying in a hard crib alone and neglected.

It was in this taxi that we saw the very first little tiny smile from Vivien. She was so scared so it surprised me. Knowing her the way I do now three weeks later I think she was pushing through her fear of us and trying to make us love her. At the time though I thought maybe she was realizing we were hers. And maybe still there was a little of that. She definitely had eyes for Daddy and Stella.

When we got back to the hotel and to our room she seemed fairly comfortable, all things considered. Stella gave her a little craft she had made for her and she seemed to love it. She was curious about everything from the beginning.

Every single China adoptive packing list I read before the trip said to bring stacking cups. Stacking cups, stacking cups, and stacking cups. I echo the cheer of stacking cups. Oh man, the minute she saw those, she was obsessed with them. I was so happy we had them, because they kept her busy and relaxed her for a long time. We even got a few little real smiles from her while she was playing and stacking her cups.

Brent and Stella played with her and I mostly stayed behind the camera. Obviously that is my nature to take the pictures, but as I look through these I realize I was truly stepping back and staying away. Vivi made me so nervous. I felt like a bad person for feeling that way, when she must have been a mess herself, but I just couldn't get down and play with her that much. I like this first picture of me, because you can clearly see how freaked out I was. However, I still wanted to document every single moment because not that deep down I knew she belonged to us.

Tiny movements from here to there set her off. Being touched a certain way set her off. We really were walking on eggshells that afternoon trying to make sure she was as comfortable as possible. Brent wanted to show her all around, and Stella wanted to bring out every single toy we had brought. They were both so excited.

Hallelujah for a kitchen! We didn't have to stress out about finding food and were able to just make some pasta. Although I feel bad for Vivi because it truly was the worst pasta sauce we had ever eaten. No one really could eat it, but Vivi seemed to like it. She even tried to dip her watermelon in the pasta sauce because she liked it so much.

Stella was suddenly totally exhausted again by about 6 PM, so she got ready and went to bed. I knew it was risky, but I really wanted Vivi to have a bath and go to bed a clean baby. We hadn't even changed her diaper yet, so we were very careful and cautious as we took off her pink Peppa Pig sweatshirt ensemble and shoes and socks. She helped me get her undressed which I thought was interesting. Oh my goodness was her size a surprise. Under those bulky clothes she was tiny, basically just skin and bones. She has those fat cheeks that make her actual size an illusion. The bath scared her to death. She screamed and screamed and screamed. It woke up Stella who yelled: "What are you doing to her?!" I yelled back because I had reached my momma limit. It was awful and if I could take back any moment in China it would have been that one. My poor Stella had just had her world turned upside down too, and even though she was pretty thrilled about it, it wasn't easy for her either. I think it was fair to say for everyone that we had had a pretty emotional day.

Once we got Vivi in her jammies she knew it was bed time and she started sucking her thumb. Since Stella sucked her thumb at first I thought it was adorable. But then I realized that this was how Vivi had learned to soothe herself when she was alone in a crib and trying to go to sleep. And then my heart was broken AGAIN. Laying her down in her crib and watching her suck with one hand and wave her other arm around and back and forth until she fell asleep was awful. I kept thinking that she would soon learn safety and comfort and that this would all get easier, but I can tell you I didn't really believe that at the time.

Vivi had a cold when we got her. It came also with a horrible cough she would get in the night. That night despite my exhaustion I didn't sleep very well. I kept getting woken up by her cough and I hated the sound of it. I thought: "No one has ever cared if this girl had a cough in the middle of the night before. I care, but I hope she doesn't wake up, because I won't know what to do because she is a STRANGER! There is a stranger in my room! Why did I do this!?" My stomach was in knots all night. At about 5 AM I finally gave up and woke up and called my sister. I had to tell someone that I was freaking the crap out! I was so thankful for her little pep talk. My saving grace at this point is that I'm not much of a mom guilt person. And I never felt guilty for having these feelings. I had faith that it was going to be OK. That we would bond eventually just like I had with Stella. I had faith that she wouldn't feel like a stranger forever. I knew the only thing I could do was process these thoughts, push forward, care for Vivi, and work to find our new normal. I knew of the miraculous hand that had brought her to that point and I knew He wouldn't leave us alone after we had come so far.