Memories of Gotcha Day….17 years ago.
As cliché as it sounds…it really does seem like yesterday. I first met my future children in an orphanage in La Paz, Bolivia in June of 1993. I had traveled a few weeks before the process was to begin. There was no agency involved so I was totally on my own. All I had received was a photo and nothing else.
The person in Bolivia who was helping me through part of the process accompanied me that day. We waited outside the main building for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally a caregiver brought over a shy little girl with a boy’s haircut (4 ½ at the time) who was dressed in a rather worn out white dress. She looked at me like I was from another planet! The icebreaker was that she discovered the ham sandwich I had packed in my fanny pack for lunch. She was more excited about this than the little dolls and coloring book I had brought her. She ate it very quickly and those first signs of attachment began.
Next, I was brought a little boy (age 2) who had on so many diapers and layers of clothing, he could hardly walk. He, like his sister, figured I was from another planet, too…but a REALLY scary one! He quickly ran away from me screaming for his caregiver! So much for that “magic moment” that adoptive moms dream about.
I visited the orphanage every day for the next 2 weeks and little by little they both started warming up to me. I confess that I used food as bribery. Marri, who had a large birthmark on her face, would notice I was there and then disappear. She would return wearing the worn out dress. I found out later it was because the only time she was told she looked pretty was when she wore that dress at her baptism, long before I arrived. And she really wanted me to think she was pretty, especially since she didn’t feel that way due to lots of ridicule by the others because of her birthmark. As soon as I realized this, I was able to convince her that I thought she was beautiful no matter what she was wearing. And the dress disappeared.
I discovered that Alex was hopelessly in love with the little boxes that contain fruit juice. So I made sure my backpack was well stocked each day. I would put one away from me on the table in the play area…and then slowly keep moving them closer each time. He started to feel secure enough to play with the little toys I brought and eventually even let me hold him.
In my opinion, the message most important about Gotcha Days is that it is a unique and different experience for everyone. Through the years I’ve been helping adoptive families, I’ve noticed that it is extremely rare that the families see fireworks and hear angels singing when their little one is first placed in their arms. Gotcha Day is just the beginning of an incredible journey!