I love December. I have always loved December, but in recent years, I love it even more because two of my biggest blessings, Mr. Bean and Little Bean, came into my life forever in the month of December. In fact, next week will mark the two year anniversary of the day that Little Bean was placed with us. A huge, life-changing day! One that Mr. Bean and I will talk about, pray over, and be in awe of, because so much has changed for us in two short years. But you won’t see us ordering a cake and filling the house with balloons and presents. Here is why.
It was a dreary, rainy Tuesday. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving to be exact. Just over three months earlier, we had said goodbye to our “Mancub.” (You can read more about that here.) In the period after Mancub’s departure, our foster agency had been “slow.” In most situations, “slow” is bad, but in foster care, slow is a good thing in my book, because it means that not as many children are being removed from their homes and thus in need of a foster family. We had gotten a couple of placement calls in those three months, but all of them had fallen through for one reason or another.
There were two sibling sets of boys. We would have totally been up for that! Except that in both cases, the boys had needs greater than we could realistically meet. (You have to be honest with yourself.) And then, we got “The” call. This was it! (Or so we thought.) There were two girls. Seriously adorable little girls who needed an adoptive home. Straight up, ‘NO RISK’ adoptive placement, and their county worker had chosen our home study! Oh boy, were we ever excited! So I went to town getting rid of all of the boy stuff that we had, because soon, we would be swimming in girls! Or so we thought. But alas, that one fell through, too. I don’t say these things because I want a pity party. I’m setting the stage because I know that we are not unique as adoptive parents who have walked through heartbreak en route to adoption. This is common, and it may help understand why Gotcha Day is such a big thing for many families.
So back to that Tuesday. I went to work like any other Tuesday. When I finished teaching my class, I checked my phone, as per usual, and was elated to see our case worker had left a voice mail! There was a little boy, about one-and-a-half, and he needed a family. Today. How soon could we get there? (BTW, this is honestly how it has always gone for us, and no we didn’t have any more information than that … except for this little boy’s name.) Dear reader, by now you probably know our story, and how it ends. That little boy, who was almost 17 months old at the time, has become our Little Bean.
Today what I want to talk about is that day. That dreary Tuesday. We’ve got two sides to this coin. On one side, we have two loving parents who are literally ready to go pick up someone else’s child on three hours’ notice, to care for him. Parents who don’t care that two weeks earlier, they’d just gotten rid of all of their “boy” stuff … because isn’t that what Target is for anyway?? Parents who will do silly things like immediately start Christmas shopping for said child within days of his placement with them, because they are so excited to be able to celebrate Christmas with him and shower him with love and gifts and warmth and safety. Parents who are prepared to turn their life upside down in a heartbeat because they just cannot wait to meet this sweet kiddo!
If you’re not familiar with the term “Gotcha Day,” in a nutshell, it is the day the adoptive parents receive their placement (i.e. child or children). (By the way, I should add that on that day two years ago, we actually didn’t know when we picked him up that we would become Little Bean’s forever parents because we are a concurrent planning foster home.) Before I tell you about our view on this subject, I want to be clear that I absolutely believe the concept of Gotcha Day comes from a place of love and is well-meaning. It means essentially, “I gotcha. You’re safe. We will be your home and family. I will take care of you and meet your needs. You don’t have to worry. I have your back.” And many adoptive parents celebrate this day because it is the day their child “came home” to them forever. Which all sounds positive and worthy of a celebration, right? Of course it does! Which is why “Gotcha Day” is a thing in the first place! I’m not disparaging that. But to have a balanced view of “Gotcha Day,” I’d like to present the other side of this coin … the side that is the child’s view of this day.
The day we picked up Little Bean, we became his third home in the short life he’d lived thus far. That’s a lot for a baby, and many would say that is traumatic in and of itself. The parents who birthed him and raised him to that point were no longer in his life. While there is no doubt that children are in foster care is because something in their birth home was not safe or functional, it is still the home that they know. And no matter what, kids love their parents! We are hard-wired that way. So to be ripped away from the environment that he or she knows, even if the environment is not optimal, or up to your particular family’s standards, is very hard on that child.
And now, a set of strangers (us) picked this little boy up, and the strangers were excited. Very excited! But I will always wonder what my Little Bean was thinking that day. I’m not gonna lie, … the first picture that we ever took of him is sad. He looks sad! When I look back at it, it makes my heart ache to think about what he was feeling that day. Was he wondering who in the heck we were? (He had to be!) Was he wondering why he was getting in the car with us? Did it seem odd to him that we were smiling and so happy to see him, given the ordeal he’d just been through? Was he scared of us? After all, the home that he knew was gone forever, but he didn’t know that quite yet. And that first night … our sweet little man just cried and cried. He was up roughly every hour-and-a-half for the first couple of weeks or so. Often with night terrors. Did this new house smell different to him? Did he wonder if it would it have the kinds of food that he liked to eat? Did he wonder if we would feed it to him? Was he wondering if these new people would be good to him, or if they would hurt him? I have to believe that in his baby brain, he was wrestling with all of these questions. All the while, grieving the loss of his first home and family.
This is the very real, but sometimes unpleasant side of adoption that isn’t easy to talk about because its uncomfortable. The day our paths crossed is a significant day, for certain. It changed all of our lives forever! At the same time, it was a hard day. In fact, it was probably an emotionally devastating day for our son. And that is why, dear reader, we choose not to make the anniversary of that day a big celebration. Birthdays, yes! Christmas: HECK YEAH. Adoption Day? Wellllll, … we’re not sure yet … we’ve got until February to decide on that. But “Gotcha Day” … not for us.