By Rebecca Freemal
June 8. Our “Gotcha Day” and unicorn moment.
I could not believe the day we finally arrived in Beijing, China. After more than two years preparing for this moment and hours upon hours of travel, we were about to meet our son James for the very first time.
Adoption found us. It was a perfect path to grow our family. My son Henry always wanted a little brother and we were overjoyed to have found this fit.
It all happened on a Sunday, so instead of going to the typical Civil Affairs Office, we met in a conference room in a hotel. As we headed down to a business center in the lobby, we saw him. He was so tiny and had such a sweet little face as he looked at us. You could see him clutching the hands of a staff member. We got an uncertain smile. We could not imagine the past few days of his life.
Yi Hui is the Chinese name given to James. As I sat with him, trying to play with Thomas the Train, the staff members needed me to sign papers. Everything was so fast and confusing. Another family from Holland was there adopting a four-year-old girl. They too were juggling the language barrier, the paperwork, and a scared crying child.
I will admit I barely retained any information during that hour. Kind of like childbirth, you are there with a child and now somehow responsible for them.
My heart ached on our first night when James suddenly became very sad. He was crying out. Confused. He was clearly longing for his foster family. He had been with them for a year and a half. I held onto him as tightly as I could humming. Eventually, he calmed down. I accepted it was going to take some time. Listening to him breath gave me so much comfort.
In China, an official “Gotcha Day” must happen in the capital city of the providence where a child is born. For us that Fuzhou. To continue our three-week adoption journey, we traveled hours away from where we started. More paper work and people who barely spoke English met us on this leg of the trip. It was official.
The best part of the trip, outside of meeting James, was meeting other families. We met one family who had a five-year-old that slipped a phone number to his foster family to a stranger at a park. The next thing they knew, police surrounded them and had to explain their circumstances. It all worked out but a scary few moments.
The process of adoption really did remind me of having a child. For nine months, I feared how my older son Henry would be birthed. However, when it came time, my fear was gone. This time around, I dreaded the 15 and a half hour flight back to the U.S. but was SO ready.
What I learned during the days after…
No one really talks about the stress of adoption. Sure, it involves paperwork, tear inducing deadlines, and thousands of dollars in many cases. But, when that child comes home and the stress from the adjustment and transition hit – it’s HARD. It’s okay to admit it’s not sunshine and roses. I for one never saw a rainbow or any unicorns for that matter.
My husband and I love our sons Henry and James with all our hearts. Here is what happened when we got home.
We brought home a two-year-old son who wouldn’t go to his father, stayed awake most of the night (only to be consoled by me) and the worst, wouldn’t let my five-year-old son Henry anywhere near me. I felt isolated.
The hardest thing to admit through all of it was I had moments where I felt an intense desire to go back to the way it was before. I longed for the life when I didn’t have to escape to the nearest park, just so my five-year-old could sit on my lap without being pinched or shoved off. I worried if our family would survive.
A friend reminded me “this is not your life, this is just your summer.” She was right. I couldn’t even look a day ahead without feeling overwhelmed. So how did we get to that better place?
- We enlisted the help of an Attachment Counselor. We met this person before we even left for China. He helped us with what to expect.
- Family, friends, family, friends, family and friends (over and over again).
- Vitamins (because I didn’t eat a lot). Apparently, sleep deprivation can throw off your cortisol hormones (stress hormones). Vitamin C can help balance that out. I drank an “Emergen-C” almost every afternoon.
If you are adopting please remember these kids are survivors. You are a unicorn and so are these children. We realized we were the perfect match.