May 30 is Gotcha Day in our family. Nine years ago, we held our daughter for the first time (thus the term “Gotcha Day” in the adoption community) and we became a family. Like most adoptive moms, I had always expected to have children the way most people do. There’s a pregnancy that lasts 40 weeks, there are maternity clothes, swollen ankles and aching backs and due dates and birth announcements with a picture of a tiny pink infant. There’s a layette and most importantly of all, there’s the anticipation.
When it’s clear that none of those things is going to happen the way that you thought they would you then have to figure out new ways to do things. It’s not easy because there is no timeline and there is no visible sign that you’re “expecting.” You wait and you wait and you have no idea if it’s actually ever going to happen. If you are like me, there will be a day, a single day, in which no fewer than three, count ’em, three unrelated women say to you, “Wow! We just found out that I’m pregnant and we weren’t even trying!” If someone had been able to ask me regarding our “pregnancy,” “how far along are you?” the answer would have been, “Oh, about five years…” The process is different and foreign to most people.
So when that glorious day came and we finally did have this beautiful 10-month-old baby whom I would not have loved any more had I given birth to her, we wanted to share not just the news, but also the journey. In fact, we had to because someone else had shared their journey with us, without even knowing it. We had pursued domestic adoption unsuccessfully for several years and then one day we went to a new church and the priest called a couple up to the altar. He offered them a blessing as they were leaving that day to go meet their new daughter in China. Bill and I looked at each other and said, “We could do that.” It was happening for them. It could happen for us. Two years later, we had a baby. By the way, we’re still friends with that family.
So we really wanted to have an adoption announcement that showed people the best part of our adoption journey. We thought that an accordion announcement would tell the story of some of the special moments we wanted to remember.
We decided to show people the referral that we found so charming. The foster mom checked the boxes indicating that our daughter had a ready smile, liked to play games and was active. She did not check the box that said “Obstinate sometimes.” Thank Goodness, I remember thinking.
We also wanted to share that unforgettable moment of holding her for the first time and walking into the room where our daughter would receive her US citizenship.
We had a “chop” made for her with her Chinese name (Mudan – Tree Peony) on it that we used as well. It wasn’t just about telling people that we had finally gotten a baby, making the announcement helped us actually process all that we had been through.
We printed out the pictures ourselves on cardstock and scored the strips so they would fold into an accordion. We attached two accordions together for the actual announcement. We placed the accordions in envelopes and mailed. The original announcement is framed now and hangs in our family room. I still love it.
The advice I always give people when they say that they are considering adoption is to figure out how to customize their “pregnancy” to their circumstances. As women most of us grow up looking forward to experiencing a pregnancy, even with all of its discomfort, mysteries and uncertainties. “Figure out how to have a pregnancy, in whatever way that would be meaningful to you,” I always say. Then share your story because the next couple who has just lost their dream of a pregnancy needs you to help them through it.
The wisdom in this philosophy became clear a few years later when I ran into our accountant at the gym. He told me that he and his wife had decided to adopt. “I’ve watched how happy your family has become since you adopted Sophie and it gave us strength to try,” he said. They adopted a boy and are now waiting for another child to join their family. Trust me. That announcement. It’s way more than a piece of paper.