My youngest daughter, age 7, has been making repeated trips to the calendar over the last month asking how many more days until February 13. You may think she’s confused because the next “holiday” in most kids’ eyes is on February 14, Valentine’s Day. But February 13 is indeed a special holiday for her, February 13, 2006 to be exact. This was the day that she officially became part of our family, better known as “Gotcha Day,” the day our Chinese adoption became final.
The journey to get to that day was a long one. First there was the actual decision to adopt a baby. Many people questioned our sanity given that we already had five biological children and that given their ages, we were on our way to “freedom.” Not to mention the cost of raising another child. Logically it was crazy, but all I can say is sometimes you have to follow your heart rather than your mind AND not care what people think! This was something that was difficult for me in my late 30s, but we felt like it was something we were called to do. Besides, what’s one more child when you already have five? Then there was the endless paperwork, two adoptions that fell through and the country we were originally planning to adopt from shutting down. Was this really meant to be? I have to say a wholehearted “yes” because once we started down the China path, everything fell into place and we were traveling to China before we knew it. She was the one meant to be ours — a 21 month-old little girl who was now healthy, but had had heart surgery as an infant and was therefore considered “special needs.”
Rachel has been part of our family for six years now. I have to admit, it hasn’t always been easy. We came home from China with the news we were moving from Cincinnati, our home for 17 years, to Atlanta. She didn’t really talk for the first year with us and she followed me everywhere! Here I was trying to get acclimated, get my family acclimated, find and start a new job and be there for her. It was tough. Luckily the other kids were a big help and we found some great support systems in our new hometown. We got through it and now she is a thriving seven year old, even though she acts like she’s 14 like her big sister sometimes.
And now here we are at “Gotcha Day” year six. We’ll have a cake to mark the occasion and give her a little gift. We’ll recall our journey to China and how much it made us appreciate our own country. We’ll laugh about how she hated my husband at first and would hit him any time he came near her. How she refused to eat her congee once we introduced her to French fries at Lucy’s, the American Café we frequented during our stay in China. I’ll worry a little bit about the fact that she seems behind in school and whether it’s because of language delays or some unknown thing we don’t know about. I’ll worry about the fact that I’m an older parent with less patience and we drag her to too many of her older siblings activities rather than her own. Then I’ll observe how much she adores her daddy and her brothers and sisters and how big she is smiling over her special day and my heart will swell with love. And I will know that life is good!