I saw a “Gotcha Day” video this week from a family who traveled just before we did. I had communicated a lot with this family before our adoptions, but in the 2 months since we’ve been home, we’ve just been in contact on Facebook.

So when I saw her Gotcha Day video, of course I had to watch it: that glorious moment when a family is physically united. When all the prayers, hopes, and dreams come to fruition before my very eyes. It was beautiful.

One of the parts of the video included a trip to the orphanage, and I could hear the children all singing in the background. As the camera panned around, I caught a glimpse that took my breath away.

My daughter. With her shaved head, her yellow orphanage dress, and her filthy once-pink orphanage shoes.

Was it only 2 months ago that she was living in that world? No one tucked her in. No one make sure she had optimal servings of dairy, fruits and veggies, whole grains, and protein. No one read to her four bedtime stories, or massaged her head, back, hands and arms after shower time. No one carefully rubbed lotion on her skin religiously twice per day to keep it from getting ashy.

She was one of 75, lost among the dozens of other children surrounding her, waiting for their own “Gotcha Day.”

Now, I wonder. Is she happy to be a part of our home? Has all of the change been worth it for her? If she were to have a choice right now, would she go back to the orphanage, or to her birth family? Does she know she is loved? Does she know she is finally safe?

Or is she weary from being told when to go to bed, to chew with her mouth closed, to use her inside voice? Is she tired of unfamiliar foods, a language she doesn’t understand, and living in a world with mostly white people? In the midst of all the people hugging her, touching her, greeting her with smiles and kisses, does she know that I am her mother?

I don’t know. I would love to catch a glimpse of what is going through her head. I would love for her to communicate to me in a language that I could understand. I would love to know if her laughter is genuine or just a coverup for the grief and fear she should rightfully be feeling.

Someday I hope I will know.

But today is not that day.

I can only look at the girl across the room in her pink corduroy pants and flowered top and hope that we are who she hoped for, and more importantly, who she needs.


After the Silence

You’ve read the international adoption blogs, from choosing a country, to submitting the dossier, receiving a referral, waiting through months of governmental mayhem, and finally the “gotcha day.” There is, of course, a beautiful airport welcome-home ceremony, complete with video cameras, Facebook posts, and old-fashioned signs.

And then many blogs fall silent.

My own blog has fallen silent.

It’s too hard to explain the sheer fatigue, range of emotions, number of temper tantrums, and amount of just plain work that comes after the gotcha day, especially to those who want your adoption to be the happily-ever-after everyone wants it to be.

What will people think if I tell them the truth about what is going on behind our cheerful polka-dotted curtains? Will they understand? Will they criticize? Will they say, “I told you so?” and shake their heads in self-righteous condescension?

The truth is, I don’t know.

But I also know that I am a writer, and maybe somehow by telling my story anonymously, I might sort through this beautifully hideous thing called international adoption. Maybe someone else will read it and know that they are not alone. Maybe another will read it and realize what their internationally adopting friends might be going through, and know how to support them.

So here we go. A new blog. A new journey.

To start, I thought I would reveal some little known facts about our adoption. In the last 6 weeks since we’ve been home with our 4 and 5 year old, I’ve realized the following:

1. My husband and I are really glad that we don’t drink alcohol at all because we would be alcoholics by now.
2. When we drop them off at school, we don’t miss them.
3. Our children understand enough English so that one child tells the other in an African language to do the opposite of what we’ve just told both of them to do in English.
4. The same child refuses to speak English.
5. Screaming bloody murder is apparently an appropriate response to being asked to lower the volume of one’s voice, hang on to a swing with both hands, and to wash one’s hands before lunch.
6. We have no idea how old our kids really are so giving them age appropriate discipline, education, and responsibilities is remarkably difficult.
7. Our dog bit our little girl (just a scratch) and we were almost strangely relieved when it finally happened, so that we would get to stop warning her for the 1.5 billionth time that she shouldn’t try to startle the dogs.
8. We have consumed more chocolate and potato chips in the last 6 weeks than in the previous 6 months. We have still each dropped more than one clothing size.
9. I still feel like a full-time unpaid babysitter.
10. We both look for chores to do so we have an excuse to not watch the kids. Our house is way more clean now than before we had kids.

So there you have it, a peek behind our polka dot curtains. There is more to come.