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Insights I do not want to lose – “Gotcha Day”

Because I'm posting on various discussion forums, I end up writing out replies to different questions which I would like to keep track of for future reference. Sometimes in the midst of a discussion on a forum, I find that I've come to some sort of understanding about my feelings which I did not previously posess. I don't want to lose those insights, so I'll be adding them here. I will try and provide at least some context of the question/discussion for which I wrote these. Expect that the next several blog entries will be copies of posts I've made.

The following post was one I made on a non-adoption related forum of which I am a member. I have always 'kept my distance' from the members there. Not because of any failing on their part but because of my own "stuff." I finally decided these people deserved to know more about me – they share so much of themselves. So I've been telling them a little bit about my process.

Anyway, this is a post I made there yesterday which I don't want to forget.

I'm dealing with a lot of anger the last day or two – ***name removed****** I want to apologize to you, especially, if I came across as harsh in my last post. I'm feeling extremely raw, as if every emotion is bubbling right under a tissue-paper thin layer of skin which will tear if I so much as breathe too deeply.

I am trying to journal these feelings I'm having, but that is only so effective since there is no opportunity for give and take. I'm discussing some of this on an adoption forum, but since each of us have our own experiences and opinons, I end up getting into debates with people over what I'm feeling.

A good example of this – apparently there is a trend among many adoptive parents "today" to have what is called a "Gotcha" Day. This "special day" goes by many names – "Forever Family Day" or "Homecoming" or some variation. Essentially, these families are creating a tradition of celebrating the yearly anniversary of the day their adopted child came home with them, or the day they first held the child, etc. A very sweet adoptive mother posted on the forums for adult adoptees asking our opinion on "Gotcha Day." Most of us reacted similarly – the terminology makes us cringe and the idea of celebrating this day – which only serves to drive home the differences between us and our peers – makes us uncomfortable. Certainly this wasn't the case with all the adoptees who responded, but I'm comfortable saying it was the majority opinion among those of us who responded. We ended up being told we were "oversensitive" by an adoptive mother.

Now, I can understand how exciting it is for these parents to bring their children home. I know our family was thrilled and anxious and excited while waiting for my nephew to be brought home. The anticipation was huge. But there is an element to this that it seems many people are unaware of: Regardless of whether or not we were with our birth mother for a moment after birth or for a few years, we have been separated from someone who we care about on the most fundamental level.

We know that babies "connect" with the outside world in the womb. (Please, no arguments about what week/month/trimester this occurs) My own children listened to music when I was pregnant with them. That same music had an immediate calming effect on them when played for them within 12 hours of their birth. This was especially important with my youngest who was a preemie. If a newborn can connect with music (and I was NEVER one of those expectant mothers who put headphones on my stomach – this was just one song for each of them I would play on the stereo when they were having a particularly "active" night kicking mommy in the bladder) – are we really naive enough to believe that a similar connection has not been made to the mother? Her heartbeat? Her voice? Her energy?

So now the baby is born, taken away from the only comfort s/he has known (heartbeat and sound of voice), and placed in the arms of strangers. Do we really think that on some level, that baby is not experiencing that loss? Nor does that baby have the consciousness to understand what it is feeling – it only knows that the feeling is not the safety and comfort of the womb and this is made even worse because the child does not even have the comfort of a familiar voice.

Unfortunately, our society has not caught up to the fact that adoptees (and birth mothers) are grieving the loss of this piece of themselves on some level. If a woman gets pregnant, has a baby, and the baby dies – society rallies around her to support her in her grief, to help her through the loss. We don't do this with mothers who relinquish their children for adoption. We tell them to "move on," we tell them "it is for the best." We don't acknowledge their loss.

I've noticed that many of these adoptive parents are VERY threatened by the idea that their child might be grieving for "some strange woman." She is NOT a strange woman to that child – she is the heartbeat and voice that comforted that child for 9 months.

The adoption process is a time of great joy for the adoptive parents. And in most cases, it is a good and positive long-term arrangement for a child. But the child is not cognizant of that at such a young age. They know only that they have been taken from the familiar and been placed with strangers. Yet we treat the birthmother as if SHE is the stranger.

And to top it all off, now we want the child to set aside their grief and celebrate the parent's joy on "Gotcha Day."

I am not a piece of furniture. I am not a commodity. No one "got" me.

Unfortunately, our society does treat these babies as commodities. Some of us continued to be treated as such throughout our childhoods.

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January 6, 2006 - Posted by | Adoption Rants

5 Comments »

  1. I hate the name Gotcha Day too.

    Comment by kim.kim | January 20, 2006 | Reply

  2. I’m an adoptive mom and that term makes me very uncomfortable.

    Thank you for writing this post and educating us.

    Comment by Julie | January 20, 2006 | Reply

  3. The actual work GOTCHA does imply that we have “snached away” a child from a Bmother’s arms. I prefer “the Sweetest day” or “sweet day” to celebrate when a child joins our family. We will not keep the adoption a secret from the child so they have to know there was a day they were brought home to us. We will tell the story to them on that day and have a day of fun, sweets and family….

    Comment by Pitypat | January 20, 2006 | Reply

  4. We refer to that day as the day Madison came home to us. I took a picture of her in the carseat on the way home and every time I look at it I remember my very mixed feelings. We felt (and feel) very very blessed to have Madison with us but I look at that picture and I remember the grief of her mom, too, and what she (Madison) also lost. It’s a reminder of the great complications that adoption brings. For awhile I wanted to put the picture away because it was hard to look at but that’s when I realized I needed to look at it.

    Comment by Dawn | January 20, 2006 | Reply

  5. I find “gotcha day” a disturbing term. I’m an adoptive mother, and we call the day family day, but we don’t tend to do much about it (although we talk about the date, and we looked at some video from the day, and looked at some old photos). I have really mixed emotions about that day, precisely because it’s the collision of my daughter’s losses, our gains, our losses, and hard transitions. And all that is worth talking about (and we talk about it on other days, too).

    Comment by susan | January 23, 2006 | Reply


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