Why We Don’t Celebrate “Gotcha Day”


 Each year, November is recognized as National Adoption Month. The goal of this initiative is to increase national awareness of the urgent need for adoptive families for children both in the United States and abroad.  This month is especially important for our family because

On March 5, 2010, in a tiny courthouse in snowy Siberia, one story ended… but another one was just beginning. 

Each year, November is recognized as National Adoption Month, which is especially meaningful to our family. My nine-year-old daughter, Hannah, was adopted from Kazakhstan. During this month, we often get together with other adoptive families to reminisce and share stories. One of the topics that often comes up for discussion is whether or not to celebrate “Gotcha Day.”   

For those unfamiliar with the term, “Gotcha Day” (short for “The Day I Got You”) is celebrated by many adoptive families to commemorate the day in which a child is legally adopted or first meets his or her new family. 

March 5, 2019 marked nine years since Hannah joined our family. And for years, we baked cakes, brought treats to school, sang “Happy Adoption Day” and celebrated the miracle of adoption in general.There were cards and small gifts, too. It was like a second birthday, and our other, “homegrown” biological daughter used to joke that she wanted a “Gotcha Day” as well.   

Hannah loved her “Gotcha Day” until one year when she didn’t.

Two years ago, in late February, when I asked her if she wanted me to order some treats to bring to her classroom for her “Gotcha Day,” she burst into tears and stomped to her room, slamming the door behind her. After much discussion, we realized that as our daughter had gotten older and wiser, “Gotcha Day” was now filled with mixed emotions for her. It was a day filled with happiness AND sadness. Hannah had realized that in order for our family to be created, her first family had broken. 

Adoption is truly a broken hallelujah. As special as it is when new families are created and orphaned children find homes, it cannot occur without the loss or abandonment of a birth family. And while Hannah’s adoption day was the best day of my life, it was likely the worst day for her biological mom. For my daughter, the trauma of that loss has become increasingly amplified as she gets older and more aware of what went wrong in her birth mom’s life in order for Hannah’s life to become what it is today.

It’s frustrating for her as well. She asks questions about why her birth mother was unable to raise her. She wants to know if she has birth siblings or other relatives.

These are questions for which I do not have answers (not for lack of trying – our birth parent searches have been unsuccessful at this point). Not only is it the loss of her birth family, but it’s also the loss of her native country and culture. She will likely never know what it’s like to live in a place where the majority of people look like her. And if at some point, she is able to go back to her birth country, she will likely not speak or understand the language.    

So we stopped with the parties, balloons and “Gotcha Day” celebrations. We now choose to celebrate adoption in different ways. Each summer, we attend a large national gathering of adoptive families from Kazakhstan. And in May, we get together with local Kazakhstan adoptive families for a Nauryz “celebration of Spring” party.

It’s been said that adoption is the only trauma in the world where victims are expected to be happy and grateful, so even during these celebratory occasions, we tell Hannah it’s okay to be happy and sad.

One thing is for sure, though. No matter how long I live in this world, every year on March 5, I will always take a minute to reflect on the miracle of our adoption and Hannah’s “Gotcha Day.”

If you’re interested in learning more about adoption and/or foster care, please click here



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