‘gotcha’. revisited.

Tomorrow marks one month since the day I stood in Civil Affairs.

And became a mama for the ninth time.

I’ve never shared these pictures before because meeting Vivienne wasn’t what I had expected.

She wasn’t what I expected.

The nanny carried her in and quickly put her down so she could toddle off to play on the rocking horse. Once firmly atop the horse, she was intent on watching the other children. She had no interest in the blond headed lady in the room.

I walked over to her and knelt down. She ignored me. When I managed to get her attention, she started turning her head, back and forth, nodding sort of, but not at me, not at anyone.

Back and forth, back and forth.

Instead of our first moment together being wondrous or beautiful, it was scary. And weird.

I hate to use that word, but it’s the only one that sums up how I felt. She seriously looked like something was wrong with her. And, on the inside, I was freaking out.

This head turning and nodding continued every time I looked at her. Honestly, I had expected tears. Or fear. Or downright anger. But not this.

But I was determined not to show my fears to Asher, or to the guide. Or to anyone. In my heart I knew Vivienne was our daughter, no matter what.

And I’m so glad she is.

I wanted to share this so that others might be encouraged if they face a similar situation on their ‘gotcha’ day. Know that even if the outer shell is scary, and the first few moments, or hours or even days are frightening, to just hold on and trust in God’s plan.

There is a little one, wondrous and precious, just under that self-protective shell. And you’ll be so blessed to witness them as they emerge.



  1. Thanks for sharing! I know sometimes it's not quite what we envision it to be…Romy would have nothing to do with me in China…and not for quite a while after we came home. If I walked into the room she would freak out…..I couldn't touch her, hold her, feed her, bathe her….look at her….

    That was 3 long years ago! She is nothing like she was. It does take time to heal these little hearts!

  2. Jennifer O'Cain says:

    This is why I am a faithful follower of your blog. Your honesty and candidness has been so helpful to me and I apprecitlate it so much. Thanks for keeping it real and sharing from your heart.

  3. Patricia/NYC says:

    And look at her now! I keep thinking about that sweet video you posted the other day!

    Thanks for sharing this…so many of us have expectations in our head & then are faced with something completely different. I remember Kiara was completely shut down in Chine…no emotion whatsoever…at.all! Whew boy, now? A whole 'nother story!! šŸ˜‰

  4. Debbie and Sam says:

    This is all so true. My DD had so many autistic behaviors that is was scary. Nobody really wanted to say it but everyone noticed. Thank goodness it was all part of the shell. The behaviors are all but gone now though it did take along time. We only see a bit of self stim in the most stressful situations now.

  5. Wow, I can't believe it has been a month already. I think it is wonderful that you have been so candid with the information about gotcha day.

  6. Sounds terrifying, yet it also makes sense as a way for a child to react to a bizarre situation. As much sense as crying. It's just another way to tune out and slowly take in a few things. Yup, it makes perfect sense to me. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Lost and Found says:

    Or even WEEKS! I had such moments of doubt in China with a toddler who laughed one minute and then screamed for hours and hours; who didn't have a bath to speak of or walk on her own 2 feet by choice until the day I told her we were going to America. Those first moments, hours, days and weeks cannot predict how these amazing children grow, heal and forgive us for turning their worlds upside down. Vivi is so precious and she looks like she's been with you a lot longer. Keep the pics coming.

  8. Hugging you right now!


  9. thanks for being so real about your experiences. It is scary for those of us who have no idea what to really expect.
    So glad she's emerging for you….she's darling.

  10. My daughter cried LOUDLY as I tried to lure her to me with a doll on Gotcha Day. Turns out she had a strong dislike for dolls like to one I showed her. She was the only child crying in the room initially. Thankfully, she calmed down after her Nanny pushed her into my arms and I fed her a fruit snack. It wasn't the same as your situation with Vivi, but it was less than ideal, yet I also knew it could be difficult. I think it's important that people know that many of our Gotcha experiences are less than perfect, except that we are finally meeting our long awaited children.

  11. Wow, a month already! Thanks for sharing this. I am certain it will help someone along the way.

  12. Ah Stefanie, thank you for sharing that. A similar thing happened with our second adoption. I had been in contact with her foster mother, had talked to her via skype and thought I knew all I needed to know but at gotcha day it was the same feeling. I was so scared, worried, you name it – but I felt something was just wrong and I couldn't figure out how in the world I had missed it. But HIS plan is perfect, she's perfect and here we are a year later and all is well!

    I've been way too afraid of sharing that original emotion because I couldn't help but think something was wrong with me. Thank you for being so honest … and so open. The world needs more people like you!

  13. I'm so glad you posted that. Our first adoption was not exactly what I anticipated and I remember going into the bathroom and crying because I didn't feel 'instant love.' Things got better very quickly, but I will never forget those moments of fear and guilt about how I was feeling.

  14. so glad I have your blog to "experience" what might come to us in 3 weeks. our gotcha day will be march 1, to an almost 4 year old boy. as the time its getting closer, i pray that he will be ready as much as we are but will do anything to help him understand as best as we can that we are there to offer him a hand, a heart and all our love and a forever family to love.

  15. Super Mommy says:

    I had a similar experience with my second adoption. Jasmine wailed and wailed A LOT…I was sure she hated us. I thought, "What was I thinking adopting a second child?" It was a rough first few days, but she finally came around ;0) – she is a mama's girl all the way now.

    ViVi looks totally different! Still as cute as a bug…knowing her personality now, do you think she was just being coy?

  16. Gotcha is rarely what we expect but eventually turns out far better than we could imainge! Thank you for sharing the reality.

  17. such encouraging words:)
    I am scared out of mind thinking about our gotcha day with our son
    thanks for your honesty.

  18. Yes! Thank you for sharing that. Meeting each child for the first time is a totally different experience! Birth OR adoption.
    Thank you so much for being candid.
    We can always trust the Father's plans.

  19. You have so many other followers, but I have to wonder if this post was just for me. I wonder what meeting my nearly three year old next Saturday is going to be like. Thank you for sharing what it was like just one month ago, because from reading your other posts, it seems it would have had to have been a "perfect" moment.

  20. Wonderful Stefanie!! Lizzie was the very similar. She would not look at me and was almost catatonic. We were very worried about her for those first couple of days. Even though we knew that she was ours no matter what, we were still scared. Slowly but surely, she began to open up and to "feel." Now she is the first one to say, "I love you Momma!" "You are the bestest Momma ever!"

  21. All three of mine reacted the same way. Alaina and Hudson closed up. Benjamin was a 'cry baby.' We called him Benny Whiney. We have friends that have autistic children and honestly, I thought maybe…Hudson was autistic. But..after 50 plus hours, he broke out of his shell. So yeah, that first couple of days is a leap of faith. Like you, each were mine to take home..no matter what. Vivi is precious. I love her.

  22. Wow! It's already been a month. It seems like I was just following your trip. What a wonderful story to share to help other new parents see through their new child's cooping strategies. So glad you went there prepared in your heart. Vivi is a precious little girl.

  23. We too had one of our Gotcha Days that was just plain scary instead of joyful. That child is now 4 and is a silly, joyful, beautiful child. But if we had not had faith we would not have proceeded. Sharing your story will help someone…I know it will.

  24. I cannot believe it's been one month.
    Your honesty and transparency is why I am a HUGE fan of Ni Hao Ya'll. You are such an inspiration. The unfolding of Vivi's "then" to "now" photos brings glory to God and hope for us all who are "emerging" ourselves!
    Thank you for keeping it real.
    Love & Blessings from Hong Kong!

  25. Thank you for your honesty. When I look back at photos of our daughter form gotcha day, she looks so shell shocked!
    After a few days, she relaxed and we saw a different little happy baby!
    Krista D

  26. Football & Fried Rice says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! I can honestly say too that the little girl I met on gotcha day is NOT the baby girl watching Dora right now! God covers SO much!!! And He never gives us more than we can handle – HE KNOWS! I just love Him and His perfect plan for our (YOUR!) lives!!

    And I love seeing Vivienne!!

  27. Oh Stef..WOW!…thank you for sharing this. I love that despite the fact that you were freaking out inside, that you kept it cool on the outside and kept your trust in the One who called you! I SO appreciate your honesty. Sending BIG ol'hugs your way!

    Love ya,

    p.s.>> I can't believe it has been ONE MONTH already!!!

  28. Oh man, Stefanie, posts like these are so important for those of us who've not yet experienced that day. I can only imagine how many will think back to your words and draw strength and encouragement from them when the long awaited meeting doesn't go as planned and dreamed of. Thank you for sharing these feelings. Your honesty is such a blessing.

    And Vivi, well, she's just amazing!

  29. Stef,

    Thanks for keeping it real. I can so relate to this post. Our time in China was definitely not what I had hoped for, but things are very different now..PTL. These children go through so much, and they all have their own way of coping; their own timetable on when THEY decide it's safe to trust and let you in.

    Thanks for sharing. Vivi is beautiful:-).


  30. Amen sister! Been through it and with God's help it has been a wonderful blessing!

  31. a Tonggu Momma says:

    This was so our experience, Stefanie. Hence the autism concerns. But our little Tongginator is NOT autistic. And even if she was, I would still make the same choice. Hugs to you.

  32. Mei Mei s and Mayhem says:

    This was our Gotcha Day too! I actually had a mini panic attack as Ava came out from behind the curtain. I thought what in the heck Im I doing here?? this is not the little girl I imagined! I froze, I did not move, I did not hear anything around me!! By the time I came back to reality my 11 year son had grabbed her and was holding her!! I guess because she was walking and running already it was not how I thought Gotcha Day would go! Things got better as the days went on and she stole our hearts. But she was a Daddy's and brothers girl and not a Mommy girl until a few weeks after being home.
    Thanks for sharing your story it has encouraged me to share mine!!

  33. Stefanie,
    I am so glad you shared this! So many people expect tears or giggles and don't prepare that there can be other faces you see on Gotcha Day. When Bailey toddled into the room on Gotcha Day my husband and I just looked at each other and we were both thinking…"something is wrong that we don't know about". She was much smaller than we thought she'd be and she was shuffling her feet and blinking rapidly at her caregiver. I have to tell you I was scared to death. But, it's like my husband said later, "I knew we weren't leaving there without her so it didn't matter what was going on." Turns out that her shoes were about 2 sizes too big and she was carrying a WalMart bag that was half full of candy which was weighing her down. The blinking…it's just something she does when she's nervous.

  34. Stephanie thanks for sharing your story. My daughter would not make eye contact for months, I remember how sad that made me feel. I tried everything short of standing on my head to get her attention. She has come such a long way since, she smiles chatters away and is an absolute pleasure. Vivienne seems so sweet and content in all her pictures she's already made such progress.

  35. sweet momma luv u says:

    Thank, Thank you so much for being honest Stephanie!! I am so very scared about our meeting with Jon Jon. It is kinda freaking me out as I do not know what to expect. You are such an amazing testimony to having faith in God and his plan for your family. I will con tinue to pray for us and our situation.

    OMW we leave in 2.5 weeks for China!! I am going crazy!!!!


  36. Wow…..I could have written that post myself! We received our daughter just 3 months ago and she was totally shut down for nearly a week….catatonic, limp & emotionless. I was terrified that there was something seriously wrong….I was literally sick to my stomach. We prayed and just knew that God didn't bring us that far for us to give up on one of His precious children. We hung in there and are so very glad we did!! Today she is a giggling, happy and active toddler! Our girl is quite a little character and we love her to pieces!

  37. Thanks for being transparent and sharing your story. I know this will encourage others as it has me.

    Vivi is too cute for words!

  38. This so much like our first days together (with Maddy). On top of her obviously indifference, she had more physical SN's than were previously disclosed so we spent many days wondering if she would have issues that would preclude her living beyond her childhood. It was sad for sure and absolutely nothing we would have signed up for if we'd known. But she was okay and four years later, she's the happy healthy sweet and smart little girl you see on our blog!

    Our Blog: Double Happiness!

  39. Thanks for being so real and transparent. Every child is different, they react and grieve in their own way. Love, time and God's grace does amazing things.

  40. Thanks for your honesty, Stefanie. Those Gotcha Day moments are rarely what one envisions during the months leading up to it. I think it's great to share this, and also the potential fears that come about that very day.

  41. Stephanie,

    I cried when I read this…as it was similar to what I experienced. My sweet, sensitive, intelligent Lia spent our first moments holding a bottle in her mouth by the nipple and shaking it back and forth like a dog shaking a toy…and aternately ripping up a roll of toilet paper. I spent that first night in tears, thinking that she had some serious problems, scared for Jim and me…and what lied ahead…until dawn, when I just watched her sleep and resolved that I would love her unconditionally (as I already did!)…and do the best I could for her…and of course she is the biggest blessing in our life…a delight in every way…a dream come true.

    May your sweet blessing continue to multiply…you are such an inspiration.


  42. Shay Ankerich says:

    What a post straight from the heart- thank you so much for sharing this with us. How can it have been a month already??? So thankful Vivi is doing so well. God is so good all the time and always blessed those that follow His will.

  43. I'm reliving some of your feelings as we just celebrated our 6 months Gotcha Day with our second daughter. It was pretty scary and she comletely shut down for several days. Autism and extreme delayed development flashed through my mind a lot.

    But I hung onto God and believed he had brought us on this path for a reason. Today – she just lights up our life.

    Thank you for your honesty. Your sweetheart is just sooooo cute!!!

  44. Thanks for your honesty. Your situation sounds so similiar to ours. I remember having so many emotions and being so scared. Our daughter was so blank faced. She just kept grinding her teeth and touching her little finger (she only has 2) back and forth to her nose. Our first night together she banged her head on her crib until I finally had to cushion it with towels. It was neverending and I just knew something was wrong. I have never felt as close to God as I did in those moments when all you have is faith in Christ and the assurance that you are in His will. It took some time, but now our girl is a wild child and those days are a memory. One that I will never forget, but am thankful that she will not remember.

  45. Shelly and Family says:

    Just looking at these photos give me chills!

    I too have been there ~ when things just are not going as you imagine (the name Francesca ring a bell…) but look how that is working out now…for the both of us :)

    Thank You for sharing your story and these photos. As many of us know, these are priceless….!

  46. Tiaras, Tutus, and Fairy Dust. says:

    Thank you for sharing this. so many of us look up to you as a seasoned mom. There is comfort in knowing that even the best are scared sometimes:-)

  47. *Overflowing* says:

    I love your willingess to be honest and completely open if it means helping another family! You are amazing girl! I will tuck this post away in my heart and pull it out, if needed, when we met our sweet Solomon! Hugs girl! ~stacy

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