we don’t celebrate gotcha day

… because gotcha day looks like this.


Oh my heart. Just look at her sweet 27-month-old self.

Confused. Sad.

And perched uncomfortably in the arms of a complete stranger with a few peace offerings clutched in her tiny hands.

More and more it hurts my heart to look back at gotcha day pictures. Because while I was positively beaming (and sweating!) – after all this moment is the culmination of months of prayer, effort, expectations and a rapidly growing sense of mother love – my child was heartbroken on this day.

She’s lost what she thought to be her family, again.


But it’s been 8 years now.

And, thankfully, God has used those years to knit Sophie safely into our super-sized family, and the love of a crazy-for-her, forever mama and baba.


So, while we don’t celebrate gotcha day, we do make an effort to talk about gotcha day. And adoption. And birth mamas.

And on quiet afternoons, I often find our kids going through their China-trip picture albums. Sometimes they ask questions and sometimes they don’t.

We just want them to feel safe to experience the feelings that surface when they think about China.


As soon as our kiddos are old enough to understand the real meaning of “gotcha day” – why they were so sad on gotcha day, why they look so frightened, why they were clearly wanting anyone but me to hold them – we give them the choice. Is it a day they want to celebrate? Or commemorate in a different way?

So we’ll go at their pace. Follow their lead. And if any one of them ever decides they want to celebrate the anniversary of their gotcha day, we’ll be all over it. Because each gotcha day is a day I will treasure in my heart forever… it’s the day the Lord made me their mama.

Sweat, tears and all.


So this is what Sophie wanted to do to commemorate her gotcha day. Me and her out taking a few special pictures, walking in the back woods. She picked the outfit, just like she did on the day we met. I picked the roses.

And we just enjoyed each other. (The mosquitos enjoyed both of us as well.)


Grateful to be able to talk openly about hard things and tender feelings. So very thankful that she, so far, feels safe to express herself in our family. And as we go into the unknown, we will keep trusting the One who brought her home to us to do what He does better than any mama every could – heal the brokenhearted.

Happy eight years home, sweet girl. What a gift it is to watch you blossom.



  1. She is beautiful! Blessings

  2. Oh my heart! Yes to all of it. It is so difficult now to look at our girl in our China photos. But we look and she shares her little heart…and sometimes she shares things like “mama! I cry….and I didn’t wike your hair!” ….yeah..me neither baby bird.

  3. I think you are a really great Mom. What sweet pictures of your sweet girl.

  4. So beautiful….the story, the little lady and the Mama.

  5. I love this! Letting her decide. I made a Gotcha Day video for my daughter and she has asked to watch it a few times but she always cries about halfway through. She is only 5 and so she cannot articulate what is behind the tears just yet. It breaks my heart. I’m not sure I know what to do. We talk openly about her birth mom, her time in the orphanage and our family coming to China to bring her home. She asks lots of questions and I answer those that I can. I wish I had all the answers to her questions.

  6. jdavis2 says:

    Thank you for sharing. Our (adopted) son is 5 1/2, the oldest & we’re expecting a baby near his 6th birthday. We always try to be available, willing to talk about adoption – on his terms, when he initiates – without subscribing any emotions to our descriptions of what an orphanage is, etc. However, this Mother’s Day was especially hard as he contemplated how he was in another woman’s belly & called me his “step mom” or “2nd mom”. As much as I tried not to take it personal, it was an emotionally draining day. Stephanie I continue to be thankful for your wise counsel, and for sharing your family, your story. I so appreciate learning from moms who are a few steps ahead of me.

  7. Sophie’s story was indeed a heart wrenching tale. I sobbed through the pages of her visiting the orphanage for the last time. Those pictures also showed that Sophie is a girl who knows love and how to love. Her bright smile is so precious and it’s so clear that her heart is full and open and love continues to flow. God bless you sweet girl!!

  8. 3 out of 4 of our gotcha days were awful for the kiddos- ben was just thrilled someone was actually holding him- but the others were so sad- and mad- – it may be a wonderful day for us- but just like you said– so confusing and hard for them :(

    ps– if you want to make an all-natural mosquito/bug repellent– try purification oil by young living– we don’t have bugs here- but others swear by it- :)

  9. This is beautiful. Tomorrow, we ‘celebrate’ 4 years of my little sisters being home. The circumstances are miraculous, but their past is heartbreaking…how they came to us is devastating, so it feels wrong to celebrate. It’s strange that such a large dichotomy can exist…in order for me to love them, they had to lose so much.

  10. What a truly beautiful post. I just love your mothering spirit. Your children are so blessed to have a momma with such wisdom. :-)

  11. Wonderful thoughts! We have never celebrated GOTCHA DAY for any of our children…although we mark them with memories – – they were HARD DAYS/HAPPY DAYS/DAYS filled with conflicted emotions! Love your “take” on it for YOUR family!

  12. Yesterday was our family day. It’s been 7 years. Each year is bittersweet. Meaghan loves to look at pictures, telling her own story of that day. She often tells me her happiest moment was when she walked into my arms and I cried happy tears. I would never believe she remembers that moment but she’s sure she does:). I loved your words. These emotions are difficult to capture and you did it in one of the most eloquent ways I have heard. Many blessings to you all! A BEAUTIFUL post.

  13. So wise, Stephanie. Your little girl is beautiful – I pray she always feels safe to share her feelings :)

  14. I stumbled across this post as I was researching to see if I was the only person that didn’t want to “celebrate” our son’s “Gotcha Day.” When I started to read, I thought I wrote it myself! In 14 days we will recognize our son being welcomed into my arms two years ago. When I think back, I don’t have many positive memories, just tears. I remember the pain that this day caused him, even at 16 months old. I recall the blank stare he had in his eyes, and how he just sat emotionless, when he wasn’t crying. In my heart I was excited that my boy was with me, but his pain overshadowed my joy. Now, two years later, I celebrate our life together, but I see he has regressed in the past week, wondering if this is a “trigger” knowing what June 13th is around the corner. I can only pray over him that God will bring him peace and comfort that only He can bring. Thank you for writing this post! It meant so much to me!

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