Friday, February 8, 2013

A New Day, A New Life

This day.  This day started almost a year ago, with one email to my husband Brian, a photo of a little boy attached.  I sent it almost as a fluke, not really expecting much of a reply except maybe, "What a cute boy."  Instead, I had a husband who continued to ask me questions about this little boy, until I finally had to tell him he couldn't ask me any more questions unless he was serious about pursuing a child through adoption.  Well, here we are, one year later and a sleeping little rascal lays napping next to me, just waiting to see what else he can discover today.

Gotcha Day photos have sustained me throughout the past year.  I would stalk blogs of families I "knew" through online adoption circles.  I would cry at almost every single one.  What is it about watching the moment a child becomes a son or daughter?  To see a new life begin, whether from the womb or through adoption, is sacred.  And oh, do I feel the holiness of it all every single day.

It is tradition here on Gotcha Day to bring a cake and flowers to the orphanage as a sign of friendship and good will, so when we finally got the call that Alla was on her way to pick us up, we first headed to the grocery store to pick out the perfect cake and flowers.  I chose a chocolate cake (my favorite!) and yellow roses, 9 of them (because you never give an even number, I've learned, because it's bad luck!)  Yellow roses are a symbol of friendship, and I thought that was just what the caregivers at Gabe's orphanage had given him-friends.

Yet another photo where the security guard in the background is on his way over to tell us to stop taking photos in the store.  Not sure why this is prohibited in a small grocery store, but we didn't take any more.
First we went to Jeana's orphanage to pick up her little girl, Vika.  I was privileged to be able to accompany her into the orphanage and take photos and video of this special day for her.  I tell you, the parallels between adoption and childbirth are so incredibly similar it's eery.  I literally felt like I was in the delivery room when Vika entered, a smile instantly spread across her face as she saw her mama and went to her arms.  She was dressed in her new clothes, and was eager to put on her coat and leave with Jeana.  I took video through my own tears as they left the orphanage behind.  What a sacred moment I will always treasure.  Check out Jeana's blog for her account of their special day,

Then, it was my turn!  We drove the familiar path through snowy roads to the orphanage gate.  I took a video, the last I will take of this drive.  We checked in at security and as soon as the guards found out today was the big day, they smiled so big and told us they were all so happy for my boy.  My mouth was already aching from all the smiling I had done so far, but that was just the beginning.

We first went to the social worker's office, where she, too, congratulated me and then gave me Gabe's baptism certificate and even the little outfit he wore at his baptism.  What a treasure!  She also gave me some photos they had taken from our first visit with Gabe, photos I didn't even know existed.  Another gift!

The director came in and we shook hands and all smiled some more as they had me sign the last papers to make it official: he is my boy, I am his mother, and I am here to take him home.

We went up the staircase, through the cloakroom doors.  I emptied his new clothes from my bag and Alla took them to his teachers to have them dress him for me.  When Alla walked through the door at the end of the hallway, I could hear him exclaiming because he knows what seeing Alla means: his mama is here!  He was shouting "Mama, mama!!"  The whole time they were dressing him, I could hear him jabbering on and on about mama, car (beep beep!), papa.  I waited with such anticipation.

The first day of the rest of my life.
Finally, he came through the doors.  This boy.  This boy has more joy upon seeing his mama than a person can even fathom!  So much like Jake at home, Down syndrome must include more love in that extra 23rd chromosome.  Just look:

Hey little man, are you ready to bust outta here?

Let's go!
Before she came, Jeana made an enormous amount of children's quilts to bring to the kids in Vika's groupa.  She had just enough extra to be able to give one to each child in Gabe's groupa too.  What a *coincidence*.  He was so proud to bring them to his friends.  He shouted the whole way back to his groupa room, like "look what my mama brought!"

His teachers were so thankful, and then they came to me to tell me what a good boy Artur is.  No translation is needed when love is involved.  I tried my best to tell them how grateful I am for them, for what they have done for my son, for what they do for all of the orphans here.

Then, it was time for the final dressing.  He was thrilled to see his new coat, gloves and hat.  The joy in his eyes, his face, will always be in my memory.  I will pull it out on the days we struggle to make this new life together, because those days are sure to come.

"Give mama a kiss"

This is it, child, are you ready to go?  Today is the first day of the rest of your life, too.

His first moment of freedom, and in true boy fashion he wants to get his hands on those snow shovels!
Outside the orphanage gates.  Forever in my arms.
Meeting Vika and Jeana.  "A new friend?  Added bonus!"

As soon as he got in the car, sweet Vika leaned over and gave him a big hug.  They sat there for a moment, then he pulled back and immediately touched her pretty hair in its ponytails and commented her on how nice she looked (or something like that, since I don't speak toddler Russian :-)  They then proceeded to have the most animated conversation for the next ten minutes.  They joy they shared with each other was priceless to behold.  It was a gift that they got to spend these moments together.  If only I knew everything they were telling each other.  But I'm pretty sure it went something like this, "Hey Vika!  This is pretty awesome!  You have a mama, too?  Aren't they great?!  We are part of a family now!"

We got to the hotel, made it in to the lobby, and after looking around at the grandness of it all, he promptly tried to touch every single thing he could get his little hands on!  I finally picked him up when he almost knocked over a sign.  We headed up to our room, and he was more methodical about exploring this new place.

This giant bed is amazing!  All these pillows and it's so soft!

I loved how he crawled up to his new teddy and examined him.  We talked about him, how he was his now.  Jeana aslo gave him a blanket.  He was starting to think this new life was going to be pretty good.

The first bath is like another baptism in my mind. It is the washing off of the old orphan life, and the putting on of the new life as part of a family.

I wasn't sure how he was going to like the bath, but I soon learned it is his favorite place to be.

After the bath we spent the rest of the evening in our room, which is adjoined to Jeana's room, which only made for more fun.  

My little boy likes to read the paper, just like his mama and big sister.

Here he was tapping the paper with his hand and telling me something very important.  I think he was saying, "this new adoption ban must be overturned!  Who thought of this crazy idea, anyway?!"

He and Vika shared their toys so well.  But instead of feeding her baby he was her doctor and jammed the bottle tip into the baby's eyes.  Ah, well!
And certainly he needed the food more than the dolly anyway.
His eyelashes.  They are heavenly.
"Hey Vika!  Go grab your best toys and let's meet back here in five minutes, okay?!  We have a lot of lost time to make up for!"
Gabe didn't have much of an appetite that first night, which is understandable considering the tremendous changes he experienced in one day.  I managed to get him to eat enough to settle his tummy, then tucked him in to bed.  I laid down beside him.  He would move away from me, then come back, over and over.  It was like he couldn't reconcile what he was used to, being alone at night, with what his heart wanted, being next to his mama.  Finally he sidled up next to me and I sang him lullaby's and stroked his hair until his eyes couldn't stay open any longer.  A few times in the night he awoke, each time he whispered, "mama?" and reached out for me.  I would hold his hand or gently rub his back and he would instantly fall asleep again.

Happy Gotcha Day, my son.

Love, Mama


  1. I knew I couldn't sleep for a reason! What a wonderful day. The part about him sleeping that first night is to sweet and tender, it makes me cry. You are so blessed to have this angel for your own. Happy Gotcha Day!

  2. Absolutely beautiful - thank you for sharing your journey!

  3. So beautiful! He is going to love his siblings at home! What a sweet boy. So thankful for you and your journey. Ok time to go wipe away the tears.

  4. I love this post! I am so so so happy for you family! I love adoption and the happiness it brings to many life's. Gotcha Days are something to celebrate the rest of your life!

  5. "He would move away from me, then come back, over and over. It was like he couldn't reconcile what he was used to, being alone at night, with what his heart wanted, being next to his mama." THIS. No matter how attentive and loving a worker in an orphanage is they cannot replace the lack of a parent. We are beyond words thrilled for you. From the "Save Arnold FB" campaign of last year,to this horrible ban business, we have waited and prayed for THIS!

  6. Oh-SO-happy for you and your family! As someone who's been on the adoption waiting list for 8 months and is also pregnant for the first time (expecting our baby girl in May), I can only imagine just how "right" it feels for you to have Gabe in your arms at last. Congratulations! It's so true how you described these as "sacred moments" and what a special gift it is to have Gabe's baptism certificate and outfit. Wow.

  7. Truly touching! Tears were welling up in my eyes throughout. Thank you for sharing these beautiful moments with us! I am sure you are still smiling and will continue to do so for quite some time. We love you and Brian and your family. We pray that the rest of the process and your trip goes well. It will be exciting to know you are home with Gabe and your WHOLE family soon. We can't wait to meet him, but know that you need time as just your family to adjust, experience and enjoy. May God continue to bless you and Gabe in your journey home!

  8. Congratulations! What a marvelous end to this story that's really just beginning!

  9. just beautiful! Thank you for sharing these sweet moments.

  10. Oh I'm just weeping. I am looking at all Gotcha! days I can since we are in the process of adopting a little girl from Bulgaria. I can't wait for Gotcha! day. Thank you for letting me see yours :)

  11. Tears of joy. What a happy, happy day.

  12. Oh what tender mercies!! This blog is so important for you!! When those days get hard - and you know they will - take a break and look back and you will remember what it is all about!! You may look back soon - or you may look back in 10 years - just remember because this love you have for this new little son is most precious!!
    So glad to see the joy - and thank you for sharing!!

  13. This is one of the most beautiful, soul-nourishing accounts I have ever read...ever. I will remember it forever, and each time I do, I will pray or Gabe, and your family.