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.|
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.|
|Hey little man, are you ready to bust outta here?|
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!"|
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.
|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!"|