Why I Chose to Celebrate “Gotcha Day” With My Family

“Gotcha Day” is typically considered the day that you pick up your child to bring home. Although that definition can vary a bit depending on preference and country, Gotcha Day is often celebrated as the day that the family was finally united. So, whether it be the day your child was legally yours, the day you picked your child up, or the day you all stepped foot on American soil with your brand new American citizen, your “Gotchaversary” can be a special day to celebrate.

For my family, Gotcha Day is one of deep celebration. Not only did my child escape the deep neglect and abuse that he had been experiencing his entire life, but our Gotcha Day signifies a day of love. As my husband and I traveled to Bulgaria to pick up our tiny three year old, we had our biological two year old and six month old strapped to our backs. Our little family had stepped out in faith, following a calling that many said was crazy, and, as we traversed a foreign country with “3 under 3”, we knew that day was one to celebrate. Our new son finally had a family, love, adequate food and water, and the medical care that he would need. He would no longer be ignored, and he would no longer be stuck within the walls of a crib for the majority of the day. Within a minute’s change, he instantly had the opportunity to learn to love, to care, to walk, to talk, to chew food – things that I can guarantee you I took for granted before that day. That day also signified a day of growth for our other children – they now had another brother who will end up teaching them more than they will ever realize. Our little family had been united, and we were all there to celebrate the beginning of everything new.

We also use our Gotcha Day as a day to celebrate the heritage of our son’s birth country. Though we are not a multi-cultural family any more than we were before, we are now a multi-ethnic family and love to rejoice in that. So, we tend to try Bulgarian foods, and look at photos of our pick up trip. Though our son isn’t developmentally old enough to actively participate in celebrating where he comes from, we will always choose to cherish where he was born. 

But, Gotcha Days aren’t always roses and butterflies. For a child from trauma, especially one who is chronologically and/or developmentally older and can cognitively remember pieces of their past, a Gotchaversary may be one of heartache. To an adoptive family, Gotcha Day is full of smiles and photos. But, to the adopted child, it is often full of confusion, fear, and sadness. Everything they’ve ever known has been taken from them, and they are now with a family that most likely doesn’t look like them or speak the same language as they do. Gotcha Day can bring back those feelings of nervousness and fear, along with memories of neglect, abuse, mistreatment, etc. It can be a painful experience for a child who is still grieving their past. Even my son, who was too young and too mistreated to remember specifics, has his past intertwined into every minute of his day and even cried when eating Bulgarian food months after coming home. Trauma rewires the brain, and a Gotcha Day doesn’t wire it back.

So, whether you choose yes or no to a Gotcha Day celebration, always choose to celebrate family. Whether you go out on your Gotchaversary to an ethnic restaurant to celebrate your child’s history, or you go to a ballgame and eat a hotdog to be as American as possible, do it together. Gotcha Day is really just a day to celebrate love and family after all.

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