"Gotcha Day" is coming up at our house this weekend. For those of you who don't know what "Gotcha Day" is, it can vary for different families. It's a term used to celebrate a child's adoption date, or day they joined the family, or day they arrived at home. In our house, the date signifies the date we signed those final papers, making our son "officially" our son. In my heart and mind, he had already been my son for over 15 months, from before he was even born. But that date was the day I breathed a little easier, knowing he was actually "mine" in the eyes of the law.
Now, S has known, since he could understand, that he's adopted. He knows his birth family very well, since his "birth mother" is my sister-in-law. He knows how he grew "in her belly", and all the details a ten year old boy can know. He sees his birth father's family several times a year - we all get together after Christmas, and for their family weddings/birthdays, and picnics in the summer. He also gets very excited to celebrate his "Gotcha Day" with us. (I have been ordered to get cookies or some treat for his class.)
I understand some people don't care for that term, "Gotcha Day". To be honest, I didn't either, until it happened. Now, I can't imagine NOT using it. It's not only the day that I gained another son, it's the day that he "got" our whole family. It's the day we all "got" a larger, more complicated family, but one we can't imagine being without now.
It's been NINE whole years since we signed those papers. S had been home with us for just over a year, he was actually 15 months old on the day we signed them. I was holding his younger sister, M, in my arms, as she had miraculously been conceived and born in the time we waited to make it all official. He was sitting on my husband's lap, happily giggling and smiling that little smile of his. He'd just learned to walk within the previous month - on the day that M was born. I had been terrified that that day would never happen.
He was born 11 weeks early, at only 2 pounds, 7 ounces. Tiny, blue, and scary yet beautiful. I cried that day, so scared he wouldn't make it. Scared he'd never come home to us. I visited him every day of his full 2 month stay at the NICU. Watched him grow stronger, bigger, learning how to eat. I panicked when I'd think someone from his birth family might decide they'd adopt him instead of us (it took me a long time to get over that idea, even after the papers were signed.) I was the one to pick him up and bring him home on his day of release from the hospital, though in their eyes, I was nothing but his aunt then. I spent his TWO first Christmases, home alone with him, quarantined so he wouldn't get RSV or pneumonia, while the rest of the family visited relatives for the holidays. So "Gotcha Day" is a very important day to me.
It was the day I stopped holding my breath so tightly. The day I could actually say he was MY SON. I will bring cookies or cupcakes every year until he tells me he doesn't want them. I will make him a special meal, celebrate with him, look at pictures, however he wants to do it. I will also celebrate in my heart - that I got my second set of children - one through adoption & one through birth, after I had accepted that I'd never have more after J & K. I will celebrate it forever, whether anyone notices it or not. It's as important a date to me, as the day of every one of their births. So, if anyone ever gets confused when I say HAPPY GOTCHA DAY on January 25th, I'll be happy to explain it to them if they want to hear it all, but I will never stop saying it.