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Celebrating 'Gotcha Day' With My Daughter

Photograph by Getty Images

With November being National Adoption Awareness Month, the subject of adoption has been in the news quite a bit over the last few weeks. The most recent debate-worthy topic making headlines has been “Gotcha Day”—the day many adoptive families celebrate their adoption finalizations year after year.

For a lot of families, these celebrations are very similar to birthdays. There is cake, balloons and presents—even the greeting card industry has started creating entire lines of cards dedicated to the moment of “Gotcha.” It had never occurred to me before that anyone would have an issue with these celebrations, but apparently it is becoming a hot button topic within adoption circles.

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There are those who simply detest the name—fearing it makes adoption sound like some sort of legalized kidnapping spree. Then there are others who believe that celebrating such a day is in bad taste, since adoption clearly involves loss and sacrifice at many levels. Apparently, this is becoming one of the more heated points of discussion in the ever-evolving understanding of adoption ethics.

I have to admit that I always thought the idea was cute. Yet, I never loved the term. I have had my daughter since birth. There was no real “gotcha” unless you count the moment I literally caught her out of her other mommy’s womb. For us, the term “Gotcha Day” just felt off—so I never used it. Instead, adoption day was “Cheeks for Keeps” day in our family—utilizing the nickname I have had for my daughter since the day she was born. A name she rightly deserves, because she has the most delectable cheeks you have ever seen.

The “for keeps” was a reference back to the days and weeks I anxiously waited to know she was mine, for keeps. While there was never any indication that her other mommy was going to change her mind about our adoption (in fact, she was unwavering in her support of me raising this perfect little girl), simply knowing that she potentially could was hard for me. The day a judge ruled that Cheeks was mine “for keeps,” a weight that I had been carrying around for months was finally released from my shoulders.

There is a lifetime ahead for confronting the complicated feelings and emotions which inevitably conflict the hearts of all those involved in the adoption.

My daughter belonged to me from the moment I first held her in my arms, borne from my heart if not from my womb, but it was on that day when I truly felt safe in the knowledge that she would be forever mine. And that I would be forever hers.

As such, May 28 will always be our special day, a day I fully intend on celebrating, from here until forever. After all, it is ours, symbolic of the day we became a forever family. We will make a big deal out of “Cheeks for Keeps” day, because it is what is right for our family—it is what is right for us. But even in that celebrating, we will be loving and acknowledge her other mommy, too, because she is the one who brought us all together. She is the one who chose me to be Cheek’s mommy, and who created this family I will forever be grateful to have.

And maybe that is where some of the critics feel Gotcha Day is lacking. Perhaps they fear an underlying ignorance towards the sacrifices which have to be made and the losses which have to occur in order for adoptions to take place. I can certainly see the valid points to be made there. But to some extent, I also think it may be going just a bit too far. In most cases, I truly believe people have the purest of intentions at heart. They simply want to celebrate the building of their family; a goal I think all families could likely benefit from, no matter how they were brought together. And while the term "Gotcha Day" was never really for us, I would imagine our “Cheeks for Keeps” days will pretty closely resemble the annual celebrations that so many other adoptive families will be enjoying as well.

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There is plenty of time to acknowledge the losses that have to occur, and to honor the sacrifices which have to be made. There is a lifetime ahead for confronting the complicated feelings and emotions that inevitably conflict the hearts of all those involved in the adoption. But maybe it is OK, for just one day, to put all that aside and instead enjoy the moment.

Celebrating the birth of a family, and the day each member was joined together ... for keeps.

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