Hope Does Not Disappoint


Author Note: Today’s post is a memoir of the day we adopted our daughter Hope, her Gotcha Day. It was a long-awaited, highly anticipated day in the life of our family. For three long years we waited on the Lord, many ups and downs, as well as gains and losses of faith were strewn along the way, but finally the day had arrived. God had appointed this day to display not only His glory, but His goodness, and His unending faithfulness.

Our day started sometime between 3am and 4am. I finally realized that I had actually been tossing and turning all night, but not actually sleeping. I could hear John’s restlessness as well.

“Are you awake too?”, I asked.

“Yes, I can’t sleep. It’s like waiting for Christmas morning.”, he said.

We may as well stay up and talk. This is the last time we are going to be alone for a long, long time.”, I pointed out.

We talked about how our lives were changing. When you’ve been married almost twenty years, which we were at the time, enormous life change hits hard. You’ve worked your way into a rhythm usually by then and change of this magnitude can be both exciting and overwhelming.

We wondered together what her last day in the orphanage was like. Did they prepare her in some way? Did she get to say good-bye? We talked about how drastically her life was about to change and contemplated just how we should approach her when it came time to hold her in our arms. Hope wasn’t an infant when she came to us. She was a highly observant two-year old who didn’t seem to miss anything happening around her. She still doesn’t.

I was very conscious of the need to hold it together in front of her. The last thing my little girl, who I had never seen smile, was going to need, was for the woman everyone was calling MaMa to be folded over in a heap, sobbing uncontrollably. I asked God to help me to control my emotions for Hope’s sake.

I had been imagining this day for over three years. It had brought me to tears on numerous occasions without even having experienced it. I had watched the video of countless families on their Gotcha Day. I decided on this day, our Forever Family Day, that I would drop all my expectations and not try and imagine the moment, but instead just let it happen. A huge undertaking for my incessantly planning and contemplative brain.

I wanted to be in the moment, every moment.

After lying in bed anticipating the day for several hours, John and I decided to get up and get ready. While I busied myself, I looked at the empty crib soon-to-be-filled and thought, “This is the day that the Lord has made. I am SOOOOO gonna rejoice and be glad in it!” Never in my life had that verse been so apropos.

It took a conscious effort to walk myself through the morning rituals of getting dressed, eating breakfast, gathering what we needed for the morning. Each task felt so unnecessary, menial, and just in-the-way. It was like buying time. But God gave me an incredible amount of grace to keep doing the next thing in front of me throughout the morning, until at last we loaded the bus with our travel group for the 5 minute ride to the adoption bureau.

As we boarded the bus, everyone was smiling and excited, as you can imagine! You could see the look of relief on each of our faces, relief that THE moment was finally here. “This is it.“, I kept thinking. I had to tell myself this over and over because it was the most surreal moment I had ever experienced. It was a slow motion kind of moment, the kind of moment where you can hear your heart beating in your chest.

As the bus pulled out of the hotel parking lot, our guides told us that all the children should be there this morning; however if there was a delay, families whose children were not there that morning, would have to come back to the hotel and wait. We were promised that we would at least have them by the end of the day. I remember asking the Lord to please let her be there this morning, no glitches, no delays.

Driving down the streets of Zhengzhou on the way to the bureau, I thought of what an ordinary day it looked like for the people walking on the streets, but how extraordinary it was for me, for us.

“I am going to get my daughter. I DID come back for her Lord, just as You promised I would when I was in China three years ago. By the end of this day I will be holding Hope in my arms. Lord, You are faithful. You did what You said You would do. It happened. It came to pass. All that waiting and here we are. You are fulfilling your promises to us. Thank You Father. You. Are. Faithful.

By the time my prayer was ending we were pulling up to the adoption bureau. As I walked up the steps to the office, it felt like I was in a dream. We filled out more paperwork (of ‘course), and took some last minute photos of our family as four.

In a little less than an hour we’d be five. Just like that.

The first baby arrived. The office at this point literally becomes a delivery room. Maybe a tad bit more modest, but emotional and raw nonetheless. I got to watch our friend Becky, become a Mom for the first time. There is nothing in the world like watching the holiness of that moment.

The room was filling with the sounds of wonder and grief. Wonder in the eyes of parents, long waiting, and grief in the cries of little ones given away again. The emotion of the room was so heavy, it was palpable. It was absolute Holy Ground. Grown men, becoming Daddies again, were pacing the floor, wiping tears, trying to hold it together. In fact, I think the Moms held it together better than the Dads. Grin. Even our boys were stunned with the magnitude and significance of what they were seeing unfold before their young eyes. I delight to know that moment is etched into their hearts forever.

After about four children had arrived and successfully been united with their new families, I began to get anxious for Hope’s arrival. I inquired with our guide, Rita, if she had any word from Luoyang, Hope’s orphanage. She said, “Luoyang is about 30 minutes away.

Thirty minutes. My child is within thirty minutes of me. Three long years….thirty short minutes.

It was as if the pushing had begun…..I was breathing deep, tears stinging my eyes.

Rita came over, “They will be here in 15 minutes. She’s in the city.”

“She is in the city.”, I repeated to myself. Three long years…..fifteen very short minutes…in the same city.

My heart began to beat so fast it was skipping. My mind began racing like a thoroughbred, “Will she cry?” “Will she love us?” “What if she doesn’t like me?” “Breathe Amy…you haven’t come this far for God to fail you now.”

In less than 15 minutes a van pulled up. The door opened on the side of the van facing the building and the front door where we were standing. On the lap of one of the nannies sat Hope. My very first look at her in flesh and blood. My flesh and blood. I may not have carried her in my womb, but I have carried her in my heart forever and I labored painfully for her for three very long years.

The pains were more than I could bear at times, but in one moment, she was here and it was as if all those years of waiting and pain disappeared.

We stepped back and they came into the building. Hope was curiously and intently looking around. I could tell she was concerned about what was going on by the furrowed look on her little sweating brow. We had sent her a silk pillow with a photo of our family on it. The nanny looked at the pillow and used the photo as guide to find us in the room. She didn’t have to look far because we were right there in front of her!

She brought Hope to me and said to her in broken English, “Dis your Mama.”, and pointed to John and said, “Dis your Baba.” Hope looked at the photo and then at us. I stepped forward and said simply, “Ni hao, Qing Lan.” (Hello, Qing Lan) The nanny seemed to get a kick out of me greeting her in my broken Chinese. Then she leaned Hope’s little frail body toward me and I took her in my arms for the first time.

And in an instant, for all of eternity, she was my child, my daughter. For this child, I prayed.

I immediately thanked God in my heart, kissed her sweet, shaved head and her gaunt little cheeks. I hugged her as close to my heart as possible and tried to take in her expressions as to what all was transpiring. I gave her Lucy, a ragdoll we had made for her, and a ladybug blanket from my parents, so they could be there at that moment too in some small way. I couldn’t stop smiling and staring at her. At this point, things began to go really fast. The boys come over, John is trying to introduce himself. Honestly I can’t remember it all, thankfully we have a video to remind us. We are trying to grab pictures with her nanny before they leave so Hope has those memories, still as all this is going on other families are receiving their children too. Babies are crying, it is stifling hot in the room, pictures are being taken, paperwork being filled out…yes, more paperwork. It is totally chaotic and yet it is as if you are the only family in the room.

We asked them a few questions about her and I took her to the couch to sit down. She sat on my lap and looked around at all of us as we were each just a foot or two from her face. I gave her a warm bottle of milk which she finished so quickly I was afraid it may come back up. Then we shared some treats with her and looked over every inch of her, just like you do when they put your baby on your chest in the delivery room. The clothing she was wearing was 6/9 months but she was 2 1/2 years old. Her little legs were like sticks and her arms were skinny too. She had bites of some kind on her legs (which we later found out was scabies), and her little shoes had been sewn together to keep them from falling apart, but

She was beautiful. Every single inch of her.

I laid her head on my chest and she was very still. She began to fall asleep. No crying yet, which in children with attachment challenges isn’t always a good sign. If a child doesn’t cry it can be because they don’t attach to their caregivers. As she dozed, one of the babies cried out and it startled her. She sat up and began to look around the room in a panic. I knew she was looking for her caregivers. When she realized very quickly that they were not there, she let out a wail I’ll never forget. But quickly behind the tears came the anger. That wound from being abandoned, surfaced, as she realized she had been left again. She was leaning toward the door wanting to go after them. I could hardly physically contain her. John tried. I tried again. Nothing was calming her down.

We looked at each other and I thought, “Oh my, what am I going to do. Am I in over my head here?”

The roller coaster of emotions was breathtaking. I lost track of how long she was screaming, raging, but at one point, our oldest son, Austin walked over and said, “Mom, can I try?” I was so desperate at the moment, I said yes. Big brother must have had the soothing touch because she began to calm down. He felt like a superhero, and he was.

The time came to leave and go back to the hotel. We put her on the bed, gathered around and surrounded her with toys and love. She ate all day, she was so hungry. After a nap, (for Mommy too!), we gave Hope her first bath. She didn’t know quite what to think, but I sat on the back of the tub to help her. We dressed her for dinner. When I put on her new clothes and hairband and shoes, I showed her in the mirror. I’m not sure if she’d ever seen herself before. She touched her clothes and her hair and then this sheepish little smirk came over her face. I knew she liked the way she looked and thought, “I’ve got myself a girly girl here I think.”

Yesssssssss….. We’re going to get along real well, I can see.

That night after dinner I gave her another bath. The heat in Zhengzhou required multiple baths a day, not unlike Florida. Afterwards, I laid her on the bed on her towel to lube her up with lotion and put a diaper and jammies on her. It was just the two of us. As I was talking to her, telling her what I was doing, she just stared at me. I began to tickle her a bit, no response. Then I ran my fingertips in a tickling way up the sides and over her little head. Was that a grin I saw? I did it again and again. Before I knew it, I saw her smile for the first time.

Her entire countenance changed so dramatically that for a split second I thought, “Is this the same child in the photos we were sent? Did we get the right child?”

The sad little girl we saw in pictures, who we knew may not smile for a long time, smiled on our first day together. I was elated. I couldn’t believe it! This blessing was more than I could’ve asked for or imagined. I played with her some more eliciting more smiles and little giggles. Then we danced to the music of the oompah band outside the hotel helping the hotel guests celebrate Ocktoberfest. I know…its weird. Ocktoberfest….in September….in China? If you’ve ever been to China though, you’ll understand how somehow it just kinda works there. I spun her around and she began to laugh. We had such a great time just Mommy and daughter. When the guys came back, I told them they were never going to believe what had happened. I showed them how ticklish she was and that she loved to spin around and dance (still does).

Everyone was so happy. And how could we not be? We had experienced the glory of God today, we had seen His glory and His faithfulness from our front row seats in a multi-family deliver room and we would never be the same again.

Click this link to watch, Hope’s Gotcha Day video



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