This is going to be a hard post. It's one I've been avoiding, but the time has finally come for full disclosure. I post in the full knowledge that both of my readers will probably run away in horror. But the truth must out.
We visited our best friends yesterday. My husband and I first met this couple at National Airport in September 1989 on the day our sons arrived from Korea. Since that day, our friendship has grown, and is now especially poignant, as the wife and mom, my dearest friend, passed away in 2005. Her family is still struggling with her loss, as I and all her friends are.
That first year we spoke on the phone a couple of times, and saw each other at several adoption agency events. As the anniversary of arrival day approached, we made plans to get together at their house.
Now, up to that time I had no name for the day our son arrived. I really had very few opinions about anything related to adoption, given that our pre-adoption preparation focused on types of adoption - domestic, international, open - and things to know about raising adopted children. My contact with families that had adopted from Korea was minimal - neighbors who are now good friends adopted their son a year and half before we adopted ours, and were the only people I had direct contact with on a regular basis. And there was no internet as we know it today - no email, forums, blogs, discussion lists.
Suffice it to say that I knew nothing.
So when we were invited for "Gotcha Day," I thought little about it. Although I can only blame myself for not drawing the connection between "getting a child" and "getting property," I can also say that property was nowhere near my thoughts when "Gotcha Day" entered our family vocabulary - and certainly not my friend's. It was a just a way to name the day our children arrived. And that is what we thought of it for many years, until I began to hear and read just how offensive it is to many first mothers, adopted individuals, and adoptive parents.
Hey, not so fast, you may be saying. It was your responsibility to be prepared, to have read, spoken with others, learned. You can't just walk away from this with a casual "whoops, I didn't know any better." You need to put this right.
Well, I am trying. We no longer call this day "Gotcha Day" - we've settled, more or less, on "Arrival Day" And I'm writing here in the hope that a family on the verge of choosing "Gotcha Day" to mark their child's arrival will choose another name. For yes indeed, if I had it to do over again, we'd have called this day something else from the start.
Which brings me to the point of this sordid story. As an adoptive parent, I can honestly say that I have done the best I can. And sometimes my best has fallen short, no way to get around it. But part of doing my best means continually listening, being sensitive to what the main participants in this experience - the adoptees and first mothers and fathers - are saying. And if they say that "Gotcha Day" has got to go, it's gone.