WOW! I can hardly believe that it's already been 4 years today since we first held our darling Sarah in our arms. There are so many things that I have contemplated today as I remember our trip to China and meeting Sarah for the first time. It was on her first birthday that our plane left the Salt Lake International Airport on our way to China. I remember it being a little bittersweet...I couldn't have been more excited to travel to meet our daughter, but was a little disappointed that we weren't able to be there with her for her first birthday. When we first arrived in China, it was late at night and the following 2 days were spent sightseeing and doing normal tourist things. Our guides kept us so busy we didn't have a chance to feel any jetlag! We were going constantly from morning til night. In retrospect, I really think it was a good idea because when we did meet Sarah, we were already on her time-schedule.
The next day, we flew to Jiangxi Province. I remember being in the Beijing Airport and trying to buy some socks. I had to send our suitcases the night before, and completely forgot to take out some socks for me to wear. It had to be a funny sight with Troy and I trying to explain to the sales woman what we were looking for--all the pointing at my feet, then his feet with socks on...finally after a few minutes, she realized what we wanted and I was able to buy some socks. I still have and wear those socks, too!
When we returned to our group at the gate, one of the twelve families we were traveling with had a finding ad of our daughters. They put photos and small descriptions in the newspaper for a long time of the children at the orhpanage, to see if anyone comes forward to claim the children. Sherry, our guide, was reading the Chinese for us and we saw a very newborn photo of Sarah, she was about a month old in that one and it's the only photo of her that we have that young.
We were all so excited, only a few hours away from meeting our daughters. When we arrived in Nanchang, Jiangxi's capital, we had a long bus drive to our hotel...it seemed to take forever! At this point, I don't think we were too sure where we would meet our girls. We had heard stories of them being brought to the hotels, but many of the Provinces now required families to go to the government offices and meet them there.
It wasn't until we were at the hotel that we found out they were coming to us! I remember being so rushed! We had very little time to get ready for Sarah. We had to wait for our luggage for what seemed like an eternity in order to retrieve and wrap the gifts we'd brought for the orphanage staff. We couldn't go down to the conference room until we had our luggage, gifts wrapped and delivered to our guide. I remember we waited in our room for the luggage and kept looking out in the hall to see if it was coming and I think Troy finally got it from the bellhop and I started wrapping presents. Troy was half in the room, half listening to what was going on in the hotel...the next thing Troy races into our room and says, "the babies are here!" One of the families had seen them enter the hotel! I was so frantic, I don't think that I had ever wrapped any present so fast in all my life.
I finished wrapping, grabbed the camera and video camera, took the gifts to Sherry's room and raced to the conference room to see if we could get a glimpse of our precious Sarah. There were 2 rooms next to each other when we got there. I remember seeing the DeFelice family in the hallway with their cute Lucy already! There was her caretaker in the hallway sitting down and when Teresa and Chris got there, they realized it was Lucy and were holding her and trying to play with her. We looked into the room where the babies and Nannies were and tried so hard to see which one was Sarah. We couldn't see very well because the lights were off and then sunlight was shining in the window behind the babies and it was difficult to see their faces. Many of them were crying...probably tired, hungry, and wet from their long bus ride from Ruijin to Nanchang.
We kept looking for Sarah until they told us we had to go to our conference room and wait...we never did figure out which baby she was. The guides gave each family a number...we were Family #3. And since we were Family #3, we were the third family to receive their daughter. When it was our turn, they yelled for us, (they had to yell with the 2 babies that already were with their families and the other babies that were crying in the background.) Of course, we soon found out that they were yelling because Sarah was screaming her cute little head off. Someone handed Sarah to Troy and she was screaming I handed them our passports and paperwork, to prove we were the right family...Troy very quickly handed her to me and she didn't stop crying. I remember being so concerned for her, but so glad to have her in my arms. I didn't cry, which for those of you who know me--you know that's miraculous. I just held her and tried to comfort her. It wasn't until that night in bed, after she'd fallen asleep that I cried. It was a wonderful cry though, I was so excited and happy to be Sarah's Mom, all I could do was cry to express my emotions.
For me, the next few hours were a blur...I remember doing some paperwork, then being sent to our room and told to return in a short amount of time for more paperwork and photos for the adoption certificate. I remember going back to our room, putting a diaper on her bare butt--she was wearing those split pants they use in China to potty train and I didn't want to get pee-d on! We were told that it was not a good idea to change her clothes right away, as everything in her world had just changed when she was handed to us and we should at least let her keep the one thing she still had, at least for a little while longer. I sat on the bed with Sarah in my arms, rocking her and comforting her. Every time she'd stop crying, Troy would think-"now's my chance! She stopped crying, now I can try to talk to her and love on her!" I would look at him and think, "are you kidding me? I just got her to calm down and you're going to make her start screaming again?" And that's exactly what would happen. I remember feeling so heartbroken for my dear husband. We had been so in love with Sarah long before we met her that our hearts were so full of love for her already. I knew Troy was feeling so rejected and it was breaking his heart for his beloved daughter to be so afraid of him and scream every time he so much as looked at her.
Finally she fell asleep on me and shortly after we had to return to the conference room to finish up some paperwork, take the photo for the adoption certificate, and sign that we wanted Sarah. I remember putting our thumbprints on the paperwork with red ink. Sarah screamed thoroughout the whole process, too. I tried giving her cheerios, showing her some toys, a telephone that talked and played music...nothing worked.
The remainder of the evening, we just tried comfort Sarah. She was so afraid. Most likely she had never seen a caucasian before. She was not living in a major tourist city and stayed with a Foster Mother while in the care of the orphanage. It was only her and her foster mother, there were no men that she was acquainted with, which explained her fear of Troy. Not only was he a man, but he was 6'4" tall and towered over every man we'd ever seen in China, his head shaven and with the goatee-she had no idea what or who he was. I remembered feeling so sad for Sarah, that she'd been taken away from the one person who had cared for her for the first year of her little life. I was confident about one thing though, it was God that had chosen her for our daughter and it would just take a little time. I was also happy that she had been in foster care. I knew that if she had formed a bond with her foster mother, which was very apparent to me, I knew that she could form one with us, as well. For us, the first 24 hours were the most difficult. Everywhere we went, everything we would do she'd cry. After the first day, she finally figured out that we were okay and she'd let me take care of her...she wanted me for comfort, but that was it. She wouldn't look at me or show me any emotion, for the time being, I was her safe place.
For Troy, it was different...with her she showed ALL emotion! For the first few days, it was more like horror, and fear. After that, he was the one that made her smile and laugh with us for the first time. I remember how joyful it was to watch Troy make her smile, and giggle. It took a little longer for her to smile for me, but by the time we left China she was calling us Mama and Baba and she knew her name was Sarah. At first we tried calling her by her Chinese name that the orphanage gave her, and we just butchered it so badly she didn't even realize it was her name. So we just started calling her Sarah from the beginning.
So much has happened in the past 4 years! She's grown so much and hit so many milestones. Sometimes it's hard to believe how she began her journey into our family...it feels like she's always been our daughter, yet she started life in a very distant and foreign land compared to the life she now has with us.
We're so grateful to God for our daughter and for the sacrifice that her birth mother made. I don't know any of the circumstances of this woman and I so wish that I could tell her thank you and that she would know how much Sarah is loved and cared for. I can't imagine being in her shoes and losing my daughter, how heartbroken I would have been. I can say how amazing my daughter is and that she is loved so much more than I can express. She makes me laugh on a daily basis and bring so much joy to our lives. I couldn't be prouder to be her Mom.
Happy 4th anniversary of Gotcha Day, Sarah! We love you bigger than the sky!