|Hefei, April 24, 2016|
Nearly 2 years ago, I blogged on the eve before we got to meet Gia Pearl for the first time. It sure doesn't seem like 2 years have passed. The memories are intense and intricate, almost to the point you can feel them in the air. One would think that on the 4th "Gotcha Day Eve," we would be used to this routine, confident with what to expect, but once again, the anticipation is palpable. After 15 hours of traveling across the world, it is tough to distinguish between the fatigue and the emotions.
The best way I can describe what we are feeling is to go back to 2004 on the day we met 10 month old Gracie Faye. We were in a bus with 4 other families who were meeting their daughters for the first time too, and our guide, Michael, was talking over the bus PA system, trying his best to prepare us for that life changing event. I can still hear his words in my mind, like it was yesterday. "I can hear your hearts beating," he said, as we neared our destination, the place we would meet our first daughter, for the very first time. That phrase rings as true today as it did over a decade ago. As we try to rest in our hotel room, I can hear our hearts beating.
Each of the days we met our precious daughters for the first time have been unique. Gracie Faye was just 10 months old. She quietly sucked her thumb while Amy and I nervously entered parenthood that hot September day. Gemma Lu was just 4, but was old enough to know how monumental the moment was, and her fear manifested in a sweat soaked 45 minute daddy bear hug. Nearly 2 years ago, we were greeted by Gia Pearl's larger than life smile and courageous acceptance, holding in all her fear and anxiety, and grief, except during those quietly intense sobs, that represented leaving everything she knew, including a wonderful friend. Three encounters, all different, but also so much the same. I get tired just recalling those days, and the tangible memories they evoke.
For the last few days, my mind has been overloaded with thoughts about when we finally get to meet Gladys Mae. Knowing the fear she must have, my prayers are that her desire for a forever family are greater. Of the many things we have learned and experienced during the processes of adopting Gracie, Gemma, and Gia, and the accompanying preparation that has been required, is the grief that these children are burdened with. Knowing this means we can be more prepared for what our newest daughter might be feeling, but also keenly aware of what that might look like. Additionally, Gladys has been cared for by a foster mom, rather than in an orphanage/institution. This in itself, already makes tomorrow unique from our previous three gotcha days. What we experience tomorrow will surpass any anticipations or preconception we have. It is a surreal anticipation of unconditional love, that is impossible to explain or predict.
So, no matter what it looks like tomorrow, Gladdie Mae, we want you to know that you are already loved more than you can imagine. Your mom, dad, and sisters are beyond ready to meet you, and we hope you can hear our hearts beating as we prepare to be united with you for the first time.