In the process of having a child the "normal" way, there are several universal milestones: the pregancy test, the pregnancy announcement, the first sonogram, the birth, boy!? girl!?.
In the adoption process there are different special milestones. Parenting classes, the homestudy, paperwork finalization, dossier completion... really none of those are very much fun. You don't make cute postcard announcements about your dossier being accepted, momentous as that is. But, there is:
The moment adoptive parents first meet their child (or children). It could happen in a hospital, a foster care agency, a social worker's office, even a hotel. Or, an orphanage. When we first decided to adopt from Ethiopia I fell into a youtube vortex of Moment videos. Ethiopian agencies typically videotape these meetings, and they are universally heart warming (heart rending?). An eager, nervous American couple rushing up some steps. Kind, smiling nannies and nurses. A small frightened child who smiles wide when given a brand new toy, and a brand new family. Smiles, tears.... ahhh.... I couldn't get enough.
So, our moment?
We don't have a video of it, which is fine because it was unforgettable, of course. Nervous American couple, rushing up some steps. Kind, smiling nannies. Lots and lots of children.
On our first visit we were pretending NOT to be adoptive parents. Since the time between our first trip to Ethiopia and the children actually coming home was so long and so unpredictable, it was in the best interests of Daniel and Lily to think we were just some nice Americans with some nice new toys for the orphanage. We played it cool. (I know, this sounds horrible, but actually it was much less stressful for us, knowing that Daniel, especially, would not suffer during the WAIT. After our travel dates for the second trip were secure, the nannies started to talk to him about us and show our photos to both the children.)
So here is what happened on that amazing first day. First we played with Daniel and his friends in the big kid room. We brought markers and paper and traced their hands and feet (so I knew what size shoe to buy for him.) We gave everyone hugs and kisses. Daniel got a few extra, but nobody noticed. We were good actors. :)
The babies were in a nursery upstairs. Andrew got his turn first to sneak upstairs to see Lily. After a few minutes, we switched. I came into the little room. Lily was sitting with a few other babies on a big mat. I tried not to scare her by rushing over and scooping her up. I sat with her and started to interest her in some rattles. She was one year old, but still catching up developmentally from those early months of hunger. She couldn't crawl or walk. (Hence our shock when we came back just a few months later to find her walking and climbing!)
There on the mat, little Lily gave me some very skeptical looks. She was loathe to be picked up or cuddled. Then Andrew came back in the room.
She gave him a wide smile and lifted her arms to be picked up. He carried her around the room, talking to her, and she grinned and grinned at him, sending me dagger looks over his shoulder.
Great, I thought, 5 minutes in and she's already Daddy's girl.
And she still is. ;)
We still have all those drawings and handprints from our first visit to the orphanage.
Here is hoping that all those children have found a family too.