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Our first three kids - Meet the Thorndikes

Why We Let “Gotcha Days” Go

by: Elizabeth Thorndike

I remember the moment we sent the final paperwork off to China. My hands were trembling as we pushed send on our email. So many steps had been walked. So many forms filled out. So many meetings, home studies, fundraisers, and travel plans. There were so many things to do in order to welcome another child into our home. A precious child that had endured so much and desperately needed medical attention.

In hindsight, it is easy to get caught up in all the things you think you should do. There are so many adoption groups on social media that can help, but the information they provide can also bring about anxiety for a newly adopting mama. Schools of thought like: “continue to teach your child’s birth country language” …” celebrate Chinese New Year in a big way” …” go huge on all holidays and birthdays” …and “celebrate gotcha day like a second birthday”. All these ideas are precious and helpful, and I absolutely love seeing other adoptive family’s posts, but no “one size” fits all.

Here’s the raw truth; we have done almost none of the above things in our family.

Adoption is an “All-In” Family Event

Our two adoptions were filled with medical neglect and serious trauma. Our daughter was basically non-verbal, had a serious heart defect, and was very sick on the plane home. Our son grieved hard when handed over to us.

He was terrified and cried through the nights in the hotel. Meanwhile, back in Washington state, my father-in-law suddenly passed away in his sleep. I had a grieving husband back home and a grieving new son with me in China. It was all I could do to survive the “gotcha trip.” But survive I did. In fact, our two adoptions took a village to make happen. We were blessed with an amazing village, and I will forever be grateful for all the love, support, and encouragement we received throughout our two adoptions.

Our three biological kids also rocked it through both adoptions. I could not have been prouder of them, nor missed them more, while I was away in China. Adoption is an “all in” family event. Everybody is involved and things are sometimes sacrificed by kiddos at home. I missed my son’s 3rd birthday, Thanksgiving of 2016, important school events, as well as helping my kiddos grieve their beloved grandpa’s sudden death. You see, biological kids go through so much change too with an adoption. Overnight, they have a new sibling. Overnight, they are sharing everything in their lives with a small stranger. Most of all, the attention from mom and dad was now divided between another child. My bios were great both times, but it was not without tears and confusion.

Our first three kids

Shelby 5, Savannah 8, and Shayland 2, a few months before our adoption.

Know What To Let Go Of

In time, as we started to celebrate “gotcha days”, I realized that it didn’t feel right. Yes, celebrating the day we met in China is important, and special. But, celebrating the day they were born is EVERYTHING. Our bio kids had a “gotcha day”, their births.

So, we decided to let go of gotcha days. We let go to align with what our hearts felt. We emphasize that we are family, no matter how we ended up in this goofy, loving tribe called Thorndike. Whether by way of birth, or adoption, we were all created by God to thrive where he placed us, and in the order he placed us. We have an amazing purpose here on earth. That is what we celebrate.

Simple celebrations have become our steady. Our adopted kids had to take it slow. Too much was overwhelming. So, we have followed their cues and plan accordingly. Believe me, we love to celebrate…and DANCE!!!!!

No One Size Fits All

Please hear my heart when I say that this is what felt right and worked for our family. It is not a judgement on “gotcha day”, but rather a call to find out what works for your tribe and do it with purpose!

Ps. To all of you that celebrate “gotcha days” please keep doing so, and please keep sharing your celebrations. We love seeing them. They are good. They are beautiful. They are important.

One size does not fit all. That is the important part of this piece I want to share. Thrive in what works for your family! Then, share it so we all grow! Life is better together!

about us

Meet the Thorndikes - Moment to Moment Family

Hi there! We are the crazy cool parents to 5 amazing and crazy cool kiddos. But, first, we are Dan and Elizabeth Thorndike – married 15 years and living this life one moment at a time. We have a full and blessed life, but we are clumsily tackling a journey we never foresaw ourselves living.

Read our story of how this journey all started in our blog post titled:
“The Beginning. Our Special Needs Journey”


Elizabeth Thorndike

Introverted extrovert – that’s how I describe myself. I absolutely love being a mama but never knew how hard it would be, nor how deeply I could love.



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