In many ways, May 28, 2011 feels like a lifetime ago. It’s hard for me to believe that just 365 days ago Aaron and I were in Guangzhou getting to know our third child. And now, it’s naptime at our house and guess who isn’t napping? Yep—Matthew. He’s whooping with glee in his crib. I guess it’s hard to sleep on Gotcha Day!
Last night Aaron and I re-watched some of the movie clips we took that first day in Guangzhou—and we were both surprised to see just how different our boy is now. Even though he’s not totally caught up, Matthew has made so many gains in the last year. Not just his repaired lip and palate (and don’t forget the dental surgery too), but also his gross and fine motor skills, his social interactions, and his communication.
He’s also taller, chubbier, has A LOT more hair, runs around the house (he couldn’t even stand up when we got him a year go) and has turned into a little monkey, climbing up on everything. He’s happy—he’s healthy—and he has the sweetest personality of any kid I know.
What a gift to us.
In my heart, Matthew’s Gotcha Day feels a lot like Maya’s and Sam’s birthdays—I have always in my own heart and mind honored my labor and delivery stories on those days. I can think back to the moment when my water broke with each of my biological children—when I went to the birth center, how labor progressed, and what the moment felt like when each of them was put into my arms.
I feel the same way with Matthew. I remember waking up in our hotel room (at the Guangdong Victory Hotel on Shamian Island), trying to pass the morning hours, barely eating three bites of my Subway sandwich, watching some trashy television, and getting everything ready, counting the minutes until Sarah Gao, our guide, called us from the hotel lobby.
And when she did call, we walked anxiously to the van and rode to the Civil Affairs office. The noise in the room was deafening—and I remember scanning from wall to wall looking for our boy. When he finally did arrive, about a half hour later, I knew it was him the instant he walked in the room. I walked (actually I probably ran) across the room to the nanny, and she put him straight into my arms. He clung to me—probably in terror—and stared into my eyes for what felt like an eternity.
And what I remember most was just knowing that he was finally with us—that we finally had him—finally “got him.” It was an incredible feeling.
This morning, when I heard him squawking from his crib, I went in straight away and picked him up. I held him for an extra long time, smelling his little boy smell, feeling his strong, growing body, kissing his soft cheeks.
It’s a gift to know, on this day of remembrance, that Matthew is ours forever. I know that there have been many ups and downs along this journey of adoption, and I’m wise enough to know that those will continue—probably our whole lives long. But there’s something so right about this little boy and his place in our family—something that makes us complete and whole and right.
Matthew Oscar Xu-Bo Russell, today I am grateful that we “got you” a year ago in China. We’ll eat Cantonese food tonight, make a donation to Smile Train in your honor, and end the day by watching a documentary called “Stuck” created by Both Ends Burning, a non-profit organization committed to advocating for children around the world who are stuck in orphanages.
And in between all those big important things we’re doing, I’ll hug you more times than you can count, inhale your smell, feel your body, listen to your voice (yes—even all those whoops when you SHOULD be napping), and feel this overwhelming and indescribable fullness and goodness in my heart—that I’ll never be able to put words to, although I try—a kind of gratitude for all that YOU bring to this mama who loves you more than she ever imagined she could.
Below are a few photos from the past year, particularly a few from Gotcha Day in China. If you'd like to read more about that day, you can always go back to last year's posts:
It's a Boy (written by Annemarie)
Thoughts from an Adoptive Dad (obviously written by Aaron)
|First family photo shot--Matthew looks so overwhelmed in this photo|
|Here is the nanny from the orphanage who brought Matthew to us|
|Sizing up Daddy|
|Snuggling in and getting acquainted|
|The classic "Civil Affairs Office" family photo|
|Playing with Little People animals back at the hotel|
|Matthew's favorite yellow bus (you'll remember it if you followed our blog while we traveled)|
|Getting to know his new home and family|
|Getting loves from his big brother and sister|
|Hanging out with Sam and cousin Parker|
|In the hospital after palate repair|
|All bundled up and ready to go cut a Christmas tree|
|First snowfall in Idaho|
|Learning to ride on a sled|
|A visit from Grandma, Grandpa and Aunt Chris--Matthew leading the way|
|Already a Sounders fan!|
|Entertaining his mama at a New Jersey park|