Colleen and Maddi, July 2005

On this day 14 years ago, I held my daughter in my arms for the very first time. She was 15 months old. Her father and I had travelled over 11,000 km to Chongqing, China to bring her home to Canada.

When I think back to that day, it was the most joyous yet scary day of my life. I can’t imagine how she was feeling. It must have felt like she was being captured by aliens. She was whisked off a bus and into a room full of commotion, and handed over to two complete strangers. Two aliens who smelled funny, had strange sounds coming out of their mouths which she couldn’t decipher, and one of whom looked like no one she had ever encountered before.

She didn’t cry but she wouldn’t drink or eat from us for the first 24 hours. Her way of controlling her life when everything seemed so out of control. Upon the advice of a nurse who was the grandmother of another baby in our group, we force fed her water out of a dropper. That did the trick. After that she eagerly gulped down her first bottle of formula from me. I never knew a baby could drink that fast.

She was extremely curious. She explored everything new with a keen interest particularly the mirror on the wall in our hotel room. She would crawl over to it, hoist herself up, and be fascinated by what she saw in the reflection.

Maddi in the mirror

I remember discovering her ticklish spot purely by accident. I had brushed under her chin and she giggled in delight. To this day, she is still extremely ticklish on her neck. I was reminded of this yesterday. She had a stiff neck and I went to massage it, and she immediately tensed up her shoulders and started to laugh. It’s so funny because I’m the same way. When I get my haircut, it’s almost unbearable when they pull out the clippers to trim away the hairs on the back of my neck. I remember that sensation since I was a little girl getting my first haircut.

The past 14 years have gone by in a flash. Maddi has grown into a beautiful, independent, thoughtful, diligent, helpful, and still curious young lady. I couldn’t be more proud of her. I believe she was never mine to keep. I was given this amazing opportunity to be her mom and help guide her through life, and to always be here when she needs me. It is an immense honour and one I uphold to the best of my ability everyday.

She is home for the summer and taking some time to ponder what she’ll do next. After living away from home for the past year, her first year of high school, and training everyday, she needs time to rest her body, mind, and soul. I’m blown away by her self awareness and knowing what she needs to do for herself to stay healthy.

I, of course, am extremely happy to have her home. It struck me this morning that today is her adoption day. In the adoption world, it is often referred to as Gotcha Day or Forever Family Day. Some families celebrate this day more so than birthdays. We often don’t know the actual birth dates of our children. Over the years, we have celebrated her birthday more so than gotcha day. But, today, I want to take time out and spend the day together and celebrate.


Colleen and her daughter Maddi

Colleen and Maddi, July 2019