Everett’s Gotcha Day

February proved to be one tough month.  It held a bajillion reminders of Everett and where we we’re exactly one year ago.  The emotions and feelings we’re quite opposite and in some ways quite the same.  One year ago we we’re meeting Everett in China and starting the process of bonding and attaching and we we’re all over the moon to finally be with him.  We had worked lighting fast to get to him and now we we’re soaking up every little piece of him.  We we’re also desperate for healing and redemption and comfort.  We we’re trusting God to be Himself and while it doesn’t look the exact same, we’re doing those things again.

His gotcha day was the 27th in China.  As the 27th moved closer I could feel the weight of that day.  Hudson woke up that morning in tears.  Harper was sad.  I was sad.  Everyone was down and gloomy.  I went back and read over my words I had written a year ago…the day we became a family again and became mom and dad to another amazing little boy.


Meeting Everett Louie Shuai

Warning…500 photos to follow 🙂

I woke at 1:30am with nerves.  My phone had sweet messages from family.  My eyes read over them and fell back asleep.  I woke again around 4 and again around 5:30.  I scrolled through my phone.  Josh was already up and gone.  My stomach swirled.  So so nervous.  The kids were all still sleeping…I wondered if our boy was still sleeping too or if he was already awake like his dad and I.  I started to get ready and noticed his little toothbrush.  Hudson woke up first.  He walked in all squinty eyed, grabbed a book and hopped up on our bed to read.  I read in Exodus 10…the ninth plague…darkness…you know, just some light hearted reading 🙂 Hudson and I talked about what his little brother might be doing that morning.

Josh came back from the hotel gym and Harper and Solomon woke up.  We all headed down to get some breakfast together.  Watermelon, waffles, bacon and eggs.  Everyone ate the beautiful dragon fruit and agreed we liked it better than we do kiwi…and we love kiwi.  I stepped outside to get a shot of Zhengzhou waking up.  We went back up to straighten the room and get everything situated.  The kids put on a gynmastics show complete with sword swallowing and a human suspension bridge.  I love them.  Harper kept signing Christmas carols.  My nerves kept churning.  Harper and I sang a small Justin Beiber duo.  She facetimed her friend Zoe and we all facetimed with Amon and our littlest as they were getting ready for bed.

We double checked his bag…cookies, snacks, cars, playdoh, stickers and a sippy cup of water.  Then it was time to go.  9:30.  We walked down to the lobby to meet Wendy and exchange some money.  There were other families gathering in the lobby obviously going to meet their children too.  Everyone was carrying colorful gift bags mostly in reds and golds to give as thank yous to different officials and nannies.

We loaded in the van.  The weather was sunny and warm.  The adoption center was very close by and we were the first ones there.  The building was colorful, welcoming and friendly.  We were greeted with smiles from everyone.  We sat at a table nervously waiting and started going over paperwork and double checking spellings and information.  They said he was in the building.  I started to cry.  Wendy gave me a tissue and said comforting words.  She is the nicest.  We went over paperwork again.  Other families started to arrive and join us in the big colorful room.  Then they said he was coming and I started to cry again heart racing.

And then there he was.  He was walking in on his own through the first set of automatic doors with a nanny holding a baby.  He got through the first set of doors and then hesitated.  He wouldn’t come any further.  There was no crying, but head shakes back-and-forth no.  Wendy and several staff members went to him to try and coax him in.  He stood his ground.  Then we went out to him.  I couldn’t believe it.  There we were face-to-face with our son.  I had dreamed of this moment at least a 1,001 times.  We gave him space and one of his workers at his home picked him up.  Everyone was talking to him.  We gave him some cookies and Josh and I both tried to hold him and he shook his head no.  We tried again and he came to me.  He squirmed a bit and then settled down.  He was wearing 2 giant layers of clothing and holding a piece of chocolate wrapped in a shiny silver and purple wrapper.  Harper, Hudson and Solomon were smitten.

He sat with me for a while.  I noticed he would tap his foot.  I had to do something and Josh tried to take him and he went with ease.  There they sat together.  His little face still had not budged…he was taking it all in.

We spent the rest of the time filling out paperwork and soaking his somber little self up.  I wrote out his name Everett Louie Shuai…he was ours.  We played with cars and ate vanilla wafers.  He played with stickers and little animals.  His worker brought each item we mailed him in his care package.  His little book was well worn…they had been working hard to prepare him for us and it showed.  I cried again.  We all looked at his little book together.  He said the Chinese name for each person and then looked at that person and smiled.  We all sat amazed…just in awe of this little gem we get to call our son and brother.  Every time he said the name and then looked at the correct person we all lost it.

We filled out more paperwork.  Other families were meeting their children all around us.  Some kids were so quiet while others we’re crying so hard and loud.  It was such a beautiful and bittersweet moment.  I tried soaking in every piece of it…what a gift we have been given.  Solomon got him to laugh for the first time while he road on a little push car.  It was the sweetest little laugh.  At one point we had to put our fingerprints on some paperwork in red ink and I got very emotional…the significance of putting my actual fingerprint onto paperwork promising I would love our son forever was not lost on me.  What an honor we have been given.

We needed his hand print next and he wasn’t having it.  Wendy talked and talked and talked to him.  Harper showed him how to do it on her own hand.  We offered cookies and snacks of all kinds.  We tried everything, but finally broke out some candy crush on Josh’s phone.  He clicked away and eventually let us stamp his little hand.

Once paperwork was all finished we walked out of the building with another sweet little boy to call our own.  He was so quiet.  He rode in Josh’s lap to our hotel.  Not many noises at all, but Hudson told him he loved him in Chinese and Everett said it back.  We all died.

At the hotel he checked out everything and was just super quiet.  He loved playing with a sword and Hudson and Solomon had him laughing at catapulting blocks into the air.  The big kids went to swim and we facetimed with Uncle Andy and Aunt Becky and he fell asleep.  We spent the afternoon looking at each other and taking his stats to send to his doctors.

Later in the afternoon we went to visit his home.  I kind of hate the word orphanage and it was his home.  It was absolutely beautiful.  I cried too many times to count.  He is such a loved little boy and was incredibly well taken care of by the staff and nannies and doctors and nurses.  Everyone told him bye and just made over him.  He did great.  I can’t say enough good things about Show Hope and the homes they run in Zhengzhou.  The doctor we spoke with was so kind and actually worked at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville for a few years.  Such a small world.

After our visit we headed back to the hotel.  We got take out from a little local place, took a bath, put on fresh pajamas and then chilled out in front of Storks.  He had such a big hard day and he handled it incredibly well.

It was a day filled with emotions, but Shuai rocked it!  I however was a mess.  So many tears for his little mind and heart.  I prayed all throughout the day asking God to be everything he needs and to comfort him like no other.  This was the first day to our forever and I seriously feel like the luckiest mama on Earth.


 I sobbed over my words.  I sobbed over the pain and sadness of missing Shuai.  I sobbed over the dreams lost with his death.  I sobbed over my own guilt and regretful feelings.  I sobbed over the unfairness feeling of it all.  I sobbed over our childrens’ grief and Josh’s grief and my own grief.  I sobbed because I want my boy back.

All day it filled my mind.  Where we we’re then and where we are now.  I ran all the events and moments over and over through my head and heart.  I remembered my feelings and I remembered Everett…his beautiful little self…and all the special moments we shared together in China.  I remembered our beginning together and desperately longed to go back.

We spent most of the morning at the hospital with Hudson, but were back home by noon.  One of Hudson’s nurses told me she knew our story and had been thinking of us and praying for us.  I hugged her twice and cried in the hospital hallways while she walked me and our littlest to our waiting room.  It made me feel seen.  Since we had been sick for our Chinese New Year celebration we decided we would celebrate Chinese New Year on Shuai’s gotcha day.  We hoped having a fun little something planned at home would lift spirits even for just a bit.  We hung up red lanterns and Everett’s strand of donkey piñatas a kind friend sent us while we were at Mott hospital.  We made pork jaoizi (dumplings), spicy garlic broccoli and fried rice.  We sucked down sodas and devoured Pocky’s of all flavors together.  We passed out Chinese envelopes I picked up while in China together filled with $5 bills.  And we talked of our time in China with Everett.  We remembered him and how special he is.

It was a tough day.  It was a hard day.  It was also a sweet and oh so intentional day.  It is a day I know we will always gather together to celebrate and remember and honor our incredible Everett boy.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien


  1. Cheryl haRtman says:

    love to you and your family. Keep posting!

  2. You promised to love him forever…. and you all are ♥️ How has it been a year already?!?!? Much love to you all

  3. Thanks for sharing your journey and your joys and sorrows. In sharing your feelings you allow others to truely love you and know you. I am so sad for your loss of Everett and inspired by your grief process. I can’t imagine how it feels to lose a child. However I know you are so loved by all your friends and family and by God. One day at a time. ❤️

  4. Lisa gilliam says:

    Thank you for sharing these sweet memories of this precious boy. May you find comfort in days to come

  5. Oh man…seeing his blanket in that pic hit me and then all of your words and pics just kept the tears coming. He was such a special, beautiful little guy. Thank you for sharing this again. I can only imagine the emotions you have going back to this day and sending you lots of hugs <3

  6. Heather N says:

    You have me crying. It is hard to see the pictures of beginnings and hopes, knowing what is to come for your sweet family. It is so beautiful too, though, to see the love you have for your children and the way they love you back. Everett is so, so special and will forever be remembered.

  7. You should write a book. You have such a gift of drawing us into your heart and home. He was beautiful and certainly grew while in your home. His smile melts my heart. Your family remains in our thoughts and prayers. What a wonderful testimony of a loving family: each sibling loves so deeply and completely. You are a blessing to us.

  8. Thank you for sharing. I wish we had known and followed your journey better over the last year. I remember you all from that day, and your son being one of the first to arrive. We were all so happy for your family and him! We prayed for you all knowing you were having a rough day while we celebrated our own joyful Gotcha. I ask the Lord to continue to watch over you all and with time to ease the pain in your hearts. Blessing to you and your family.

  9. Andrew Marsh says:

    Hi Kelleys!! Laura, as always, you articulate your own and your family’s emotions to the point of my crying with you and smiling too at Everett’s beautiful cheeky little face. How could that smile not defrost even the coldest heart?? May I ask about Hudson please? Is he a heart buy too and, if so, what stage is he at in his treatment? Love all you guys, big hugs from me, all the way from the very cold United Kingdom.xx

    • Hey Andrew. Amon is our other heart kiddo…he will need another surgery to replace his very leaky valve, but Hudson is not. Hudson actually has a disease in his throat we have to remain attentive to. He’s fine though…just regular routine stuff and meds. Thank you for always sharing such kind words. Crazy crazy kind.

  10. The picture of Harper stroking his sweet little cheek. All the feels.

  11. I have read your words for years and years. dear friend in Christ. Just now I’ve listened to your sweet voice retell your family’s story of Everett. (I loved hearing you. I’ve only read you previously.) Your words are touching and healing for someone who has experienced another form of loss. And know these two things: You are prayed for and Everett will be remembered. Always. In Christian love and compassion, MKW

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