Guest Blogger Claudia Meyer, Adoption STAR client and adoptive mother, offers advice to prospective adoptive families on how to cope with “the wait.”
Tom Petty was right. The waiting IS the hardest part… of just about everyone’s adoption journey. You’ve jumped through the “hoops,” you’ve taken the classes and read the material, completed the home study, undergone the home visits and interviews, submitted just about every shred of evidence you can think of to demonstrate that you’ll be not just acceptable but fantastic parents, you get your approval and perhaps share your news with family and friends… and then you wait.
You’re optimistic… we all are. You figure you’re “better than average” people, so you’re wait won’t be that long… you realize it might take 6 or 9 months, but secretly hope you’re one of those families that gets the call after just a week or two. After all, you’ve just passed all the “tests,” and there are children who need a good home and you’re ready, right?
And the wait continues. And continues. And continues. And it’s starting to drive you crazy. What’s wrong? Why haven’t you been called yet? Why is this taking so long??
Our wait ended up being almost 26 months (or 2 years 1 months 23 days, or 112 weeks, or 784 days…but who’s counting?!). It was long and hard… but I want to assure you that the statement “once you are placed with your adoptive child, it will all be worth it” is absolutely true! That probably doesn’t make your wait right now any less difficult, but I encourage you to file the thought away… because it may help on some of the harder days.
I’m also beginning to learn that the “lack of control” that accompanies the adoption wait is actually good practice and training for many aspects of parenting… but that’s a subject for another blog post…
We are now thoroughly enjoying life with our almost seven-month old daughter, and I’ve finally gained enough perspective on “the wait” to offer what I believe are some helpful tips for surviving this challenging period of your adoption story.
- Find hope and meaning where you can. If you are a person of faith or have a spirituality or philosophy that guides your life, dig in deep and lean on the truths of that belief for strength. Remind yourself often of your reasons for wanting to parent, and your belief that “God will provide” or “everything happens for a reason” or “the good that you give out will come back to you.” When circumstances don’t go your way or the wait simply continues endlessly, these bedrock beliefs will serve as life preservers.
- If you are adopting with a spouse, lean on each other. If you’re adopting solo, find a good friend or family member who can be your rock. Build the strength of your relationship by sharing your struggles with the wait, your worries and concerns, and allow your partner to know you and help you with the burden. In our two-plus years of waiting, there was only one time that both my partner and I were “down” simultaneously – every other time one of us was able to lift the other up, whether with hugs, chocolate, or a good laugh. And some of the challenges we faced immediately following placement (yes, there will be challenges in your placement and beyond!) were easier to handle because we had “practiced” how to make difficult decisions, wait to talk to family until we were certain on some things, and rely first and foremost on each other for support.
- Find and build your “adoption posse.” The more you talk about your adoption plans with others, the more you will realize that some people “get it” and are natural supporters and encouragers, while others just don’t “get it” and seem to drain your energy while you try to educate and help them understand the nuances of adoption beyond “oh how sweet! You’re going to help a baby who needs a home!” Build bonds with those who are willing and able to help you. Add their contact info to your cell phone, because once your placement happens, you are likely to need help, whether it’s cooking meals, buying diapers and onesies, or throwing you a shower. Your “posse” will be invaluable to you in the first few months, and they will love being included in your new adventure!
- Take good care of yourself. “Self-care” is an essential life skill for mental and emotional health, and being intentional about taking time for yourself will not only serve you well during the painful parts of the wait, but will also help your sanity once you have a newborn child in the house. Learn to “listen” to yourself and understand what you (mind, body, and spirit) need to cope, recharge, and even flourish. Maybe it’s a day or a week off from thinking about adoption, maybe it’s a walk out in nature, or maybe it’s a ROFL chick-flick or bro movie… whatever it is, do it.
- Stay busy. This can take many forms… and the above advice about “self-care” can help be a guide. Staying busy may mean starting to build and fill a nursery, creating a registry at the local baby store, and buying and reading books on babies… or not. Only you know whether this will help with the wait or make it more difficult. Whichever you decide, be confident and go with it. If preparing for your coming child is not the choice for you, then stay busy with other things – your work, your hobbies, your social involvements. There’s an old saying about “idle hands being the devil’s playground.” I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that the more idle and free time I had on my hands during our wait, the more I struggled with the passing of time. Stay busy… lead your life… enjoy your time as a couple (or a smaller family before you expand).
- Stay in touch with your partners in the adoption process (Adoption STAR, your family advocate, your social worker, your lawyer, etc.). It can sometimes be frustrating if you haven’t heard from one of your “partners” in a while, but don’t be silent. If you’re looking for an update, send an email or call. If things aren’t going as you expected, speak up and ask questions. The partners we’ve chosen to assist us with our adoption really do want to help, but they can’t meet your needs if they don’t know them.
Hang in there. A wonderful thing about adoption is that, as long as you’re willing to work the process, chances are almost certain that you will have a child to love at the end of the process! It takes strength and patience to get there, but the wait really is good preparation for what lies ahead!