By Melissa Giarrosso // Guest Writer
In our very first adoption profile, my husband wrote a page that was all about me. Alongside some of my favorite photos of myself were the words he had written. He described me as being kind, funny, committed, driven, empathetic, and the one who made our house feel like a home.
Little did he realize that the waiting period of our adoption journey would turn me into a big mess who closed myself off from all emotion in order to guard myself. I was edgy, irritable, desperate, and constantly worried. It was impossible for me to enjoy our last few months of being a childless couple with all the freedom in the world, because I didn’t know when our time was coming. I desperately needed to know all the answers, but all I had was uncertainty. I lost myself in that process.
I did things a little differently our second time around. I still worried a lot, but I lived, too. I tried my hardest to let my guard down and to feel everything. The ability to do that varies by personality, and it was still hard for me to do, but this is what got my through it all:
1 – Build a support network. Find adoptive parents and fellow hopeful adoptive parents who really understand what you’re going through. Don’t rely on your other friends to help you navigate this time in your life; they can’t fully understand all your emotions. A reliable set of friends who have walked this path before can make you feel sane when you feel like you’re losing it.
Use Facebook as a jumping-off point if your agency doesn’t have other resources for you to make connections. This is a great way to spend your time because being a new adoptive parent can be hard, and education is essential. If you find a group that is dedicated to ongoing adoption education and sharing of perspectives, you are doing your child a favor by laying a foundation of learning that will help you be a better parent.
2 – Get lost in something. Whether you start a long series on Netflix, pick up a new hobby, or commit yourself to some heavy nesting, just throw yourself into something. Don’t let your mind wander into those deep, dark corners of worry, pessimism, and doubt. Find something that keeps your mind busy during your downtime.
3 – Take things at face value. If you’re matched, don’t even try to read into an expectant mom’s actions throughout her pregnancy; it will just drive you insane. People are different, and while you may hear of one expectant mom who loves talking every day throughout her pregnancy, you may find yourself matched with a woman who is doing a lot of thinking and a lot less talking.
Every expectant mom is going to handle the match period differently, so don’t seek reassurance from her. Let her know you’re eager to get to know her better, but you want to respect her as well, and have an open dialogue about that. Even if you’re not matched yet, remember a rule of thumb: don’t have more contact pre-placement than you’re willing to have post-placement. Don’t fret if you don’t hear from her every day, just as you don’t want her to fret if she doesn’t hear from you every day if you take placement of her child.
Sometimes the best relationships blossom with some room to breathe.
4 – Know that it will work out. If you’re not matched, or if your match falls through, take faith in knowing that you are never last in line for your baby. Your baby will find you in the right time, and if you find yourself crippled with anxiety, remind yourself that you the struggle is teaching you patience. There will come a day when you are holding your child and–I promise–you will think to yourself, “I would have waited forever for this baby.” Take comfort in knowing that while it’s hard to wait patiently, your baby will find you.
5 – Give yourself some mercy, and ask others to do the same. You can’t just surround yourself fully with adoption pros throughout your waiting period, so give yourself the grace to process your emotions and outright ask your friends and family to extend that same courtesy to you. Let them know that this is an emotional process and you may need some time to figure out how to manage the stress. If you begin to learn what you need as you wait, communicate that to your friends and family.
6 – Create a safe place. If you’re in a situation where it all feels like too much, or your emotions are about to get the best of you, excuse yourself. Have a “place” that is yours for the freak-out moments. Mine was the bathroom (which is now the place where I have four little eyes staring up at me, standing in the exact same spot where I used to kneel and pray), because it was the only place I got privacy (ironic now) and no one would bother me. I would sometimes kneel, then press my forehead to the bath mat, and submit to it. I’d let the fear wash over me, take hold, and then I would pray and try to release it. Find your place that makes you feel safe to cry, worry, or succumb to the fear, and allow yourself the time and place to process the overwhelming emotions. Then get back up and forge ahead.
This is a tough time, and an exciting time, but don’t lose who you are in the midst of it all. It is easy to get wrapped up in how out-of-control everything feels, worrying about the minutia and the details, but do yourself a favor by considering the steps above to help you through this time. The seasons in our lives pass us by far too quickly, and there will come a day when you look back at that waiting period and wonder why you didn’t make the most of that time.
There will be other times when you look back and feel gratitude for the storm because it prepared you to better empathize with the uncertainty your child’s birth family feels after placement. And finally, some day, you’ll realize that the struggle made you stronger, and you’ll find yourself using that newfound patience for the very best reason: parenthood.
Melissa Giarrosso is a Staff Storyteller at Adoption.com and a mom to two quirky kids through open adoption, all thanks to infertility and the belief that adoption is never second best. She and her family reside in a suburb of Memphis, TN where they remain faithful members of numerous open adoption communities, gently advocating the opportunities that open adoption affords all members of the adoption triad.