Our son, whom we adopted as a newborn, is almost 4. We are now in the waiting period again for, hopefully, another adoption. The waiting period is emotional and frustrating, but I have to say it’s easier the second time around. Don’t forget, once you are matched with an expectant mom, there is still waiting time until birth and until you know for sure if the baby will be coming home with you. Unfortunately, you will not be able to fully exhale until everything settles a couple of weeks after the baby is home with you. Better to let you know now than go into it expecting ease and comfort. Sorry, folks. There are ways to cope, but no guarantees of full relaxation.
The important thing to stay sane while waiting is your productivity—not thinking too much about adoption and being present and productive with your time. I’m not talking about being busy, busy doesn’t always mean productive. When your mind is active and you are producing things in your life, whether it be endorphins from a workout or savings from a job, you aren’t thinking and stressing over the adoption wait. Once you’re matched it’ll be harder to not think about it—downright impossible, actually. Just get through it; there is no way around except through. A baby is coming. It might be yours…or it might not. The first time around I drove myself near crazy with worry. I wanted to get things finished; I wanted to spend time creating a nursery. Then, I’d realize how silly I’d feel if I had a full nursery and no baby. I’d just sit, paralyzed by anxiety, not knowing what to do with myself. I cried and I prayed. I did some minimal nursery shopping. The necessities are good to have: a changing table, one box of diapers, a crib mattress, a Rock’N’Play. These things wouldn’t break the bank so I considered them worthy purchases.
Once you’re matched, there’s a new set of worries. I’d worry over everything I said in meetings with the expectant mom. I’d ask our social worker a million questions. Of course, she was gracious enough to answer them. It was important to remember, however, that the bad feelings I was having paled in comparison to what the expectant mom was feeling. It’s not a competition nor can you compare the situations, but keeping empathy for her in my heart and head was helpful. Reminding myself how grateful I was to even be chosen was helpful.
From the match up to 10 days after he was born, we prayed that everything would work out for all involved and that our son’s birth mother would be at peace with her decision. We didn’t pray that she wouldn’t change her mind—just that things would unfold in the best interests for everyone. She is a living angel to us, and we want to always honor her. My advice during the time between match and birth would be to remain humble. Don’t go on social media and declare your baby is due May 14. It’s not your baby yet. Don’t ask your friends to pray that the expectant mom doesn’t change her mind. That’s super tacky. As Ashley Mitchell, a well-known birth mother in the adoption community, said, “Until a woman signs relinquishment of parental rights, she is considering adoption.” Before adopting, I had never gone to a therapist. I found a psychologist who I went to talk to once a week for about six months. She then sent me to a psychiatrist who could prescribe anxiety medication. I think the medication was something I should have been doing a long time ago. The adoption process just increased the anxiety already present. You can research online to find a therapist who has experience with families and adoption. Make sure your insurance covers it or you can afford it out of pocket.
Self-care is a must. When you have something added to your life like the stress of adoption, you need to make yourself a priority. You can learn meditation or a new kind of exercise. You can try going to church and praying at home, if that’s something you’re into. More generally though, self-care means trying to be mindful and positive. Positivity was hard for me my entire life, but during the adoption process it was something I put effort into “practicing,” and it has made some difference. Try to remember that these things you do to take care of yourself need to last into your future. Parents find it tough to get enough self-care. If this baby coming is yours, remember you’ll still need to take care of yourself. If you go through a disrupted adoption, you’ll also need self-care time. Also, consider the fact that you may take longer than average to be matched. What if you wait for years? What things can you put into practice now that will help you through not only months but possible years of waiting? You want your life to go on in a healthy manner, whether or not adoption is part of your story.
People may tell you to keep busy and distract yourself. Being busy isn’t the goal—being productive is. There are plenty of things to grab your attention but focus on things that help your family and future. Taking extra shifts at work can help financially, whereas playing games on your phone won’t. Scrolling through Facebook aimlessly won’t ease anxiety from waiting.
Let’s go through a sample day: You fuel your body with good food for breakfast, producing energy. You go to work and earn money producing more stability for your family. You come home and go for a two-mile walk followed by some abdominal work at home to produce endorphins and increase blood flow in your body. You cook a good dinner to get healthy protein and antioxidants in your body. You watch a favorite show to produce relaxation. You read a chapter of your current book before falling asleep. That day was productive.
One place I suggest you do visit for adoption-related content is Instagram. While I don’t advise you to fall down the rabbit hole and try to listen to every single Insta story and every single video, I do think it’s a great place for adoption content. You can follow birth mamas, adoptive mamas, and adoptees who are all sharing their stories and giving you a better sense of what adoption is like and what you’re getting into. Sometimes, as good as an adoption agency’s education can be, it is still lacking in real life personal stories. You can hear these on Instagram from people’s own mouths who’ve been through it before. I highly recommend following these accounts: @adoptwell @lanaya.graham @heloge @fromanothamotha @tiedattheheart and @bigtoughgirl.
While on your adoption journey, keeping a journal or blogging can help you release your emotions. Blogging can also share the process with others who may not have knowledge of it. Adoption can be really difficult for people to understand, so having a platform like a blog can help your Uncle Bob to understand what a home study is. You also want your immediate family to have a firm grasp on things like open adoption and the benefits of it. These people will be involved in your child’s life, so like it or not, they will need some education. They likely are forming their opinions based on adoptions of years past, which were closed. Openness is something new that needs to be talked about.
During your wait, you can also catch up and/or get prepared for those little things around the house that people tend to put off. Does it seem like the printer is always flashing “low ink”? Time to get an Amazon Prime shipment of extra ink so that when the baby is home and you haven’t slept much, the printer running out of ink again won’t be an annoyance. Is the vacuum you have always on the fritz? Time to get a new one so that won’t be an issue when you have a newborn. Unfortunately, home improvements cost money, but they are much easier to complete when there’s not a baby in the house.
You can also start brainstorming. Is your adoption agency local? Will you likely be matched with an expectant mom who lives in your area? If so, try starting a Pinterest board of possible locations to have visits like area parks or favorite restaurants. We are grateful to have an open adoption where we go to each other’s homes, but for some people, other locations are more comfortable. Will you be matched with someone in another state? Start researching and keep a Pinterest board for favorite hotels or possible Airbnbs you can book when the time comes to meet her. If you get word early and you have weeks to plan, that’s great, but sometimes hopeful adoptive parents need to travel in a couple days’ notice. Having a premade list of options on where to stay will help. Check your airline miles if you have any and clean out that car.
Here’s a really important thing that you can work on during the wait: the baby name list. This is a really sensitive topic for many people. Some hopeful adoptive mamas have a name picked out that they’ve always imagined naming their child. While some expectant moms will be fine with the adoptive family choosing the name, some will want input too. It’s important that this is a conversation rather than an ultimatum. If you only have one name chosen and the expectant mom hates it, that will create tension. It’s good to have a list of possible names so she can also have input for which names she likes and doesn’t like. You can also discuss middle names so both parties are happy.
On a lighter note, another fun thing you can start planning is a “Sip and See.” This is what a lot of adoptive families do instead of a pre-birth baby shower. It’s a party once the baby is home, where people sip drinks and see the little one. There’s nothing wrong with getting a little excited and making a Pinterest board of ideas for your party. In addition, you can make a baby registry for items you may want. Since you might not know the gender yet, you can keep it neutral, or just put unisex items on there like a whale-shaped sink bath for newborns. You’ll have this ready to go when you need it. You can put the registry website link on your “Sip and See” invitation.
It’s a lot of preparation and “hurry up and wait” during the adoption process, but once things fall into place it feels like a whirlwind. It feels surreal. I can’t even tell you what I did most days between the time we were matched and our son’s birth. Knowing you have at least some things in place prior to baby coming home is a comfort. It’s also comforting to have a few close friends who are in the loop with what’s going on. I wouldn’t advise putting every detail on social media, mainly to avoid endless questions, but doing a few updates and being vague is good. You can text a few close friends with more specifics, but it’s best to wait until the baby is actually home and parental rights have been relinquished to officially announce your child’s arrival on social media.
Coping with waiting is about not letting anxiety control you. It is one of the hardest things you’ll do, but yet, waiting is not a verb. Remember that. Waiting is in the background. It’s not something you’re actively doing, although it will feel like that if you let it consume you. There’s no magic pill or secret advice on getting through the adoption wait. Do your best to stay calm, keep healthy, and look forward in hopeful anticipation. As Hannah Eloge, an adoptive mom, said, “Your baby won’t pass you by!”
Kristin Anderson is an adoptive mother who lives with her son, husband, and two crazy dogs. She loves open adoption and is always looking for ways to help in the adoption community. You can find her blog at www.lookingforlittleone.wordpress.com