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The Adoption Wait

You’ve written out your answers to a thousand intrusive questions during your adoption homestudy. You’ve submitted your fingerprints, seen your doctor, put up the extra smoke detectors, and swept up all the dust bunnies in a panic before the homestudy caseworker arrives. You’ve presented your finances for scrutiny and started an aggressive plan of setting aside money to complete the adoption (not knowing when that might be). You’ve even gotten over the idea of “selling yourself” and put together your Dear Birth Mother letter, and your outreach has started. So many (too many) tasks.

And now … crickets.

You’re not sure which is worse: the mountain of tasks or the fact that there is nothing to do but wait now that the tasks are done. You do know that things have just gotten very, very quiet.

The silence is like a projective test, a big blank screen onto which our feelings about adoption appear. For most of us, the first feelings are optimism and excitement. Many people are able to sustain these positive feelings until a baby is in their arms.
For others, especially those who arrived at adoption after struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss, optimism can be difficult to maintain when waiting for contact from a birthmother.

The silence can have a voice. To the most vulnerable of us, it can say, “You don’t deserve this,” “This will never happen,” or “I will never be lucky again.”  It can say, “I’ll never get chosen because I’m too old, not hip enough, not rich enough.”  Sometimes it says, “The agency has forgotten me” and “This process does not work.”

The wait is a vulnerable time. It can wake up old insecurities related to dating, to being chosen.  It certainly illuminates and can mimic the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss. Instead of another month passing by without a pregnancy, another month passes without a match. The wait, like infertility, is invisible to those around us and can be quite isolating.

Hear Adoption Connection’s adoptive parents give their advice about The Wait.

What can you do to best support yourself during the adoption wait?

Notice what feelings are being provoked. If you’re feeling this wait is an extension of the infertility grief, it may be time to seek or restart counseling. Many experience infertility as trauma, and it’s wise to let yourself know if the adoption wait is pressing on you where you are already raw. Similarly, if the wait is restimulating old wounds around dating or feeling good enough, or if you find it is affecting your self-concept and sense of worth, it’s a good idea to get some counseling support. The wait does not have to feel like that, and you deserve help if it bears too hard upon you.

Ask yourself how you are making meaning out of this experience. Is this experience changing your orientation to the world and your understanding of fairness, of notions of “deserving?” If you are a person of faith, is this affecting your relationship with the God of your understanding, i.e,  are you feeling you have failed or have been failed? If so, seeking help around these larger existential questions can be very important, with a counselor or clergy, depending on your worldview.

Find fellow travelers. Even the most resilient can find the wait isolating, and even if you do not typically feel the need to talk about your process, you may well find it helpful to be around people who are living this experience. Get to know the other waiting parents in your Preparation for Open Adoption Workshop series. It has been our experience here at Adoption Connection that those families who formed informal support groups out of the Preparation for Open Adoption series had an easier time weathering the wait.  As an additional benefit, they continued to help one another during the match phase and afterwards.

Attend our support groups. It can be hard to get motivated to show up to a group at which you may or may not recognize any faces. Yet, time and again, our families have told us afterwards that simply being in the same room with others in the same boat provided more relief than they expected.

Keep living your life.  Even adoption professionals cannot predict the timing of a match.  It will not serve you to postpone events, activities, or shifts in life’s direction or to otherwise press the pause button on your life until a baby comes home with you. Go ahead and take that vacation or that new job. (Just make sure we can reach you by cell!) Make those renovations on your home. Stay connected to and engaged with the things that give your life meaning, purpose, and joy.

Ask your agency for help. We can offer a pep talk on the phone, make referrals, and connect you with other waiting parents. We are continuously working on matches and adoptions, but if you are starting to doubt the process or feel the need to touch base with us, let us know.

We wish you peace on your journey to expand your family while understanding that peace is not the only feeling that can come up during the process. We’re here to help.

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