Monday, November 18, 2013

handling the adoption wait

I only received one question about adoption last week (sad face), but it's a fantastic one and it's on a topic that I haven't covered much in-depth. Jana asked:

How do you handle the waiting? We're working through an agency and are in a family profile book with 59 other families. We've been in the book 8 months. It feels like forever! I'm going crazy and wonder if we will ever become parents. Any advice on how to get through this time?

Truthfully, I think that the waiting part of the adoption process is the most difficult. Yes, the paperwork is daunting. The home study (or the part leading up to it, rather) is nerve wracking. You're worried about whether you'll qualify. You're scared that there is something about your life, or yourself, the social worker won't like. You want to be genuine, but you also want to be the best version of yourself because this is the time when someone decides whether you'll make a good parent.

But nothing can truly prepare you for the waiting.

It's much different than the waiting process during infertility treatments, and I've written about this a bit in the past. There is zero sense of control, and if you're anything like me, this can be an overwhelming feeling.

The first task in "dealing" with the waiting process is to accept that everything is out of your hands. I spent many months thinking that there was something I could do to move the process along. And there is, to a point. You can network. You can keep your profile updated with newer photos. You can keep in contact with your agency or whatever resource you're working with. But that's about the extent of it. I think if I'd realized sooner that everything was out of my control, I would have handled the wait a little better. Instead, I obsessed over the tiniest little details in our profile and wondered what was wrong with us that we weren't being selected. The reality was that nothing was wrong; instead, our child's birth mother just hadn't found us yet.

Letting go is hard, though, especially if you don't have an outlet for your energy. So my next advice is find an outlet. Or ten outlets -- whatever you need to take that worry and reroute it into something that's positive. I did everything I could to stay busy. Some of what I did was adoption related and some not. On the adoption front, I fundraised, worked with my local RESOLVE support group, and did plenty of "spring cleaning" in our house, in case we got a last-minute call. But I did plenty outside of adoption and infertility, too. I was enrolled in grad school at the time and spent a number of hours devoted to research and writing. I volunteered at the library. I made it a point to spend time with friends. I read (a lot) and got addicted to Mad Men. I took up new hobbies like cooking and running. Anything that could take my mind off of the process and my eyes off of the phone.

But the most important thing I did during my wait was build my support system. I made connections with adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth mothers who I could speak with about any aspect of the process, any fears that I had, and any questions that I needed answered. They are what got us through the wait. They are the reason I didn't lose my sanity. They are who educated me about adoption, and I'm incredibly grateful to each one of those individuals.

Wishing you peace, Jana . . . and anyone else out there who is waiting for their little one. In the words of Tom Petty, "The waiting is the hardest part."


Geochick said...

Waiting is hard, hard, hard. You have great points about finding outlets. It helps to stay busy!

MrsMann said...

I appreciate your honesty and your offer to answer questions!

It's funny... I am opposite of how it sounds you were. I absolutely hated every single month of TTC. It was a never ending up and down roller coaster ride that I was constantly over analyzing and blaming myself for. Since we became approved for adoption in January, I have been surprised at my patience and calmness. I think because it is out of my control, past the letter/profile/getting us out there, I am able to just wait patiently most of the time.

Rachel said...

The lack of control is very difficult for me as well. We are trying to adopt interstate through DCF, and the inefficiency and bureaucracy has been maddening. I can't imagine how long it would have taken if I hadn't had copies of everything and sent my weekly polite requests for updates. We went though 3 workers here in FL and the little one just had her 5th caseworker leave.
Trying to keep busy in other ways is a good idea. I have tried, but we have a special circumstance in our adoption so I've also spent a lot of time in the other state, with the little one. While it's been very beneficial to be there, bonding with her and meeting her workers and other people involved, it also makes it hard to focus on other things!

manymanymoons said...

I remember a commenter on my blog telling me once to use the date that our home study was approved as sort of an anniversary. Celebrate every month on that day by doing something you wouldn't be able to do if you had kids. It certainly wasn't what I wanted to be doing on that day each month (nothing short of holding my future baby was good enough), but it did help to have something to look forward to.

The waiting is just so hard. Like infertility (or anything really), if you had an end date, even if it was far in the future, you could handle it. It's just the not knowing that is so excruciating. I really feel for people who are in the process and feeling that stress and anxiety right now. I hope I never forget how that felt or lose that empathy.

awomanmyage said...

We waited for over a year and it was not fun. You`re right, I just stayed as busy as possible and tried to attend to my life. I didn`t have a waiting parent support, which I regret, so you did the right thing by building your own support group. Best advice ever! I did travel - and that was one of my best memories - our trip to Europe!