Ready? Set? Wait! Sound familiar?
The beginning stages of the adoption process are full of activity. You are learning about adoption, getting to know your counselor, attending workshops, taking online classes, working on the plethora of home study paperwork, taking the perfect front photo, and refining your Dear Birthparent Letter text for the umpteenth time, and creating your online profile. Finally, finally, you submit everything to your Adoption Coordinator and receive the green light to order your letters and go live.
While the beginning stages of the adoption process may hold their own unique frustrations, the waiting phase is often the most difficult time of the process for adoptive families. In the beginning of the process, you have some control over how quickly to work on the required documents, when to schedule your appointments, how much time should go into your autobiography, what photos to consider and what important things you want to include in your letter.
When you are waiting, you are…waiting. There is no set guideline to tell you exactly what to do and when. There are less forms to be constantly working on. The sense of lacking control in the process is often amplified during the wait. You have essentially fixed up, cleaned, and painted your home, and now you are waiting for the perfect family to find it and want to buy it. You can let everyone know you are selling your home, you can hire a trusted realtor, and you can do additional advertising of your gem. But until the right person or family finds it, it’s not going to sell. Each time you have a showing, you clean and put everything in order again and you get excited that this might be the right one. If an offer does not come through, you are inevitably disappointed. You cannot make someone buy your home. And you cannot make a birthparent find you and contact you.
So how do you cope with this?
I suggest continuing with your life as much as possible while waiting for the right contact. If you have a contact and it doesn’t work out, try to use it as a learning experience. When you get feedback on your home, you may choose another paint color or fix something someone commented about. Try to review how you handled that particular contact or reconsider what you are truly comfortable with. Chances are that you didn’t say or do anything wrong at all. It just wasn’t the right one for you.
If you have plans to travel, remodel your home, or go back to school, do them! Try to not put your life on hold. If you are waiting to do something until you have a placement, your wait is going to feel that much longer and more difficult because you have put your life on hold. It is understandable that waiting with no definite end is difficult. It’d be easier to wait 15 months if you knew in 15 months’ time, you’d have placement for certain. Try to remain positive and remember that it only takes one contact to lead to your child. Yes, some families have multiple contacts before placement, but others have few or none before the right birthparents find them.
What else can you do while waiting? Dream! Yes, dream about the day you will become a parent. You will be a parent through adoption, we just don’t know when. It’s ok to fantasize about being a parent and working through a list of things you want to have done before then. There are many important things you can do while waiting. Focusing on specific items while waiting can help with the loss of control many adoptive parents experience during the wait. It is also productive. We don’t want to assign you busy work, but productive work.
Other productive avenues we encourage adoptive parents to consider are through networking. Networking is an effective and productive way to potentially find birthparents through your own efforts. Yes, you are paying an agency, or attorney, to do this for you, but you never know where a lead can come from. In over 7 years of adoption experience, I’ve heard some good stories about how a birthparent found just the right adoptive family! Common networking techniques include talking to others about your journey, sending emails, passing out adoption cards, creating a social media page and advertising on profile hosting sites. Networking can help give you a bit of control back into the process, which often helps with the wait. It may also really find the right match for you! If you are interested in networking, please talk with your counselor to find a plan that makes sense for you. If you are not interested in networking, that is ok too!
The most important thing to do while waiting is to try to stay optimistic. You are allowed (and even expected) to have difficult days or weeks. During these times, rely on your support network and your counselor for support and encouragement. If your counselor does not know you are having a hard time, there isn’t anything he or she can do to help you. Come to agency events and functions. Participate in support groups and forums either in person or online. Adopting is not easy. Waiting is not easy. Allow yourself time to be sad, mad, frustrated, hurt, and rejected. But also allow yourself time to be happy, optimistic, excited, and eager. Your time will come.