While sitting in the car, about to drive my daughter to her first day of third grade, I looked back at her in full amazement. How on earth did we get here so quickly?
Wasn’t it just yesterday when I was praying for her? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I paced the floor and awaited word on when I could fly to Ethiopia and finalize her adoption? Wasn’t it just yesterday when I held her in my arms for the very first time?
Now, she’s eight years old—almost nine—and growing into the most elegant and lovely young lady I have ever had the honor to know. Being the woman she calls Mom is a treasured blessing. And, it’s within these moments of grateful reflection when I think of other parents who are currently waiting on an adoption and wondering when they will be with their child.
I received a series of questions from a friend and follower on Instagram recently. She and her husband are currently in the midst of an inter-country adoption, also known as international adoption. It’s no doubt, an exciting time in their lives. And, as they wait for news of a match, they’re preparing their home and their hearts for welcoming in their child.
This family’s story is not unlike those stories of other families, around the world, who are in the midst of adopting a child. No matter their background or nationality, these are parents who are living the very real and human experience of delivery-by-adoption. An experience that will surely test their resolve, their patience, and their ability to surrender and to trust.
I remember, so clearly, this waiting period. It’s not easy. Prior to the pause, there is a rush of busy work to attend to. Getting paperwork in on time, home studies completed, and if required, international dossiers reviewed and approved. There’s activity happening. Momentum is building.
Then, all becomes quiet. You are forced, willingly or unwillingly, to surrender to the process. To give up control and let people—some of whom you don’t even know—take the lead in this highly personal, and often emotional time of family building.
Answers can’t come fast enough. Every minute of every day, you wonder if this is the time when the phone will ring, or when an email will come through. Will this be the day when you see the face of your beautiful child?
A child you may have never met.
A child whom you already love with every cell in your body.
Just the thought of your child can make you melt.
And, you want your child home.
As the mother of two children adopted internationally, I know that waiting is hard. There were moments while waiting for my son and daughter when I thought I might surely burst from anticipation. This made the wait far more challenging, for this mama, than it needed to be. What I realized was that a shift was required: I needed to shift my focus from what I wanted, at the moment, to what my child would need in the days and months after coming home. I began focusing on the how of post-adoption over the when of pre-adoption. There were three primary questions that arose:
- How would my husband and I handle the very tender time of bonding that takes place after all is finalized and our child is home? The answer to this question is a personal and individual one, but it should be thoroughly explored prior to your child’s homecoming. Remember, as much as we feel and understand that we are the parents—our children may see us as strangers. How vulnerable they are in these early moments of bonding. Take time. Be present. Ensuring that we, as new adoptive parents, do not fall back into the busy and fast-paced rhythm of life is key; being with our children, listening to our children, and also understanding this essential concept: trade your expectations of who you think your child should be into an appreciation for who your child is at that very moment in time. No matter what that looks like. Give your child, and yourself, this gift of complete and total acceptance and inclusion. It is transformational. You can start practicing appreciation right now as you await your child. Your family will be all the better for it.
- How would we introduce our child to members of extended family and friends who have been waiting along with us, all this time? The answer to this question is, again, personal and individual in nature. However, let me emphasize that too much, too soon can be stressful for both the child and parents. It’s okay to take it slow as you introduce your child to your extended family and to your circle of friends. They’ll understand! Right now, inside of your waiting chapter, is the time to express your intentions to those who have been anxiously anticipating the arrival of your child, right along with you. Perhaps, you can let them know that you’ll share photos and messages with them—in the beginning—and that, over time and as your child becomes more comfortable with you and his/her surroundings, you will have family and friends over to your home, in small numbers, to meet your child and celebrate with you. This cocoon time can last for a matter of days or weeks—it depends on the child and parents—but it’s time worth savoring and protecting in order to ensure that these future gatherings are joy-filled for your little one.
- How could I build the strongest support network possible to assist with those unforeseen moments of challenge that would surely arise? And, challenges will arise! So preparation for both the knowns and unknowns of post-adoption is really quite essential. Talk to your pediatrician of choice—for example—and let this professional know that you are adopting, where you are adopting from, and potential timelines of the adoption. My pediatrician researched health issues among orphans in Ethiopia and made himself aware of potential health concerns that we would need to watch for. As it turned out, my daughter was diagnosed with giardia and the support of my pediatrician was critical as we worked together to rid her body of this parasite so that she could gain weight, grow, and thrive. Our pediatrician, as a member of my support network, is someone I will always be grateful for, in addition to the other moms-by-adoption who were there to answer questions, lend an ear, and lift me up. And, those professionals who assisted me along the journey to adopt and were there, post-adoption, to listen and offer guidance and support. My family and my church community, where would I be as a parent, without them all? What will your support network look like, post-adoption? Planning this network now and reaching out, while you wait, is time well spent.
Before you know it, your child will be home and you’ll be well prepared to meet his/her needs. You’ll watch your child grow. All too quickly! You’ll fall in love every time you look into your child’s eyes. And, then, suddenly you’ll look back in the rearview mirror, on your way to the first day of third grade and breathe a deep breath of gratitude for the child you waited for.
And, you’ll give thanks for the waiting.
It all makes sense now.
Every. Single. Second.
You see, dear friend, waiting on adoption is hard, I know, but it’s worth it.
So very worth it.