For most, deciding to adopt is not an easy decision and certainly not one made overnight. You are so more than ready to parent, that this wait seems like yet another hurdle in an endless process. The reality is that no one can tell you how long it will take to adopt. It’s like waiting for a pregnancy, then waiting for the birth. Although, this waiting is different.
There are no more decisions about treatments, doctors’ or clinic visits, or medications. There are no more counting days, injections, pills to swallow, or scheduled sex. You have jumped off the carousel and are on to the next ride—the roller coaster of adoption.
This ride starts not with a ticket, but with a series of choices and decisions. You first need to understand the adoption process from the legal, as well as emotional, standpoint. What should you expect? Who does what? Who will tell you what you can and can’t do? How do you talk to the birth parents? Will you feel the same about a child joining your family through adoption as one born to you? Hopefully with each new answer, your determination to adopt grows stronger and you are closer and closer to being a parent.
Researching domestic and international adoption alternatives is a great way to start. Go to a local informational meeting, get on the internet, locate a local adoptive parent support group, talk to one another and your families about your plans, and, when necessary, seek out a counselor. You’ll be surprised what people are thinking and how helpful and supportive many of them can be. The more you know about adoption, the more confident you will become in your decision to adopt.
As with each fertility decision, there are pros and cons, easy ones and harder ones, and anxieties about making the right choice. You are putting trust and control in an attorney or an agency to advise, guide, and advocate on your behalf. If you thoroughly investigate the professionals you will work with, you will feel more comfortable. One of the best ways to do this is to find others who have adopted. Whom did they work with? What was their experience like? Who responded best to their questions? Were they prepared for what happened?
Find adoptive families to talk to. Everyone is always amazed that as soon as they say they are adopting, everyone knows someone who did. And those people who are willing to share their experiences are the real experts in the day-to-day survival of the adoption process and living as adoptive families.
Talking to a professional counselor or joining a pre-adoption support group can help you navigate the emotions of adoption, understand the reactions of family and friends, reinforce the idea that adoption is not second best, prepare you for the joys and challenges of the adoption process and parenting, and expand your social network with other adoptive families.
Don’t forget to do something that isn’t solely parent-focused (fertility or adoption) to occupy your time and keep your mind busy. Carolyn Berger of Path2Parenthood calls this “Changing the Channel.” Try some old and new activities: a date with a spouse not based on your “cycle,” dinner with friends, or a barbeque with family. Have a manicure, pedicure, massage, or long bubble bath. Go to the movies, a museum, gallery, concert, or show. Take some day trips or schedule that vacation you put off while tethered to your doctor and clinic. And get some sleep while you can. Take advantage of the free time you have now, because you won’t have it once your child arrives.
Finally, some of you may want to take action and prepare for the arrival of your child. Clean out that home office to make way for the nursery. Search for the exact shade of paint or perfect wallpaper you’ve been thinking about, or pick out the bassinet, crib, and changing table. If adopting an infant, select your layette. You don’t have to bring anything home. Most stores will hold your purchases until the time is right. If you can’t see parenting without these items, have them delivered to a family member or neighbor. If adopting an older child, research activities, books to read with your child, play groups, day care, and schools. Or learn a new language.
Turn this waiting period into a gift. Pamper yourself and that special person in your life. Go out and have some fun (you’re off the clock now). Take up a new hobby, go shopping, or take a trip. Enjoy the carefree and flexible nature of your newfound freedom. This is the calm before the storm. Let your hopes and dreams flourish. All too soon, you’ll be a proud, smiling mom or dad, and as tired as all the other parents in the playground.
Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW, is Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA. For over 26 years, Ametz has helped singles and couples before and during the adoption process; as well as the day-to-day living once you adopt. Services include adoption homestudies, educational workshops, support groups, an annual conference, and Professional Training Institute. Kathy is an Advisory Board Member of Path2Parenthood, was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, and is a contributor to Ametz’s monthly e-news. She formed her family through adoption. Kathy can be reached at orwww.jccany.org/ametz.