Making the most of your adoption wait can be one of the most challenging aspects of the process for prospective adoptive parents. Most likely you just spent many months in the home study process, filling out paperwork and government clearances, possibly raising funds, and inviting a caseworker into your home for interviews. We all know jumping through those fiery hoops will be worth it, but when you get to the “waiting” part, it’s easy to feel frustrated with the silence, and the lack of tangible tasks to accomplish.
Adam and I have been waiting for quite some time now (see our adoption timeline for details), and we’ve learned a few valuable things over the past two years since we started the process. These are things that we have personally found helpful as we wait for God to grow our family.
1) Educate yourself
This is one of the most important things you can do during your adoption wait. There is an endless supply of adoption resources available on the Internet through websites, blogs, forums, and online training classes. For us, we have spent a decent amount of time reading about transracial adoption, open adoption, and adopting an older child or sibling group from foster care. I have a number of blogs bookmarked that I regularly check in on, a pile of books a mile high, and have recently been digging into some online training classes through Adoption Learning Partners. I highly recommend their classes if you are able to take some!
When we were with Bethany Christian Services, in Pittsburgh, we benefited greatly from their transracial adoption trainings. Our trainer shared very openly about the joys and challenges of adopting transracially. I will never forget the stories she shared, and the strength she exhibited through some pretty tough situations.
This is also a great time to educate your family and friends as well! Many people have never considered adoption, or even heard of open adoption, transracial adoption, etc. It’s so important that your closest friends and relatives have a basic understanding of the challenges you, and your adopted child, may encounter in life. This will enable them to support you in a more rounded way.
2) Connect with other adoptive parents
It’s easy to feel isolated in the adoption process. Not many people “get” what it’s like to go through the process, or understand the heart pain that comes with waiting for your child. During our wait, some of our closest friends would rarely even ask us about the process. That was hard, and even hurtful at times. Investing time in a group of couples that knew exactly what we were feeling was one of the most beneficial things we could have pursued during our wait.
One of the things I miss most about our time in Pittsburgh was our adoption support group. We were connected with a group through another local church called Journey of Hope. This group was for couples that have adopted, are waiting to adopt, or are considering adoption for their family. The relationships we formed with the couples in the group were absolutely life giving. Now, if only I could find something similar here in CT!
3) Write about your experience
For me, writing is therapeutic. This blog has been a journal of sorts to map out our process for family and friends, and to keep them updated. Google “adoption blogs” and you will find a never-ending supply of blogs written by (hopeful) adoptive parents. Reading about the experience of others has been helpful as I attempt to process through my own experience with adoption.
I also keep a private journal where I write about more personal aspects of the process. These journals hold a collection of my private prayers, cries, and pleadings to the Lord as I wait for Him to grow our family. Since starting the process, we have pursued 40+ different adoption situations. I have written about some of these precious children, and birthmothers, in my private journal. I think these things are important to document as Adam and I have spent time praying for them, and wondered if they may play a significant role in our family. I trust that my journal will be really beautiful to look back on one day as we see God’s faithfulness to place us with the exact child or children He has ordained for us. The hard road, and 40+ children we had hoped to adopt, will point to His goodness and faithfulness in our life.
4) Nest, if you are able to
While living in Pittsburgh, Adam and I prepared a nursery when we were exclusively in the domestic infant route. This was incredibly helpful for us as we waited. We painted the room, put together the crib, I made curtains, a matching crib skirt, and hung gender-neutral wall art. Pinterest was a good friend of mine during that time! We also had some wonderfully generous friends who insisted on throwing us a baby shower. That meant so much to us because it indicated that they saw the adoption process as something to celebrate just as one would celebrate a pregnancy.
This step is a bit more complicated for us now as we’ve opened our age range, and are hoping to adopt siblings from foster care. There are a few things we can do to “nest” during this wait, but it’s slightly more complicated, as we don’t know the number, or ages, of the children we will adopt. To be honest, my heart is very settled about this. It may be a whirlwind to prepare for them when we know they are coming, but thankfully we have incredible support here in CT to help us out when that time comes.
5) Work on thickening your skin
This one has been a real stretch for me, in the best possible way. If you already have thick skin, and are able to let comments from unkind critics roll off your back, then you’re a step ahead! Most people are sincerely well meaning, and have no intent to hurt you or question the decisions you’ve made for your family. They are usually just genuinely curious, and don’t know any other way to inquire. However, their comments can still sting, and often come at the most unexpected times.
Since announcing our intent to adopt we have been criticized for fundraising, and received shocked expressions when we opened our age range to toddlers and young children. We’ve also been asked many times “don’t you want your own children?” These responses and reactions are hurtful, but also something that we’ve come to expect with pursuing something so “out of the norm.”
I’ve grown quite a bit in this area over the past two years, but certainly still have more to do. It was helpful for me to think through gracious responses to some of the most common adoption questions and comments, and keep them in mind for those (usually) unexpected moments. I wrote a little about this here and here.
6) Have no expectations
This one has probably been the biggest challenge for us. Since we are open to adopting a child of any race, with a long list of potential special needs, sibling groups, and toddlers to young children, we expected to be placed with a child fairly quickly. That has not been the case for us. Even with our openness growing quite a bit over time, we haven’t been placed with a child yet.
If you are looking to adopt a healthy white infant, it’s usually a given that your wait will be much longer (btw, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to want those things. Every family is different and has good reasons for the level of openness they decide on).
We also didn’t expect to move to a different state during our wait, and choose to switch agencies upon arrival. We didn’t expect to have to begin the process from scratch, but that’s where we currently sit.
Thankfully, we have a greater hope, and it’s not in the statistics or timeframes given by adoption agencies. The truth that God is in control of how, and when He will grow our family brings a constant peace to my soul amidst fluctuating emotions and unmet expectations. Dealing with unmet expectations is always a struggle, which leads to my last tip…
7) Trust, hope, and pray boldly
We know that our wait is full of immense purpose. Purpose yet to be revealed. Although it’s tempting to despair about the lack of control we have at this point (i.e. not many tangible tasks to accomplish, such as paperwork), there is a confidence in my heart that God sees it all, and is faithfully ordaining every moment of this pre-child season.
He is a trustworthy God and our hope can only be found in Him. Not whether we are EVER placed with children or not. Our hope must always be in God’s likeness, not temporal things. “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness” Psalm 17:14-15.
Adam and I are constantly praying together. We’re learning how to persistently persevere in prayer, just like the widow in Luke 18. We’re also learning how to ask boldly, and with faith that God hears us, and will answer our cries. Praying together for the process, our caseworker, and especially our children has deepened our marriage, and grown our faith in some really unique ways. Our faith has grown in ways that it never could have had we never attempted to adopt.
How about you? Are you currently waiting to adopt? If so, what are some tips you would add to this list?