Coping with your emotions is my second post in my waiting to adopt series. A couple of months ago, I covered answering weird and offensive questions while you’re waiting to adopt. Later this year, I’m planning a post about handling the holidays during the wait. I also have a post about preparing a bedroom for an adopted child that’s a great resource for waiting families. Depending on the time frame of our own wait for baby #2, I may cover other topics as well. As always, if there’s anything you’d like to see here regarding the adoption waiting process or anything else adoption-related, please let me know!
While you’re waiting to adopt, people will use the term “excited” all the time. “Oh, you must be so excited.” “My family and I are so excited for you.” Waiting to adopt is exciting. Finishing your home study and officially entering the waiting pool is a huge, exciting step. But excited is only a tiny fraction of the waiting process. Most of the time you’re waiting, you’ll be facing a host of emotions, all of which are as far away from excited as you can get.
Learning about the emotions you may face while waiting to adopt doesn’t mean you won’t face them. When you do, it will be tough. Sometimes it will be really tough. Understanding the emotions will help you to prepare for these tough situations. It will also help you to adopt some strategies for coping with your emotions to help you survive the wait.
While you’re waiting to adopt, loved ones are still getting pregnant. They’re still inviting you to their showers, sharing their ultrasound photos, and discussing potential baby names. People in your adoption agency or adoption support groups will match with birth parents before you do. Even when you’re been rooting so hard for people you love to get pregnant or adopt, it may still be tough when it happens for them before it happens for you.
What to do
It’s impossible to avoid pregnancy altogether, especially when close family members and friends are pregnant. But you can protect yourself, just as many couples do during the dark days of infertility. Unfollow certain friends on Facebook or avoid your newsfeed altogether. I know people don’t like that latter piece of advice, but it’s been a game-changer for me. Avoid social situations that you just can’t handle. It’s always okay to pass on lunch with friends, a family dinner, or a baby shower. Loved ones who get it will support your decision and won’t be offended.
Resentment may stem from a lot of the same scenarios that trigger jealousy. From your friends who got knocked up without trying to your fellow adoptive families who are matching ahead of you, everyone has what you want but don’t have right now. Resentment may also stem from the specific nature of building a family through adoption. It’s not fair that amazing couples have to spend a ton of money, fill out loads of paperwork, and have social workers examine every aspect of their lives to adopt children. Going through this process may lead to resentment.
What to do
Own your situation, and focus on what you’re doing to make adoption a reality for your family. You can only control your own life. It’s hard to prevent these feelings of resentment completely. But don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on them. You’ll never be at a place in life where you feel like everything is perfect and you’re in no danger of falling into the comparison trap with other people’s lives. So resist the temptation when it arises.
Adoption is expensive. Completing a home study costs thousands of dollars. While most families who pursue adoption do end up adopting, there are no guarantees. In many cases, loved ones have contributed to your adoption funds and are praying for you daily. If you have a bedroom ready, you’ve spent a lot of time and money on that project. You don’t want all of that to be for nothing.
There may also be guilt involved in the nature of adoption. Adoption is a double-edged sword. A couple becomes parents because a birth mom and dad made some of the toughest decisions they’ll ever have to make and will live with for the rest of their lives. Your best days and biggest moments may be really rough for them. You’re waiting for a couple out there to be facing those decisions, so you have the opportunity to grow your family.
What to do
If growing a family is important to you, then it’s worth the sacrifice of time and money required for adoption. Yes, it’s expensive and time-consuming. But you’re doing it for something that you believe in wholeheartedly. You have to trust that it will work out and not let that guilt consume you.
As far as the guilt involved with adoption being a double-edged sword goes, my best advice is to pray for the parents out there facing that decision. It’s easy to make adoption about you, especially when your loved ones are focused on adoption being about you. But adoption isn’t ever just about the adoptive parents. Birth parents face a much tougher road and need a lot of support and prayers, too.
Completing a home study is expensive, stressful, and invasive. But it gives you something to do. Once you’ve started the process of adoption, I recommend preparing a bedroom. I know that not everyone is in a place to do that, which is fine. If you are ready for this task, go for it. You’ll have a project in which to channel your energy, which is much needed during this waiting period. Adoptions often happen very quickly. The more you can do to prepare ahead of time, the better.
What to do
Even with months of working on your home study and preparing a bedroom, most likely at some point, you’ll still be left with nothing to do. You’ll feel helpless, as though you have no control over your situation. There are two key ways I recommend combating this restlessness.
- Spread the word about your adoption. Tell everyone you know. A lot of couples create a Facebook page. Some couples create a flyer and pass it out at church. If you have a blog, YouTube channel, or other content platform, create an adoption post or video.
- Take full advantage of the time you have as a couple or as a family of 3 (or 4, etc.). I have discussed the importance of making the most of your time together without kids or while waiting to adopt another kid in a couple of previous posts. Waiting to adopt doesn’t mean putting everything in your life on hold. If you’re waiting to adopt your first child, take a trip, make reservations for your favorite restaurants, and spring for tickets to concerts or basketball games. If you’re waiting to adopt another child, plan activities with your child or children that will be more difficult with a little baby or younger child, such as swimming lessons or museum outings.
Adoption is a way to grow a family. It’s not a solution to getting pregnant. This is an important distinction that most people don’t recognize. Some people say that you shouldn’t pursue adoption until you’ve finished grieving your infertility. Personally, I don’t think that this is realistic. Grief is an ongoing process. It doesn’t end, nor can you turn it on and off as you like. Until I feel like my family is complete, I don’t think that I’ll be able to move on fully from my infertility past. Even then, I know there will still be situations that will trigger it.
What to do
Grief is uncomfortable. Even when you’ve experienced grief, it’s still hard to know what to do or say for others experiencing similar grief. You should still share your grief with others and keep striving to help others who are grieving. The more we express grief publicly, the more comfortable we’ll be with it. Grief is tough. Sometimes grief is really tough. It’s okay to decline social invitations or give yourself a day off occasionally when grief is overwhelming you.
Anger is an ugly side of the adoption waiting process. I’m sure it makes some people uncomfortable that I’m discussing anger in relation to waiting to adopt a baby. But it’s real and not something to downplay or sugar coat.
It can be really hard to understand why adoption is so expensive and time-consuming and why the waits are so long. Even when you feel confident about pursuing adoption to grow your family, you may still doubt yourself or get angry about why this is supposed to be the right path for your family. When you’ve had a frustrating day filling out paperwork, completing other annoying home study tasks, or answering well-meaning but nosy or inappropriate questions from loved ones, you may get angry.
What to do
When you get angry, it’s important to keep the situation in perspective. Being in a position to pursue adoption usually means that a lot of other aspects of your life are going well. You’re in a solid marriage with a good job, a nice place to live, and money in the bank. You may be having a bad day, but you still have a lot to be thankful for. Take a step back, get a good night’s sleep, and approach adoption with a fresh start again in the morning.
I want to finish with a few more tips for coping with your emotions during the wait to adopt.
Be honest with yourself about your feelings
Your feelings are real. Your feelings are valid. Even when your emotions are ugly, you shouldn’t feel like you need to hide them and pretend that everything is okay. While you may need to fake it at work or during a social event, you should never deny yourself your feelings. Putting them out in the open will help you learn to cope, even when the going gets tough.
Don’t put your life on hold
As I discussed a bit in the restlessness section, waiting to adopt doesn’t mean that you have to put off planning anything indefinitely. Unless you’ve just received a call or email about potential profile opportunity that you’re pursuing, there’s no reason to put off a trip or other big event.
Find positive ways to channel your energy
Waiting to adopt is a great excuse to pursue an interest or take advantage of an opportunity that you might not think twice about otherwise. Sign up for an art class, commit to a volunteer position, or book a trip with a friend you haven’t seen in ages. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll have to postpone or cancel because you’ll get matched for an adoption right away.
Adoptive parents, as always, I’d love your input on this topic!
What were the toughest emotions you faced while waiting to adopt? Do you have any tips for coping with these emotions during the wait?
Tell us about it in the comments!
More adoption resources:
Waiting to Adopt: Answering Weird and Offensive Questions
10 Things No One Tells You About Adoption