The wait is the hardest of all for you, the future adopter. Sure, other people can aggravate you with interminable questions, but you have an awful lot of questions, hopes, and fears yourself. So how do you manage to get through these days, weeks, or even months of waiting?
Adoption obsession is very common for the person who has been approved and is waiting for a referral. It can be very debilitating and enervating.
You can do some things to distract yourself during this waiting period:
- Maintain a positive mental attitude, which is probably the most important advice I can offer. Sure, we all have doubts and fears. Try not to agonize over every problem that might happen.
- Keep a journal of your thoughts and how you feel about the adventure that lies ahead. You certainly don't have to be a professional writer to express your feelings and frustrations, your ups and downs. Many people find that the very act of writing down their thoughts frees them from considerable anxiety. It might also jog your unconscious into producing solutions to particular problems.
- Read books about parenting and adoption (but don't go overboard). You might also want to review children's books about adoption as well. Keep in mind that most authors have biases, whether they realize it or not. Some see adoption as an idyllic experience; others think adoption is a problematic institution that should be radically changed. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.
- Meet and talk to parents, adoptive and nonadoptive. An effective adoptive parent group can be really helpful, because it allows you to see people with children they've adopted. You can learn the tactics they used to succeed, and the do's and don'ts of adoption.
- Take an exercise class or renew an old hobby. Staying involved with our interests makes us happy, and children derive benefit from happy parents. Hopefully you will maintain your hobbies and interests even after your child comes home. After all, don't you want to help your child develop her own interests? She may even share some of yours!
Adoption obsession refers to constantly thinking about adopting a child. It usually occurs in first-time adoptive parents, although people adopting a second or third child might also experience it. A little obsession is beneficial, because it leads you to pursue different opportunities and to learn as much as possible. Just don't let it overtake your life!
Keep in mind that sometimes adoptive parent groups deteriorate into a kind of “gripe session” where members mostly come to complain about the woes of adoption or how tough it is to deal with their children's problems. Avoid those groups. (Fortunately, they are rare.)
If you find yourself obsessing over adoption for more than a few months, ask yourself what the problem is. Is it fear that you won't succeed? Fear that you will have trouble parenting? Or something else? Make sure you want to adopt before you proceed.
Here are some things you should not do while you wait for an approval or to hear about your child:
- Worry about negative stories others tell you about adoption. Everyone will know a horror story, just as everyone seems to have a medical horror story they want to share with you when you are facing surgery.
- Make any other major life changes unless you have to. Adopting a child is big enough!
- Quit your job (if that's an option for you) unless you know for sure a child is coming or unless you're looking for a good reason to quit anyway. Believe it or not, some people quit their jobs after they're approved for adoption so they can devote their time to getting ready. That may be okay if you will be adopting within a month or two. What if the wait lasts as long as a year? You can find yourself with a lot of extra time on your hands.
Losing Your Nerve
People never get cold feet and decide that they really do not want to adopt, do they? Sure they do! As you get closer to the goal of adoption, you or your spouse may get panicky and fearful. Can you really be good parents? Can you deal with all the changes that will come with parenthood—or with parenting yet another child?
I like to compare the fear of adopting your first child to the fear many of us felt when we decided to get married. Getting the premarital jitters doesn't mean that you don't love your future spouse. What it means is that you're planning a major life change—and that can be frightening.
You don't need nerves of steel to adopt, but it's important to understand that there will be ups and downs in the process. If you know this is normal, it will make the experience much easier. Here are some ways to cope with the emotional highs and lows:
- Meet other people who have recently adopted. They can understand.
- Give yourself a set time to worry about problems that arise. When that time is over, order yourself to think about other things.
- Consider renewing a hobby you enjoyed in the past but have neglected.
- If you are spiritual or religious, try meditation or prayer.
- Remind yourself that there is a child at the end of this maze, and it's all worth it.
A little fear is normal. Of course, if you have very serious doubts and you are wondering if your motives are good ones, then you should think carefully before taking this major step—for your sake and for the child's sake.
Before you applied to adopt a child, you probably thought finding the agency or attorney was the hard part. Then you thought going through the home study was the really hard part. Then the toughest part was the waiting period after you filled out all the forms, had your home visit and answered all the social worker's questions, and waited for your home study to get approved. For many people, the last part of the waiting process is the hardest, once you are approved to adopt and you're waiting to adopt your child. You're in the final stretch before you succeed. Adoptive parents agree that although all this waiting for your child is hard, it's well worth it.