When you have been an anxious person your whole life and then enter the adoption process, things can get out of hand. The waiting period, meeting the birth mother, and other milestones will compound any anxiety you already have. If you live and make decisions based off fear, that will become apparent during the adoption process as well. After adoption, when you’re raising a child, any marital problems will only be magnified. The good news is you can become a better you if you are willing to be flexible, patient, and receptive to help.

I keep a photo of our son’s birth mother and birth father in our room. I passed by it the other day and thought, I still can’t believe this all happened . . . and that I didn’t completely mess it all up. During those meetings with our son’s birth mother before she placed him with us, I held it together, but on the inside, I was a wreck. We had about two months from the time we were matched to birth and I thank God it wasn’t longer. I was a mess. My lifelong anxiety just gripped me tighter than ever. I even went to the cardiologist and wore a Holter monitor because I was having so many heart palpitations. I wouldn’t listen to the radio in the car because it seemed every single song had the word “baby” in it. The only thing I listened to those two months was Bob Marley – calming reggae. At one point our social worker told me she thought I could benefit from talking to a therapist. A few months later I finally did. I went and talked with a psychologist once a week for several months. It was something I should have done a long time ago, really.

I saw our meetings with our son’s birth mother as interviews. I hate interviews. I’m not good at selling myself for jobs or for the biggest job of all: parenting. I reeled in my anxiety, made sure I didn’t curse, and made sure I wasn’t too blunt. The meetings got easier and we loved getting to know our son’s soon-to-be birth mother, but I always made sure I was on my best behavior. Even today, she makes me want to be my best self. I want to show her that our child is doing well and that I’m a confident mom. It’s good for me; it gives me something to strive for. Even though I want to be the best I can be for myself and for my child, it does add a tiny amount of pressure knowing you have the birth mother watching sometimes. I don’t want to let her down because she put all her trust in us.

Parenting itself can reveal flaws you didn’t realize were there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told our son something while also realizing, Hey, I should take my own advice on that, too. I’m not sure I would’ve learned some of those lessons had we remained childless. Of course, just recognizing flaws isn’t enough – you have to put the effort in to make changes. That’s when talking to a therapist, talking more with your spouse to improve your marriage, and considering lifestyle changes come into play. Now, I’m finished with therapy, but take a low-dose anti-anxiety medication. I chose to officially become vegan, too. My next challenges are exercising more and drinking more water.

Positivity has never been my strength; however, the adoption process has shifted my thinking immensely. I tried to abandon my usual negativity and stay hopeful the whole time. Even when our social worker told us in early meetings, “If you think you’ll just meet one expectant mother and adopt and everything will go smoothly, that is not the case. That’s not how it’s going to happen,” I remember thinking, Oh, no, but for us it will. I don’t know why, but my gut feeling was that it was going to be better than even I thought. That’s exactly what happened. We met with one expectant mother, we love her still to this day, and we have the cutest, smartest little boy on the planet. His birth mother is a very positive person and it has rubbed off on me.

When a young teen wants to finish high school and doesn’t have support from the birth father, turning to adoption means taking a hardship and turning it into something good. She put in that effort. We put in the effort by going through the adoption process ourselves, and it has been nothing but rewarding. I hope other waiting families can remain hopeful and calm. It will be worth all the stress in the end, and you’ll be a better person for it.