How to Survive the Big Wait

How do you pass the time while waiting for your child?

Susan Kuligowski April 15, 2015
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While your piles of adoption paperwork may seem daunting, once you’ve crossed the last T and dotted the last I and raised your glass to celebrate the end of notarizations, certifications, apostilles, and frantic phone calls to your adoption agency, the next phase of the adoption process suddenly sneaks up all unassuming and quiet-like. You think you’re going to find relief at the end of the tunnel, but what really awaits is The Big Wait.

Suddenly, you find yourself with a lot more time on your hands and a lot more time to think—about everything and anything that could go wrong and why things are taking so darn long.

You begin to wonder what to do. Should you start to prepare yourself, your house, your life for your family to be, or is that dangerous and wishful thinking?

What if you never receive a referral or placement? What if someone else’s dossier is more appealing than yours? What if the agency, orphanage, or birth mom just doesn’t like you enough to choose you to be an adoptive parent? What if it’s all just not meant to be for you? Why did a couple you know receive a referral just a month after finishing their home study? Why hasn’t your agency called you in over a week? Why is it taking so long? When is the government going to get that necessary paperwork back to you? When are things going to start to happen? When are you going to become a parent?

You can spend your wait shuffling these questions around in your head for the days, weeks, months, and sometimes years ahead of you, or you can take some steps to help the time pass without missing out on your life as you know it.

Make a date.

A good friend of ours, who had adopted twice, advised us to take advantage of our time together as a couple sans kids because everything we knew was about to change forever. She said to travel, see friends, be selfish, be romantic, and sleep while we had the chance. Once baby was in the picture, that chapter in our lives would be over. Rather than wake up and feel as though we were missing something, why not wake up and remember to value and appreciate what we weren’t missing—each other? Little did we know how important this advice would be.

Confide in a good friend.

While it’s important for you and your spouse to be on the same page throughout your adoption journey, sometimes it feels good to share some of your hopes, dreams, and fears with a third party. For me, I found great comfort in an online group of friends I’d met before starting the adoption process. These ladies were neutral and uplifting—not that my “real-life” friends weren’t, but there was no judgement, and it turned out to be an amazing bonding experience for us all. I felt comfortable sharing things with them, and it seemed someone was always online no matter if it was the middle of the day or the middle of the night. And by having this group to share with, I felt as though I wasn’t dumping too much on my husband. Also, not being one who likes to be the center of attention, I didn’t want to meet a girlfriend out for happy hour and just focus on me and my adoption worries all the time. As it turned out, the day we received our referral, I could not wait to send a message to my supportive online friends; they were, in fact, the first to know among my friends.

Take care of yourself.

Believe it or not, middle of the night feedings, changing diapers every couple hours, chasing after babies and toddlers and big kids, while juggling the rest of everything that needs to get done in a day really takes a lot out of you. While you have the time and the energy to go to the gym, head downstairs to your treadmill, or get outside for a power walk and some fresh air! After all, you’re not just eating right and exercising for yourself anymore, but also for your little one who is going to depend on you in every way for a very long time. Sign up for a 5K, take a dance class, or try that new power hour you’ve heard will take your muscles to the next level. Starting a family isn’t necessarily as rigorous as heading to the Olympics, but once you bring your child home, realize that it won’t be as easy to dart out to the gym or to the park as often as you do now.

Broaden your menu.

What’s cookin’? Consider taking a cooking class or whipping up all of those online recipes you’ve been downloading and meaning to put to use for the past five years—especially the ones that sound kid-friendly. While you may be a staunch believer that your child will eat everything and anything you put on their plate, the truth is, kids’ pallets are different than adults, and why not do some research into flavors and combinations and dishes they may crave. Doing your research now and adding in some of these delectable dishes to your rotation now may make dinnertime more enjoyable once that highchair, booster, or waiting chair is filled with your little one. Bon appétit!

Read til you can’t read no more.

Ok, by now, reading through the piles of adoption paperwork may have made your eyes cross, but still, now is a good time to soak in as much information as possible before bringing your child home. Websites like Adoption.com offer endless links to articles, blogs, and videos on just about every topic you can imagine. There is so much good information out there to help you be the best parent you can for your child. Soon enough, you will be reading nursery rhymes, beginner, and chapter books; take this opportunity to find literature that you find helpful. Parenting comes with a million stages. Get ahead of the game, and you’ll thank yourself later. And while you’re at it, fit in some leisure reading, too! You may find yourself trading in the New York Times Best Sellers list for Dr. Seuss for a long time to come.

Reach out to other waiting families.

Although you may feel isolated during your wait, realize that you are not the first family to go through the adoption process—and you will not be the last. If you’re lucky enough to have a support group or buddy couple, great! If not, consider reaching out to other waiting families and getting together to share your experiences. Or make a pact to avoid discussing the weighty subjects and encourage each other to focus on all things that aren’t adoption-related—together. They say there is strength in numbers. Don’t try to go this time alone if you have the opportunity to walk these last miles with friends who understand what you’re going through.

Your waiting child.

Perhaps your child-to-be has not yet been born. Or perhaps he is anxiously waiting for you in foster care, or she is quietly napping in a crib in an orphanage an ocean away. You may not be the only person in this equation having to endure the wait for that elusive referral. With millions of orphans around the world and over a hundred thousand waiting children in the United States, try to remember the children who have no idea how long their wait for a family will be. If you have the opportunity to volunteer for a local children’s charity, raise awareness for foster care and adoption, participate in an adoption support network, or learn more about supporting birth parents and families either in your community or online, consider what you can do to make the process a better one for all involved.

And while it’s easier said than done, just remember that waiting it is the next step toward uniting with your child.

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Susan Kuligowski

Sue Kuligowski is a staff storyteller at Adoption.com. The mother of two girls through adoption, she is a proposal coordinator, freelance writer/editor, and an adoption advocate. When she's not writing or editing, she can be found supervising sometimes successful glow-in-the-dark experiments, chasing down snails in the backyard, and attempting to make sure her girls are eating more vegetables than candy.


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