We spend our lives waiting: waiting to get a driver’s license, waiting to graduate from school, waiting to meet “Mr. Right,” even waiting for the red light to change. But few of those situations require the patience needed to wait for our child in international adoption. Once the rush is over and you’ve rounded up all the paperwork and submitted it to the right places, the real wait begins — a wait that brings a completely contradictory mix of feelings.

Feeling Fragile

You’ll probably have what I call “fragile days” – days where you experience some (or all!) of the following feelings:

  • Worry – What if it doesn’t work out? How can we possibly afford this?
  • Uncertainty – Will it really happen? Will our child be a boy or a girl? How old will our child be? Has our child already been born? Is he already out there waiting for us? How long must we wait until our family is together?
  • Lack of control – This is especially hard for those of us with type A personalities who cope with stress by trying to take charge of a situation; and
  • Cold feet – Will we be good parents? Will our children love us? Is this all a huge mistake?

Guess what? All of these feelings are perfectly normal! Just because you have momentary doubts doesn’t mean you should stop pursuing international adoption. It may help you to know that other adoptive parents have experienced similar emotions – try joining an adoptive parents support group. Sharing experiences with other people who are going through (or who have already weathered) the same thing you’re going through is a great way to banish those demons of doubt. If you’re going through an exceptionally trying time and your adoption worries are overwhelming your life, you may benefit from talking to a therapist. Remember: these feelings are normal – don’t let them derail you from adopting your child.

Feeling Powerful

Paradoxically, the power we find during international adoption comes from giving up control of the process. We grow (and gain inner strength) by:

  • Giving up control of the situation – often to people we’ve never even met (such as people at the adoption agency, adoption authorities in our child’s country, people at the USCIS, and the child’s birth parents);
  • Learning to have faith. Even if we aren’t terribly religious, to begin with, we learn to have faith – faith that something we’ve only talked about will soon be a reality, faith that things will work out the way they are supposed to, faith that we will have the child we were meant to have; and
  • Learning to trust. During international adoption, we have to learn to trust what other people tell us, and, most importantly, we learn to trust our own instincts.

Making the Wait Bearable

So how do you make the wait bearable? Try some (or all!) of these ideas:

  1. Learn. Read as much information as possible on international adoption, parenting internationally adopted children, attachment in adopted children, and your child’s country of origin. (You’re already in a great place to learn about international adoption here at adoption.com!) Study your child’s language, culture, and cooking. If you are going to be a first-time parent, ask experienced parents for advice, or better yet take a parenting class. Take a pediatric CPR/first aid course – you’ll never be sorry you did.
  2. Pick Out A Name. Start sorting through the thousands of name options now.  One of the first questions people will ask you, once they know about your international adoption plans, is, “Have you picked out a name?” You should decide how you will name your child – will you keep his birth name? Will you use his birth name as his middle name? Now is the time to decide on a plan of action
  3. Get a Doctor. Find a pediatrician you like (preferably one who’s familiar with the medical issues involved in international adoption). Also, locate an adoption medicine specialist to review the medical information that will accompany your child’s referral.
  4. Get Involved. Join an adoption support group, either in person (most towns have them – ask your adoption agency to connect you) or on the Internet, where assorted mailing lists and discussion boards provide information along with helpful hints and friendship. It really does help to deal with your pent-up frustration with someone who’s either going through the same thing or who has already conquered the international adoption odyssey. culture, and cooking. If you are going to be a first-time parent, ask experienced parents for advice, or better yet take a parenting class. Take a pediatric CPR/first aid course – you’ll never be sorry you did.
  5. Stay Tuned. Keep up to date on changes in your child’s country (or in America) that may impact the adoption. But remember: Don’t believe everything you read. Don’t be alarmed by some of the wild rumors that may circulate. Instead, rely on your adoption agency and the State Department to tell you what, if anything, is happening in your child’s particular orphanage or region.
  6. Get Support. When you feel discouraged, call your favorite person at your adoption agency or call a friend who adopted from the same country. They know what you’re going through and can lend a sympathetic ear.
  7. Get a Hobby. Build model boats, take up watercolor, try your hand at sculpture, give hula dancing a whirl, or learn to play the tuba – it doesn’t matter what you do, just do it (to borrow a well-worn phrase).
  8. Go Shopping. Buy what you will need to bring with you overseas, including clothes, medicines, baby formula, and a thermos (useful for carrying lukewarm water that has been boiled and cooled to mix with powdered formula). Buy furniture, draperies, and toys for your child’s room.
  9. Create. Start keeping a memory album/scrapbook for your child. Be sure to include your thoughts and feelings about getting the referral, seeing his photo for the first time, how you handled waiting to bring him home, etc. Create a blog so you can share photos and happenings with far-flung friends and relatives.
  10. Decide on a Ritual. Make plans for your child’s welcoming ritual now. Why have a welcoming ritual for your child? A ritual is a formal declaration that something special has happened. What could be more special than finally bringing your child home? You’ll need to decide what kind of welcoming ritual you want to have for your child. Will it be a formal affair in a religious setting? Will the ritual include baptism or bris? Or will it be a more casual affair hosted at your home? Who will be involved? Only you and your spouse? Your entire family? Will you hire a professional photographer or videographer to record the welcoming ritual? There are literally thousands of details to consider for this once-in-a-lifetime event!
  11. Round-Up Donations. Find out what the orphanage might need and try to get donated medical supplies, vitamins, and/or toys to bring with you.
  12. Take Care of Legal Matters. Look into updating your will, choosing guardians for your child, and changing your insurance to cover your new child.
  13. Sort Out Daycare. If you will work outside the home after you bring your child home, start investigating daycare options now. The best daycare centers fill up quickly and usually have waiting lists.
  14. Visit Your Local Home Improvement Center. Unleash your inner decorating diva and make your child’s room beautiful now. When “the call” comes, time that seemed to drag on forever will suddenly whirl by while you frantically try to get ready to fly halfway around the world.
  15. Have Fun. Do something nice for yourself that you may not be able to do once your child arrives home – book a day at the spa or go dancing.
  16. Exercise. Exercise not only helps us keep (or get) in shape, exercise also naturally brightens our mood by releasing endorphins in the brain. You don’t have to sign up for a triathlon – a simple walk in the park will do wonders for your mood.
  17. Keep Your Eye on the Goal. Remember, it’s perfectly normal for waiting for adoptive parents to have cold feet once in a while. Just think about your precious child and all the happy times your future holds.


Are you and your partner ready to start the adoption process? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to begin your adoption journey. We have 130+ years of adoption experience and would love to help you.