What would be the biggest fear of a hopeful adoptive parent? I bet you will get an answer close to ‘the expectant parent who they are matched with decides to parent’. The unknown is truly the hardest part about adoption. The way domestic infant adoption works today, there is a very good chance this will happen to most hopeful adoptive parents at some point. If you are using a matching site, you may be upping your chances of living this experience.
Since 2014, we have experienced this four times. The most recent one was the hardest. (You can read about it here.) I know if you’re in this waiting game right now that this is not what you want to hear. And I’m sorry. Very, very sorry.
I truly understand how bad you want that email. The one where someone asks you to be the parent to their baby. Or the phone call that tells you you have been chosen. No kidding around, I peed my pants the first time I received that call. It’s just as good as you can even begin to imagine. The world stops and you know that everything you endured up to this point has been worth it. No matter how cautiously you proceed, you will never be the same. It’s just the nature of adoption.
This is what helped me when an expectant parent decided to parent.
1. Someone once shared with me, “You are not searching for a baby. You are searching for your baby.” It provides very little in terms of inspiration to keep breathing and pursuing the future of your dreams, but it is true. No matter how much you can feel that baby in your arms—I know you can already smell the new baby smell—you do not want someone else’s baby. You really do want to know beyond any doubt that the expectant parent is confident in her choice and that it is you. Stay positive. You can get through this.
2. Take time to mourn. You’ve just lost something. It’s okay to acknowledge that. Depending on at what point of the journey you find out the expectant parent decided to parent, you may have already started telling a few people you were matched or even have a nursery set up. This is hard. You may find it easier to ask a friend or family member to pass the word around that this placement didn’t work out.
Hang on to your vision of the future. It may look different again. You might be reworking what life looks like for you and your family. Remember, you are worth it. You are worth the very best life you can dream up.
3. Do not get lost in a social media tunnel trying to see what is going on with the expectant parents. Similarly, do not blame yourself. Here’s another tidbit a pregnancy counselor once shared with me, “When an expectant parent chooses someone, they are pretty committed to that person.” Chances are, the decision to parent has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with the situation and what the parent feels is best for the child. The expectant parents are not taking your child from you. They are choosing to parent their child. Would it have been nice for them to figure this out before involving you? Yes, but it is what it is. Try your best to move on. This can feel a lot like a traditional break-up. You were building a relationship with the expectant parents. You were hoping it was forever. Let your expectations for the future you were planning go as soon as you can. You will need all that heart space for the next situation.
When one door closes, another door opens.
4. Be happy for them. Be proud of yourself. An expectant parent reached out to you. She asked the single hardest question any mother can ask. She asked you to parent her child. You said yes. You provided a safe, loving home not just for a child, but an open door for the expectant parents. You loved on them hard. You opened yourself up to someone else. It was hard and scary, but you did it. Somewhere along the line, something changed in the expectant parent’s situation. That’s good for them. They figured it out. Whatever ‘it’ was, they are building their family. Maybe, you even helped them figure it out. Maybe it was the counseling you helped them find that provided the resources to help them parent. If so, then you helped build a family. Maybe not your family, but a family. Again, be proud of yourself. That type of selfless help isn’t easy. Your day is coming. It just wasn’t that day.
5. Do something nice for yourself. This adoption stuff is one hell of a ride. Take care of yourself. For me, sometimes it’s an extra workout. Sometimes, it’s a stroll through the clearance rack at T.J. Maxx. Other times, it’s an extra glass of wine. Take care of yourself. You matter in this big world and your future needs you to be at your best. You can do this. One breath at a time. You’re a home study graduate. You’re a fingerprinted, background approved rock star. There is nothing you can’t do.
I believe in you.
Have you had an expectant parent decide to parent? What did you do?