In our two years as a hopeful family, we’ve learned some things about how to wait. Surprisingly (or not), it seems that the more time passes, the less patient I am with waiting and the more I dream about the child that will come into our family. However, if you are in the wait, you might consider my advice to try to keep the “romance” turned down. No, not your romantic romance. I mean the romanticizing of your adoption journey. As somewhat of a romantic myself, I know that this is a difficult piece of advice and one that I suspect most romantics will reject until they personally get burned. But, in the off chance that a waiting romantic out there is also risk-averse, let me talk more about what I mean.

We have been matched twice and both resulted in a successful decision to parent by the mothers (you can read about those failed matches here). Both matches seemed “meant to be.” For the first, we were excited that the baby was Latino like my husband and made a list of Spanish names. We celebrated that we all loved soccer and gushed about how skilled the baby would grow to be. Maybe that seems like normal excitement, and maybe it was. However, we started to get a little too carried away when we began discussing, in depth, whether the biological grandparents should be the baptismal godparents of the child, whether the baptism should happen at their church or ours. When the match fell through, all that effort and passion was for nothing and just left us feeling annoyed with ourselves for planning too far ahead for a baby that was never ours.

With the second match, my husband and I were strangely excited when we read the email about the situation, and when we got the call that we had been picked, we just knew that this was the one—why else would we have been so excited? It was another Hispanic baby. The biological father was involved and supportive, which is something we had been praying for. The family lived close by and wanted an open adoption, which we had also been praying for. I read so much into these “answered prayers” and felt so certain that this was to be our child, that these people were to become our family. It seemed like the fairytale match that would make sense of the first failed match; we even had the ultrasound image on our fridge. It all seemed so perfect, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how perfect it was. And then it wasn’t, for us.

I know I am not alone in reading too much into the signs of a match, in looking for certainty where there is none. I know a foster mother who gave so much significance to the fact that the texture of a foster child’s hair matched her adopted son’s; the adoption didn’t work out for them. I know of another mother who was so certain of a match that she named jewelry after the expectant mother for adoption fundraising. The match fell through, and I can’t help but wonder what the people think of their necklaces now.

As much as we look for coincidences or think we know God’s will or the universe’s plan, nothing is final in adoption until it is final. That is the hard truth every waiting family must reckon with. You have zero control in what a mother (or the courts) will decide, and you are not entitled to any child. Be careful with how much you read into the little details of a match or situation. Try not to get carried away with daydreams or extraneous plans for a potential child. There should be celebration and excitement over a match, of course, but it should be tempered with the reality that your family has not grown until papers are signed. An expectant mother has every right to decide to parent her child. Families have every right to seek reunification with their children in state care. When waiting parents romanticize their journey, they can minimize the harsh fact that adoption begins with loss. They also might be setting themselves up for more pain than they need to endure, should a match fail. When you become an adoptive parent, you will have the rest of your life to analyze how things played out, to find blessings and meaning in the details. Until then, just try to learn from the uncertainty of the ride and keep the romance turned down a bit.