Finding out you are unexpectedly expecting can bring a wave of emotions. You may feel that this is not the right time in your life to raise a child, you may be with the wrong partner, you may have educational aspirations or a new job that is not conducive to taking time to parent a child. Whatever your reason, if you are considering adoption, you likely have a lot of questions. As an expectant parent, you know the beginning of your adoption journey, as well as your child’s, but what about the adoptive parents? One thing some expectant parents think about is what adoptive couples do while they wait to be matched.
As an adoptive mother to two incredible kids from two different and amazing countries, I can tell you that waiting is tough. Being “paper pregnant,” as prospective adoptive parents sometimes term themselves in the international adoption community, is difficult. Somewhere, possibly half a world away, is a child who you are waiting to bring home. Oftentimes, all you have is a picture and perhaps a few videos. As with a pregnancy, you know life will change forever when you meet your child that first time, but waiting is hard.
For prospective adoptive parents pursuing a private domestic adoption, first comes the wait to be matched with an expectant parent, then comes the wait for the due date, and then there is the wait to see if the adoption is finalized. For everyone in the adoption process, waiting can be difficult so it is important to find things to do while you wait. Here is a list of the top ten things adoptive couples do while they wait.
Create a Parent Profile
The first step for many prospective adoptive parents is to create a parent profile for expectant parents. They may choose photographs, videos, or include essays to share with the expectant parents. The purpose is to showcase what life for the adoptive child would look like with them. Most prospective adoptive parents put a great deal of time and thought into setting up an adoption website and creating their profiles.
Prospective adoptive parents must complete the home study and necessary pre-adoption education. States vary in the number of required hours, but typically adoptive parents complete between 20 and 40 hours of pre-adoption training. Pre-adoption education covers everything: ways to connect with your adoptive child, how to build attachment, how to talk about adoption, how to parent an adoptive child, etc. Adoptive couples may take infant CPR classes, read child development and parenting books. If the expectant parents are pursuing a transracial or transethnic adoption, then another part of their education will center around ways to bring that race and/or ethnicity into their homes and everyday lives. Seeking and identifying potential racial mirrors for their adoptive child is paramount to this education. Many prospective adoptive parents will spend their wait time cultivating these relationships.
I recall in our journey that pre-adoption education was one of the most important things we did. Neither myself nor my husband had been touched by adoption so reading on the particulars of how we could foster attachment with our newly adopted child, as well as the importance of having a cocooning period, was eye-opening. We spent many hours reading books on how to connect with our child through play, bath, and bedtime. When the day finally came to meet our son, we were so thankful for that arsenal of techniques in our back pocket.
Ready their Home
For prospective adoptive parents, a great way to survive the wait is to start preparing their home. They may buy baby furniture, paint, and decorate the room. They may baby-proof their home and buy clothes, toys, and books for the child. They may think about where the child will sleep in the first few weeks or months. They may figure out places for highchairs and play areas. And if there are pets in the home, they may ready them for the baby’s arrival, particularly if they will begin crating or if they plan on the pet spending more time outdoors.
Because the timeline of every adoption journey is different, some prospective adoptive parents do this as they wait for an adoption opportunity. But others wait until after they are matched with an expectant parent. With our adoption journey, our son was our first child. Though we adopted internationally, which can be a more regulated timeline, the time from matching to traveling was relatively short. This can be true of private domestic adoption as well, depending on when the adoptive couple matches with the expectant parent.
Share the News
As they await placement, adoptive couples will use this time to start sharing the news of their expanding family. Some choose to share the news with a wide circle of friends and family while others keep the news of their match and impending parenthood quieter. Some may engage in fundraisers and seek grants and share their journey to adoption as part of that process.
A big part of sharing our adoption news was gifting our closest friends and family the book, In On It. Since no one in our family had been touched by adoption before, we wanted to take the time before placement to educate on how to use positive adoption language. If the prospective adoptive parents pursue an open adoption, this is another chance to share the news and educate those who will be a presence in the child’s life.
Enjoy Time Together
Welcoming a child into your heart and home is a beautiful experience, but also exhausting and strain on relationships. A tip many adoption agencies share with prospective adoptive couples is to use the time before the baby arrives to connect. They may go on date nights, take a vacation, learn a new skill, or finish outstanding “to do’s” around the house. We began our adoption journey shortly after buying our house, so we used the time to do small updates as we waited. We put in a garden and swing set and carpeted the downstairs so my son would have space to play. And we enjoyed time out with friends and family – something we knew would be in short supply when we became parents.
Get in Shape
Many adoptive couples use the waiting time to get in shape, to ready their bodies and minds for the new child. Parenting a child can be physically demanding so being in the best shape you can means being more prepared. Plus, working out is a great stress reliever. Waiting is hard but a nice long run or yoga session can help release those necessary endorphins to get through the wait.
Write a Journal
Adoptive couples may also use the time before placement to write about their experiences. It can be very difficult to be “paper pregnant” and the stress of the unknown of when an adoption opportunity may present itself and what the outcome of that opportunity might be is peculiar to the adoption world. For many prospective adoptive couples, their adoption journey is the first time they have been touched by adoption. Writing about their experiences is a great way to process their feelings. This journal can also record the beautiful story about how their family came to be.
Make a Life Book
One of the best things adoptive couples do while they wait is create a life book for their child. A life book is the story of how their adoptive family came to be. It can include pictures of the expectant parents, letters, and stickers. If as the expectant parent you are willing, share your favorite foods, your favorite song, your favorite hobby. All of these will go into the child’s life book.
The adoptive couple will write how they came to meet the birth parents and their own adoption journey. When the delivery day comes, this too will go into the life book along with the child’s first days and weeks. As the child gets older, the life book will serve as a way to tell their own story. The story may be added to as the years progress but it begins with the prospective adoptive parents and you.
Have a Baby Shower
Depending on how comfortable they are sharing the news of their upcoming adoption, some adoptive couples may have a baby shower while they wait. Other prospective adoptive parents may be fearful the adoption will fall through, in which case they may wait to have a shower until after the baby is born. Regardless of when the baby shower is, prospective adoptive parents may use the time before the baby arrives to register for everything they will need. It can feel uncomfortable and downright weird to walk around Buy Buy Baby when you are not pregnant. I will never forget sitting in the store filling out our registry. When the store clerk asked for my due date, I gave him my son’s birth date which was 22 months prior.
Though the scene at the store was uncomfortable, I was glad I registered and glad that we held a shower. Even though baby showers are not typically for 2nd children, we held another when we brought our daughter home from India at 18 months. Baby showers are a chance to rejoice and welcome a new addition into a family. I learned that the shower was less about getting a new pack-n-play and more about celebrating our becoming parents. Our journey to start a family was a long and rocky one. Years of fertility struggles led us to adoption and so when the time finally came that we would, at last, become a family of three, I wanted to celebrate that, as did our family and friends.
Find Support Groups
I have often said that though I have never walked on the moon, I believe the journey of adoption has to be a close second to Neil Armstrong’s famous first steps. Adoption is amazing and beautiful and an incredible act of love. But it is also not everyone’s story. My husband and I were the first of our loved ones to pursue adoption and sometimes the journey felt lonely. For every member of the adoption triad, it can feel like you are stuck out in the ocean in a boat alone.
It is at this time that adoption support groups can be so critical. Only others who have walked this path can know exactly how you feel. They know what fears you have and what joys you have experienced because they have too. Both adoptive couples and expectant parents should use the waiting time to find support groups. In my experience, not only can those support groups help you along a difficult journey, but they can also lead to lifelong supportive friendships.
The list of what adoptive couples do while they wait goes on and on. Waiting is hard and there are countless blog posts and articles written on how to survive the wait. But as hard as it is for the prospective adoptive parents to survive the wait, it can be just as hard on you, the expectant parent. Remember to take care of yourself and get yourself the help and support you need.