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Surviving the China Wait as a Second-Time Adopter

by Mary S. Thayer

I desperately want to meet my second child; for my daughter to have a sibling; and for our family to be a foursome. 

But it seems that China has other plans. I have no control over that. I understood that going in, but it doesn’t make it any easier. A wait of two years was unwelcome, but doable. A wait that could conceivably stretch to five years—or more—well, that math won’t work for a lot of us.

I don't feel up to starting over again at 50-plus. And our daughter, who just turned four, would always be in a different place than her sibling, essentially growing up as an only child.

When we started this process, a two-year wait was simply a wild rumor. We didn't believe it would happen. Our agency said the wait might go to as long as 16 months, but they were confident that China wouldn't let it get to 18 months. At the time, we felt 18 months was unacceptable. We ventured on and our dossier was logged in December of 2006. What I wouldn't give for that 18 month referral right now!

These days, our agency won't even venture a guess as to when we will receive a referral. With each new batch of referrals they simply state how long that group waited and that the wait "continues to lengthen."

So, as the time drags on, I am mocked by the baby gates languishing on the walls and the boxes of outgrown clothes waiting for the next child who may never come. And while my dreams slip further and further away, the whisper of the unthinkable grows louder and louder in its demand for an answer: How do I decide if and when to let go?

So, I’ve pondered the alternatives in an endless loop, trying to decide which route is right for my family.

Raising an Only Child

One solution is to pull our dossier and raise an only child. This is a particularly tough issue for me, because my sisters are my best friends and I cannot imagine denying my daughter the chance to experience that kind of bond.

Then there are times when I feel compelled to get off the merry-go-round at any price. I’ll arbitrarily pick an end point only to get there and decide I need a little more time—just in case.

A Sibling from a Different Country

We briefly considered applying to a different country, but after attending a panel discussion of adult adoptees raised in transracial families, my husband and I felt compelled to give our daughter a sibling who looks like her and who shares her background. However, with this interminable wait, the question becomes: Is it better to give a child a sibling of a different race than no sibling at all?

This decision would mean starting the adoption process anew. Even if we could find the money—no small consideration—where would we go? It seems most countries are either having program difficulties or are experiencing a huge backlog. And if we do switch, it will require an additional commitment of time, since we’ll need to ensure that both children have the cultural influences and role models they need.

A Waiting Child

A waiting child has been the answer for many families. However, that program has also experienced some radical changes and an influx of families, resulting in longer wait times and more difficulty finding a match. Making this decision also means dealing with the judgment around this issue—whether people who switch mid-stream have the right motivation to parent a waiting child.

Although we haven’t yet made a decision for our future, I have taken steps to make the wait easier, like swearing off the online support groups and rumor sites. It also helps to remind myself that my first path to parenthood was similarly unpredictable. Only after one door in my life closed did another open to reveal my daughter—who has brought me immeasurable joy. Whether we decide to endure the wait, raise an only child, or change our adoption plans, I now feel confident that we will "grow" into our choice and ultimately find the bliss we seek.
Mary S. Thayer recently resurrected her writing career to “fill the space.” She lives with her family of three in Maryland.

Are you waiting to adopt from China? Share your experiences with the AF community by posting a comment below..

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We are waiting for our 3rd child from China. We've been waiting now for 25 months. Its very hard for me to conceptualize this when we waited 11 for our first daughter and 10 for our second. The wait is hard, agonizing at times and frustrating all the time, but when I get particularly down I remind myself that unlike so many others, I am not waiting to become a mom for the first time and wondering if it is going to every happen. My heart goes out to everyone in that situation. I also think about the many singles who have one child and wanted very much to adopt again so their first would have a sibbling. Again, my heart goes out to them. My husband and I worry about the new challenges financially with this paperwork at increased fees, higher travel costs, higher costs in China etc. It saddens me that there will be such an age difference now between our 7 and a half year old, 5 year old and the youngest. I try to think about the positives of the girls being able to return to China and understand so much more and I think about how they will be able to take part in caring for their little sister. I pray every day that the wait speeds up because this child has been in our hearts for 3 years now and I can't let her go. How would I explain that to our older girls...we couldn't hang in there just a little longer to bring your sister home. I just can't give up. We wait and wait and wait and pray and pray and pray. I trust in the Chinese International Adoption Program. I know it will happen if we can just hang in there. In the meantime, we stay busy with life and look forward to the day we add one more to our family.

Posted by: Sarah Williams at 11:20pm Jun 19

I do understand as our LID for our first and perhaps only child is May 2006. I too have cried those tears. And I too get mad when people say, find other things to occupy your time or once you have her, the wait will seem like nothing. It is not easy when all we want is to love and adore a child. All we want is to hold her and sing to our child, calm her fears, smell her clean, soft hair and be there for her no matter what. I have not done much in preparing the nursery because I always want that to be our happy room and right now I'd be sad if I went in there. But I have ordered many of the things for that room. The room where I'll watch our sweet daughter sleep and we'll cuddle her when she cries. The room where she'll play with friends and we'll sit at a little table and color. The room where we'll hang all her pretty little pictures that she colors and paints. Our daughter's room. We have our name already selected and even friends of my parents have been to China and purchased a stamp with her name and then her name in Chinese characters. My Mom has made all kinds of cute outfits - even one dress that matches a dress that a bunny she made wears. Our daughter will loved and taken care of with such a passion. For now we wait though. 25 months so far and if it is a 29 month wait, then we keep just hoping she comes home this year. And yes, I am occupying my time - losing weight, exercising, and getting as healthy as I can for our daughter. She deserves that - a happy, healthy Mom. No, it is not easy at all to wait for my daughter but she will come from China as that is where my heart has always taken me. One day we will smile together and giggle until our tummies hurt from laughing so hard. One day....

Posted by: Annette at 2:12pm Jun 21

We waited 14 months for our daughter who was born in China in 2004. That wait seemed like an eternity, so I can't imagine what you are going through. I can only tell you to have faith and believe that you will travel to get your daughter when it is supposed to happen. The arrival of our children, biological and adopted, is something that is out of our control. Our journey to our daughter began when infertility issues surfaced early in my marriage. We began considering adoption as an option for our family. Finally, in 1994, after what seemed like an endless science experiment, our son was born. In 1999, with no planning what-so-ever, our second son was born. I thought our adoption plan was null and void at this point. A violent car crash in 2002, involving some friends, myself, and my oldest son led me to believe, after a great deal of soul-searching, that our adoption journey was not over. We began paperwork for our daughter in 2004 and traveled to China, on June 24th, 2005 (my birthday) to get out beautiful little girl, Malia. Our "Gotcha day" was June 27th. This date is my niece's birthday. I am her Godmother and we had asked her to be Malia's Godmother. I am hesitant to believe that all this is coincidence. My children are now 13, 9, and almost 4. Each of them have a special relationship with one another and a special place in our family. I believe that God truly had a hand in each of their arrivals. I once read a quote that said "Life is lived forward and understood backwards." I now try to think of that when I begin to question things that are out of my control. Have faith and follow the path that you are on. Enjoy the remaining moments with your daughter as an only child, they will become memories before you know it.

Posted by: Lisa at 11:38am Jun 25

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