"Don't Hold Back"

Waiting to adopt can have all the same joys as expecting a child by birth.

When waiting to adopt, don't be afraid to prepare for your child's arrival

For families waiting to be matched with a birth mother, we are your dream story. My husband, Chris, and I adopted our first child within three months of completing our paperwork. The connection with our son’s birth mother was nearly instant, and we continue to have a wonderful relationship with his birth family.

We have also lived your nightmare, the rare exception you don’t even want to think about. Before our son arrived, we spent two blissful days in a hospital holding, caring for — falling in love with — a beautiful newborn, and then the birth parents changed their mind. We respected their choice, but it was the most devastating experience of our lives.

And yet, you move on. You grieve, you cry, you get angry at the world, but you move on. You find that the sun rises each day, you breathe in and out, and, before you know it, you are fine.

But then you put yourself back in “the pool,” and you wait to be chosen by another birth mother. And wait. You tell yourself (and whoever will listen) that, when it’s meant to be, it will be…even though your heart insistently asks, “But when?” And of course, people ask how you do it. They don’t understand how you can continue to “put yourself out there” when you know it could lead to further disappointment.

So, we protect ourselves. We don’t decorate a nursery. We don’t buy baby clothes. We hold our heads high when we attend baby showers. But, mostly, we keep busy. We go about our lives as if nothing remarkable is about to happen.

But something miraculous is about to happen, and it’s the anticipation of having a baby that’s often more fun than the reality. Let’s face it: Parenting a newborn is hard.

You are constantly exhausted. You think a dozen times a day that you will collapse if you don’t get 10 minutes of uninterrupted sleep right NOW. Don’t get me wrong. Having a baby is wonderful. Your heart feels as if it will burst from how full it is with love every time you look at that face, those fingers, those toes.

But the simpler joy that most women get to take for granted is the anticipation of a baby; for them, waiting is the fun part. For those waiting to adopt, it requires finding your own difficult balance. You try to stay hopeful, even as you worry about setting yourself up for heartbreak.

Expecting the best

I’ve learned that optimism is a choice we can make. My advice? Prepare for your baby. This doesn’t necessarily mean painting a nursery or buying every pink or blue thing you see. But start thinking like people who are expecting a baby. Because you are.

So take a nap or bubble bath, knowing that it might be your last for a long time. Go out with friends. Read a book about parenting adopted children. Read a book about parenting that has nothing to do with adoption. And, by all means, read a few books that have nothing to do with children or adoption — or even anything of substance.

Of course, you have to protect your heart a bit — but, trust me, those irrational fears that creep in from time to time will see to that. I have tasted the best and the worst that adoption can bring, and still I believe this with every fiber of my being: The heart is meant for love. Embrace the anticipation. You deserve it.

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