Parent-to-Parent: Celebrating the Holidays While Waiting for Your Child

celebrating the holidays

As I have been waiting more than twelve months, I have made it through all the major holidays. What worked for me was finding a way to acknowledge my child through some small gesture. Last Christmas, I hung a special ornament for my daughter on the tree, to signify that in my heart she was already my daughter.
—Amy, Chugiak, Alaska

We filed our paperwork with the INS on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. We took the opportunity at Thanksgiving dinner to announce to our extended family that we were officially “pregnant with paperwork” but did not know the “due date” yet. On Christmas, my mom wrapped up presents for each child—special items she’d saved from my childhood for me to pass on to my children. I still cry when I think how much that meant to me!
–Shannon, Bellevue, Washington

The most important thing for us was to stay in a hotel near the house where our extended family was celebrating the holidays. This allowed us to get to festivities quickly, and to leave if being around children became painful. Staying at the hotel gave us a place to process our feelings in private and helped us enjoy our relatives’ kids that much more.
–Bettina, Farmington Hills, Michigan

I have been able to keep it together through all of this waiting, especially at the holidays, by focusing on creating my personal Web site. I update it every month for my family and friends, to satisfy the perpetual question: “Have you heard anything yet?” It sure cuts down on the inquiries at holiday gatherings.
–Lynn, Hazel Crest, Illinois

For our first adoption, we waited through Thanksgiving and Christmas with a referral but no travel date. On Christmas, all the presents we gave were signed from me, my husband, and our son. This made me feel that somehow he was there, even if only in our thoughts and hearts.
—Bess, via e-mail

We accepted the referral of our son on December 10. We hung his picture on the refrigerator and prayed for him each night at dinner, to integrate him into our older son’s daily routine. On Christmas Day we joined a large group from our family and took the referral picture and video along. I think they were more excited than we were!
–Karen, Exton, Pennsylvania

We have been waiting for our daughter, Mira, for 18 months. On her birthday, my husband, my older daughter, and I prepared three cupcakes, each with a candle. As each of us blew out a candle, we spoke a blessing over Mira. In Bulgaria, where Mira lives, there is a tradition of coloring an Easter egg red and cracking it against the wall of a church! This is something we can do to celebrate Mira’s heritage, even though she has not yet joined us at home.
–Michael & Kimberly, Cedartown, Georgia

We’re planning to adopt a Russian boy/girl sibling pair, and I’m disseminating wish lists for my birthday and Christmas. They have nothing on them but things my husband and I anticipate using for our children: books of Russian folk tales, Russian music and toys. If we know their sizes in time, we’ll ask for clothes and shoes, too. This way, our family gets to take part in the anticipation by thinking about the children as they choose gifts this holiday season.
–Maire, Lake Los Angeles, California

Collecting things for the other children in the orphanage helped us to deal with the fact that our daughter was not yet home. We had a drive to collect toys, clothes, medicine, and other supplies. And we enclosed in the boxes a special gift for our little one. Our daughter came home just before Christmas the next year, and we again collected for the orphanage. I think this will become a yearly family tradition, so that we never forget the children left behind.
–Dorothy, via e-mail

During our wait, it was harder to find joy in the holidays knowing that there were children out there—including our daughter—without homes, much less gifts under the tree. So, at our Christmas dinner that year, we started a new family tradition. We set an extra place, partly in honor of our daughter, but also to represent all of those who are in need of food and care. It was a promise to ourselves that we would not forget this feeling, but would, as a family, continue to do something about the situation. 
–Lydia, O’Fallon, Missouri

With our second adoption, I thought it would be easier to wait because we had our son with us. But I felt the same anxiety as before. Like the first time, the holidays were uncomfortable, in large part because there are so many people who don’t understand adoption. So I started getting involved in the adoption world. I moderated adoption-related message boards, hosted a weekly chat on open adoption, and started a business developing family profiles for presentation to potential birthparents. And I learned to be thankful for the son we have.
–Mary, Conway, Arkansas

Treasure this time. I have a six-year-old daughter, and I’m waiting to adopt a baby girl from Guatemala. This holiday season, I plan to do things with my older daughter that I can’t do with a younger child—like seeing The Nutcracker and playing outside in the cold. To those who don’t yet have a child, I would recommend doing things this holiday season that won’t be so easy to do once your little one comes home. Take a trip; it’s much easier to get away without young kids. Or go see a grown-up movie. The number of non-Disney movies we’ve seen since Shelby was born I could count on one hand.
–Cindy, Lee’s Summit, Missouri

With our first adoption, we used the wait to do everything from painting the bedroom to reading books about adoption to spending long weekends together. At Christmas time, we bought toys, clothes, and food for needy children and families (and continue to do so now, with our children helping us decide what to get). With our second adopton, we used the wait to spend time with our first son, explaining about our upcoming adoption, preparing him to be a big brother, and letting him help get things ready.
–Raymond, Elgin, Illinois

We turned holidays into a project while waiting for our baby and started thinking about creating our own traditions. We spoke with family members about how they celebrated holidays during childhood and what traditions they particularly enjoyed. We collected some fabulously funny stories, and the experience placed the focus on what our future would hold, not on what was absent in the present.
–Kathia, Needham, Massachusetts

This is a time to take stock of the holidays and what they mean to you, and to think about how you will incorporate your child. The Thanksgiving before Claire came home, we started making turkey cut-outs by tracing the outlines of our hands onto construction paper, cutting them out, and gluing them together to make a turkey tail. It’s sweet now to go through our “holidays” scrapbook and see how much more beautiful last year’s turkey was due to the addition of a new set of little hands.
–Deanna, via e-mail


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