What do you wish YOU had known before you received “the call”?
When we received “the call,” our home looked like the departure scene in Home Alone. We rushed about, missing some things, but at least no people. Our journey began a year earlier, so we should have had a plan, but we didn’t.
What went wrong? Well, it was hard to believe that, after struggling for years to start a family, the call would actually come. We had not previously matched with the birth mother, so the call was indeed a surprise. There was the emotional and psychological risk of having too much ready. Like many couples, we expected to be placed with a baby locally, so we didn’t think we’d need to plan to be away from home for any length of time. And, let’s be honest, there was the ordinary human tendency to procrastinate.
Nonetheless, we have had time to reflect on our experience. Along the way, we grew as a family and learned a few important lessons regarding the call:
- You can never be too prepared.
If you can handle seeing the reminders — a prepared nursery, a packed bag — have these things ready. Although we didn’t want lots of “baby stuff” in the house, we wish we had at least stored some items with an understanding friend or family member, so that what we needed immediately upon homecoming would have been accessible. (You can also never be prepared “enough,” so don’t worry about being fully prepared. Recognize that adoption is a journey, not just a process.)
- Surprise — expect it.
Relax and be flexible, as plans will change — whether due to the baby’s needs, the birth parents’ needs, the weather, or other factors beyond your control. In our case, we had to stay in the hospital one extra day because a winter storm made travel impossible. We reminded ourselves that we were not in charge, and the unpredictability led to a positive experience. We had an extra day alone with our daughter, and we had a great story to share with her, about how we were snowbound during her first days.
- Don’t go it alone.
Unless it is your second or third adoption, the process, even if it has been described to you, is not familiar. As the days and hours unfold, ask questions and request details. In looking back, we see that we should have been more assertive. When the social worker said to “head down to the hospital,” we should have asked what that meant. Did it mean we should leave that evening? The next day? Would our social worker meet us there? When we arrived, we sat in the lobby for a while, waiting for a hospital social worker, before it became apparent that we should just go up to the maternity ward.
- Select a friends-and-family plan.
Think about whom you will tell when the time comes. It can be difficult to keep emotions in check, but an e-mail blast to everyone in your address book or a post on your Facebook Wall probably isn’t the best idea. We chose to call only our parents and siblings. We wanted to limit the number of people we would have to explain our situation to if our plans fell through.
- Think about the logistics.
Decide how you’ll handle all the things that can happen while one is away from home. For us, a quick e-mail to a neighbor ensured that the mail was picked up and the cat was fed. Grandparents volunteered to get our house ready for our arrival home and shovel the snow.
- Consider the homecoming.
Whom do you want there? How can you smooth the transition home for you and baby? The day we brought our daughter home was filled with anxiety and joy. We had breakfast and shopped, while the birth parents finished up paperwork. While checking out, we received the other call that we had been waiting for: It was time to bring our daughter home. We returned to the hospital to find her swaddled tightly and bundled up in a sleeping bag. We wasted no time in getting home, and we found a few close family and friends waiting there for us.
The last piece of advice is to enjoy the moment. There is nothing more fulfilling than knowing someone chose you to parent their child. No matter how much stress surrounds the call, remembering what is important will be enough to help you survive.