The instant my husband and I watched the video, with its crackling background noise and continual camera shake, and saw a baby boy sitting alone in an orphanage, we knew we were supposed to love him for the rest of our lives.
We learned that the wait would be 12 to 18 months (18 being “only the most extreme case”), and were thrilled. We could do anything for a year — throw ourselves into our jobs, pick up new hobbies, plan our big trip — and the wait would be over in the blink of an eye. And then 30 months transpired.
An understaffed office working an overburdened system in a country with civil unrest made for delay after delay. (How we grew to hate that word, along with “postpone” and “reschedule”!) We received few updates from our agency and, when we learned that our paperwork had sat untouched on a desk for months, we could do nothing about it. Each day we lived with the heavy knowledge that our son was growing up without us.
Waiting is excruciating. But, as ludicrous as it sounds, I believe it can also bring benefits. Consider the following:
1. REALIZING WHAT WE TRULY WANT
Adoption sounds like a great idea — the same way we all want to write a novel or travel the world. The waiting, however, separates those who like the idea from those who believe in it passionately. My husband and I met several couples who began and eventually ended the adoption process once they realized what was involved. Adoption isn’t for everyone, but our wait strengthened our belief that adoption was right for our family.
2. THE ABILITY TO THINK INSTEAD OF FEEL
As you wait, happiness is replaced with fear, which gives way to hope, which melts into frustration, and so on and so on — and if you give in to that emotional whiplash, you might not make it to the next step.
Late in our wait we were unable to connect with an overseas worker who needed to hear from us. Feeling defeated, I updated my Facebook status with a rare plea for help. Within moments I was communicating with a friend who happened to be vacationing a few blocks from my son’s orphanage. Within hours my friend was talking to the social workers and holding my son in his arms. That chain of events renewed my confidence that we had to focus on what we knew — that our son belonged with us — and not what we felt: that waiting was agonizing.
3. TIME TO PREPARE
Proper planning is golden. Take advantage of all the resources and professionals offering strategies to help you and your child adjust to a new way of life. If you don’t, you might end up spending your first days as a family Googling survival strategies.
During our wait, my husband and I made the decision to talk to as many people connected to adoption as possible. We joined online forums specific to our child’s birth country, built friendships with people who had adopted children our son’s age, and followed adoption blogs with the commitment of band groupies. We asked questions of anyone who would listen. Building these relationships kept us busy and gave us a wealth of contacts at our fingertips after we brought our son home and discovered a plethora of new questions.
4. NEW AND RENEWED RELATIONSHIPS
While you wait to adopt, you learn that you are not alone. Our closest family and friends became an indispensable support group. We rekindled friendships with people we hadn’t spoken to in years, who had adopted. And we made unexpected new connections. One day at the Hallmark store, I told the cashier that I appreciated that her store was selling an adoption ornament for the holidays. Her eyes filled with tears as she told me of her own difficult adoption wait. In an instant we were friends, exchanging advice and swapping phone numbers.
5. A CELEBRATION, WHEN THE WAIT’S OVER
Good things really do come to those who wait. We finally met our son when he was four years, two months, and five days old. Since that muggy day in central Thailand, we’ve never looked back. He was worth the wait, as we knew he would be!