We are “paper pregnant.” We share our experience because we know from our time with Adoption Options that we are just one of many families who have planted “the seed” and are patiently (or not so patiently) counting down the seconds until their family grows. We feel validated, encouraged, and celebrated by knowing we are not alone in our journey.
Adoption Options currently indicates that the wait for domestic adoption averages three to four years. We are currently in the midst of year three. The first year of our wait felt frenzied and emotional. I experienced my own “expectant mother nesting phase.” We prepared a nursery, took a parenting class, worked on a will, and attended the Waiting and Adoptive Parent Support Group more often. This was also a year of simultaneous and often overwhelming grief. Although we were relieved to be “paper pregnant,” we knew the wait ahead of us would be long. Invitations to baby showers and toddler birthday parties felt especially triggering. It often took me weeks to work up the courage and self-compassion to hold the newborn babies of our loved ones only to come home later and lose myself in my tears of longing. In moments that we lost hope for ourselves, we counted on our loved ones to “hold our hope” for us.
Year two of our wait was a very different experience. We somehow felt “closer” to becoming parents and made a choice to embrace our life without children. We recognized that many of the liberties we experience would disappear and we decided to make the very most of our current circumstance. We went on a bucket list trip to Africa, planned impromptu road trips, joined sports teams, and went for drinks with friends after work. We did all of these activities while choosing gratitude instead of resentment. This significant and intentional shift in our attitudes felt miraculous. It allowed us to live in the moment instead of constantly yearning for the future.
We are early in the midst of year three of our wait and feelings have evolved once again. Our match could be tomorrow; it could be a year from now. Regardless, we feel incredibly hopeful that that longest part of our wait is behind us. We are saving money, squirrelling away vacation days, and paying much closer attention to childrearing advice from our parenting friends and family. We feel anxious that we cannot prepare in the traditional way expectant families might. As we are unsure of the age of the child we will be matched with, we have not been able to buy much aside from a car seat. We cannot have diapers ready or formula selected. We cannot prearrange a leave of absence from our jobs. For a couple that prides themselves in being organized and prepared, our current limbo is not a place of comfort! Despite not knowing, there is a growing feeling of excitement this year.
In considering what we would want to share with families considering adoption, we believe that giving ourselves "permission to feel” has been an essential strategy for coping. One of the more challenging aspects of waiting has been the myriad of emotions that percolate with the pregnancies that swirl around us and the “almost matches” we have experienced during our time on the waitlist.
In the five years we have tried for a family, a number of significant people in our lives have had as many as three children in the time we have yearned for one. Some of these pregnancies were intentional; some were not. We have been conflicted with the often opposing feelings that arise when an announcement is made. Despite our absolute conviction that domestic adoption is the right path for us, infertility grief lingers. One of our most helpful coping strategies has involved acknowledging and embracing multiple, and often juxtaposing emotions in any given moment. We allow ourselves to be sad, jealous, and discouraged for us as we simultaneously pulse with joy and excitement for our expecting friends and family. We consciously remind ourselves that having conflicting feelings does not imply that we are “bad” people. Instead we choose to believe that acknowledging the challenging emotions honors our experience and our unique path to parenthood. We value that learning to tolerate and process dichotomous emotions will help to prepare us for our tremendous joy in being matched and overwhelming grief for the loss experienced by our child’s birth family.
When we are honored with the ultimate gift of parenthood through open adoption we will be able to say with certainty to our little one and to his or her birth family that the experience of our wait is an undeniable testament to how deeply we yearned for and are committed to our uniquely beautiful family.
Sending loads of love and light to all of the waiting families and to the incredible birth families that selflessly allow our dreams to come true.