Being in waiting limbo is just hard. The first parts of the adoption process involve this huge amount of activity and time. There are a crazy numbers of forms, classes, meetings with counselors, organizing of photos, writing of profiles, writing the Adoption Letter, preparing for the home study, books to read, putting together of websites and online profiles. And this is just after you’ve decided on an adoption strategy. Its a big decision and takes a lot of time to settle on the right adoption path–Foster adoption vs agency. Domestic vs international. Lawyer or no lawyer. For me, these practical decisions came to after years of personal soul searching and thinking and research, so it was a surprise to me how much time and effort the application process took. After all this activity, its kind of shocking to the system to suddenly be done with all the preparations, to have your profile be “live” as they say and to be faced by the silence of waiting. It’s like walking out of a bustling party into a silent room. At first there’s a breath of relief, to be alone and quiet, but then soon the thoughts turn to “where is everybody?” “Why am I not getting any emails or phone calls.” Even tougher is that its a weird kind of waiting. It’s not an anticipatory waiting where you can count down the days on the calendar and there aren’t any signs of anything happening, no pregnancy belly to show that something is happening. Its not clear when the call will come, or even whether it will ever come. It could be today, or tomorrow or next week or next year or the year after. It’s a particularly hard limbo to be in. Of course, everyone warns you about this when you embark on the adoption process. Yet, somehow, despite all the warnings and discussions about the waiting process during the adoption classes, I didn’t anticipate that waiting would be so hard for me. I’m actually a pretty patient person, and my life is very full. It’s not that I had an absence of activities to keep me busy. And truth be told, I was glad to be getting beyond all the forms and applications and find some time to get back to other parts of my life, like seeing friends, taking a vacation, getting back to hobbies that had been relegated to the sidelines during the adoption application process. But even still, for a person with a busy life, the waiting is hard, really hard.
“You take it on faith, you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part” –Tom Petty
There are moments of intense doubt and regret, about whether this will work out for me, whether I waited too long, whether anyone would choose me. Weirdly enough even in the waiting space and despite the endless preparations, thoughts of “am I ready” creep in. Early on in the waiting process, I was worried about ever being away from the phone or my email, because I didn’t want to miss a call from the agency. Any unknown number that popped up on the phone causes a skip in my heartbeat—“maybe this is the call.” I put off planning vacations for fear of being away or having to cancel. Looking forward and making plans or commitments for the future, for anything beyond a few weeks, feels harder than it should. Friends kindly ask about how the adoption process is going and whether there’s any news and all you can say is “just waiting.” Even with friends there to cheer you on, its a really lonely kind of waiting. And then, as with so many things, you get used to it, and the waiting limbo somehow becomes the new normal. This settling in phase, too, has an ominous edge. “I’m kind of getting used to this.” I worry that slipping into “getting used to it” might slip further into “maybe this won’t ever happen” and then “maybe I’ll be OK if this never happens.” I’m most scared of that. Your mind is meant to adapt to life as it flows and to be resilient and move on from disappointment when it happens but when does resilience mean giving up? These are the thoughts that spiral through your head while you’re in waiting limbo. My agency has been good about preparing us for this. There are support groups to connect with and lists of things to do (and not to do) while waiting. The strategy that I’ve settled into is some combination of busyness and mindfulness. Having lots to do keeps my mind focused on activities other than waiting helps. Starting this blog and updating my adoption site feels like I’m doing all I can do help the stars align. My work keeps me busy of course. I’ve been working on some house renovations and “nesting” fix-ups. This coming year, I’ve decided to plan a bigger “bucket list” vacation. I’ll buy trip insurance and if I have to cancel, I will. A number of years ago I started meditating and took up a mindfulness practice. It’s no understatement to say that this has in so many ways changed the way I approach life. I’ve found the principles of mindfulness really helpful for not only tolerating but even embracing this waiting period. Mindfulness is about being with each moment for what it is, about learning to accept things for what they are , not for what they once were or what they might become. It’s about letting go of one’s own control of the future. For a lifelong type A,-very independent and productivity oriented person, learning to be able to say “however this works out is OK” and mean it has been a big, big deal. I emphasis the “learning to” because I am still learning and practicing this mindset. They don’t call it “mindfulness practice” for nothing. I am learning to sit with the feelings of impatience, anxiety and worry of not knowing, and let go of the desire to be in control. I’m even learning to enjoy the spaciousness of the now and the liberation of not needing to control or even know how things will turn out. Accepting the unknown is a big part of mindfulness and its certainly been helpful for me in living the adoption process. I’m trying to be more open to letting life unfold as it will, knowing that I do have the strength within me to deal with whatever curve balls do come my way. I do have faith that there is a child out there for me, and I know that however things happen, whenever things happen, it will all be OK.