Every woman who gives birth to a child goes through a waiting period – the nine months of pregnancy. It’s exciting and scary all at once – a roller coaster of emotions, a beginning to a complete change in lifestyle. While adoptive parents don’t get to participate in the pregnancy of their soul child, we do have our own very distinctive waiting period. Social workers always advise looking at the waiting period (however long or short) as the next best thing to a pregnancy – being a natural preparatory phase to receive the best gift of our lives. Trying to hurry it up by skipping some steps will only cause harm; so the best approach is to do everything you can do and trust God to do the rest…in perfect time!
So what exactly is an adoptive parent’s waiting period? It’s the time between registering with an adoption agency to the time you first meet your soul child. How long is it, you ask? Well unlike a pregnancy, there is no ‘normal’ waiting period. It will vary with every adoption- depending on a number of variables-
[a] how many children are waiting for adoptive parents at the agency you’ve registered in, during the time period you’ve registered in
[b] how many prospective adoptive parents like you are waiting too
[c] how fast the legal process for the child’s paperwork proceeds up to a point where the child is legally free for adoption.
In any case, the agency you register with should give you a fair idea of how long the process should take for you.
More important than the duration of the waiting period is how you make the most of it. Think of it as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. Going through the various legal steps- finding and filing papers, orientations and home study conducted by the adoption agency, police verification- gives you time to put your life in order. Going through all the ‘waiting’ with your spouse, family and friends gives you the time to put your emotional health in order. Especially if you’ve been grieving the loss of your fertility, it’s very important to have a transitional phase between being infertile to your new role as a parent. Instead of getting low when things are not moving as fast you hope for, it’s useful to use all the time to prepare yourself for your new role as parents. Get physically fit, invest quality time in your marriage, settle things at work, and take a good holiday before your baby comes home. Remember that once your baby comes home (no matter how old s/he is), s/he will (as all children do) need more time than anybody or anything else and your own needs and that of your marriage will take a back seat.
If you already have a child or children, the waiting period is the time to prepare them for the arrival of their little brother or sister. Explaining the concept of adoption to them, in simple words, is a good option since they may get confused with the fact that you didn’t have a big tummy before the arrival of the baby (especially if they have seen pregnant women before).
The waiting period is also the appropriate time to inform your friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues of your decision to adopt (if you haven’t already done so). This, not only, helps you share the immense happiness that you can’t keep bottled up inside, but also helps prepare all those around you for the arrival of the baby. There will be many people who will question your decision to adopt and this is the right time to answer those questions so that there is no negativity when your child comes home. This will also ensure that your child is welcomed with plenty of love and joy.
Facing your own doubts, talking things out with your spouse (in case of married couples), spending time explaining your decision and the adoption process to friends and family, especially elders, will help you sort things out in your own mind. This emotional and social process of transition is as important as the legal process is. When you register for adoption, you may feel like things are going too slowly for your liking, but I think in retrospect you’ll find the time (if well used) was just enough for you. Finally, at the end of the waiting, you’ll have your soul child in your arms and when you do, everything, including time, will stand still in awe at this amazing grace.