This month over on instagram, I’ve been doing a series of posts about international adoption. In snippets, I have talked about the inevitable wait, but there’s so much to say, I felt a longer blog post was needed. Whether or not you have adopted or are in the process to adopt internationally, I think these tips can be applied to anyone in the waiting game for adoption and foster care.
First, I want to acknowledge that the wait is hard. It is hard to answer the constant “any adoption updates?” questions and smile and simply say “still waiting,” while they look at you like “can’t believe you’re doing this!” It is hard to justify your decision because, inevitably, people are curious and want to know not just why you decided to adopt, but why you decided to adopt outside of the U.S. (you can find my posts about that here and here).
It is hard to scroll through social media and see everyone else’s babies and know that yours is an ocean away. It is hard to explain the heartache you feel. To this day, I still can’t put mine into words. So before we go any further, I want you to know that these things aren’t guarantees to make things easier. Waiting is simply not easy. But like any season, it is simply that: a season. It might feel like forever, but we are called to steward that season well. This is about stewardship, not about ease.
So this post is simply to help you wait well. Some of these things we did, some of them we did half-heartedly, some of these things we didn’t do at all, and if I could go back and change that, I would. So, here are five ways you can wait well.
You are not going to have time to read when you bring your child home. You are going to be thick in the throes of learning to be a family, and if you are adopting internationally, this is likely an entirely new reality for your child. They have been moved from all familiarity. Even if that environment wasn’t good, it was at least familiar. But now? The smells are different, the people are different, they don’t know you, you look different, food is different…it’s honestly a very traumatic experience for them.
So take this time of waiting and pour into adoption education. Attend conferences, go to as many trainings as you can, read books, follow social media accounts, listen to podcasts. Learn from all perspectives of the adoption triad, and remember that adoptees are your best teachers, as they are the voice of your future child. I’m telling you that education is your best preparation, and don’t limit the adoption education to just the type of adoption you are going through. There’s always something to learn and nuggets of truth to take away.
2. Incorporate Birth Culture
To build off of point number one: don’t limit your education to only adoption-related content. This is such a great opportunity for you to educate yourself on your child’s birth culture and start incorporating it into your family. Find books about the history of your child’s country and start learning.
Learn about the customs of that culture, see if you can find authentic food from your child’s country in your area and start eating there. Are there any groups in your area that you can join, classes or celebrations you can attend? Can you learn to cook some of the food of your child’s birth culture to help with the transition and make it a part of your family’s eating habits?
Learn the language! Grab Rosetta Stone, find a tutor, whatever you need to do and start learning the language. Do some research about influential people from your child’s birth culture. Start a collection of children’s books that feature people who look like your child, and do the same with movies (representation matters). If you have other kids in the home and your child will be the only one who looks different, I cannot tell you what volumes this will speak to your son or daughter to do this now and get the whole family involved, and keep it up even after your child comes home.
3. Find Community
This is something I wish I would have sought out more during the wait. Get around people who get it. Find families who have walked this road already. Find groups where you feel safe to struggle and your child will see that there are other families who look like yours. Adoption is a lonely road, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. If there’s nothing in your area, see if you can find community online. I’ll be the first one to tell you the friendships I’ve made online from all parts of the triad have been a saving grace for me.
For years I couldn’t find anything that fit in my own area (even though I live in a major metro area), but I’ve found it online. The beauty with the online community is it doesn’t matter where you live! (Side note: I think there are some really great adoption groups online, but there are also A LOT of toxic ones. So just use discernment and remember that even if a group is “private,” nothing online truly remains private.)
Going back to point number two, I encourage you to take a hard look at what your immediate community looks like right now. There is nothing stronger than having direct community of non-adoptive families who share your child’s ethnicity and birth culture. Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable and seek that out now. In fact, I have a whole section about this for families to work through beforehand in my workbook.
4. Set Boundaries
Friends, I’ll be the first to say this is by far what I did so poorly – and wish I could go back and change it. I acknowledged in the beginning that waiting is hard. I think it’s important to find a balance between protecting your heart while also not letting it steal your joy (let me know if you find the secret to that balance, still a work in progress over here).
For example, I mentioned social media. During the wait, it got to a point where, though I love my friends and their babies, it just got to be unhealthy for me to see all the parenting things. It is okay if things like that – or baby showers – are too much for you in this season. To this day, it is hard for me to attend things like mom’s night outs and baby showers because everyone starts talking about their pregnancies, labors, deliveries, nursing, and lots of other baby things we never experienced. Even though adoption was an intentional choice for me, I still grieve that loss of time and connection, and just suddenly feel very alone as I sip my drink and have absolutely nothing to contribute to those conversations.
It’s okay to RSVP no. It’s okay to hide accounts on social media for a season. I am not saying unfriend people or don’t be happy for those you love who are experiencing these beautiful little things. But don’t let it get to a point where it is stealing your joy – and that includes the joy you should have for others. Maybe think of it as giving your best yes. You do not have to go to every celebration if it means you’re there out of guilt or just to please others. It’s okay to skip church on Mother’s Day. Celebrate in the joy with those you are closest with and set appropriate boundaries for the rest.
Set clear boundaries for when you get home with your child and use this time to educate your extended family and close friends. For us, we prepared everyone in the family – including grandparents – that Jonathan and I would be the only ones holding and feeding our son until we felt like we had reached a healthy point of attachment. We didn’t give them a timeframe because we didn’t know how long that would take, and even then, we added people in slowly.
If you don’t want people in your house, say so and give a simple reason why. You are the parent, you are in charge. It’s hard with adoption, because so many people want to celebrate with you, especially after a long wait, but it is so important to keep your child’s world small those first couple of months home and for all of you to adjust as a family. Let people serve you and celebrate with you – just set the boundaries beforehand.
5. Pray With Purpose And Perspective
Probably should have put this as number one, but I saved the best and most important for last. If waiting taught me one thing: pray without ceasing became very real for me during that season. I love this quote from Mark Batterson’s Draw The Circle:
“But waiting is praying, and praying is a form of waiting. Prayer will sanctify our waiting, so we will wait with holy expectancy. And waiting doesn’t delay God’s plans and purposes. It always expedites them.”
You need to remember that the Lord does not work on our time. His ways are not our ways. His ways are better. We don’t see the whole picture, but He does. Prayer sanctifies our waiting. We will receive a better, deeper, fuller perspective when we pray while we wait. As you pray with purpose, also pray with perspective.
It is imperative that you are not just praying for yourselves, but remember that there are other lives being impacted in adoption, namely the birth family and child. People often ask me how I got to that point of talking so openly and lovingly about our son’s birth mom. With an international adoption, I honestly don’t know much about her and have never met her, but I can speak that way about her and have that perspective because as much as I prayed for our child, I prayed for her. Pray for their best interests, not just for yours, and I promise you He will move your heart. And that will prepare you more for this adoption than you know.
Lay hands on your paperwork and pray over it. Pray for the people who are going to be processing paperwork and making major decisions for all of these lives involved. Pray for governments, agencies, social workers, caseworkers, whoever is involved. Pray for protection over each of you. Pray with purpose. Pray with perspective. Pray, pray, pray, and pray some more.