Bringing home your new baby is the most exciting part of the adoption process. It’s the end of a long journey and the start of your life as a family.
But, with the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, this step in your adoption process will probably be a little more stressful. Newborn babies are fragile enough, but a worldwide pandemic will heighten your nerves even more. How can you handle the post-placement process with as little stress as possible — as you work 24/7 to keep every member of your new family healthy?
For the final part in this blog series, we’ll tackle just that, using recommendations and tricks from adoptive parents who have placed in the last month. Although COVID-19 did throw some unique challenges their way, it all worked out in the end. And, with a little preparation and a level head, it can for you, too.
American Adoptions recommends all adoptive parents stay up-to-date with recent recommendations from the CDC. Because the situation regarding the pandemic is changing so rapidly, the information here may not always be valid. Check out the CDC’s website and reach out to your adoption specialist for the most updated recommendations for traveling and hospital visits.
Here’s what you should know about the time directly after placement and your journey back home with your new baby:
Your ICPC Wait
After the birth parents sign their adoption consent and your child is placed in your arms, you’ll be overjoyed. Every new parent has questions, but one will probably stand out more than others during this time: How can I keep my baby safe?
If your child was born in a state other than your own, you’ll still need to wait out your ICPC clearance. Following a few tips will help make this process a little easier.
Please note: While we advise adoptive parents to be prepared for a 10–14 day ICPC wait (and even longer, given the extenuating circumstances), many adoptive parents with recent placements have been fortunate enough to experience waits shorter than that. As always, please talk with your adoption specialist about the anticipated wait time for your ICPC clearance prior to traveling.
Your Temporary Home
Many adoptive parents will have the chance to “check in” to their temporary space — hotel, Airbnb, VRBO — prior to discharge, but not all will. If you haven’t yet, try to find a hotel room, apartment or house with:
- A microwave (for heating up food and sanitizing baby bottles)
- A washer and dryer, to wash clothes after going outside in public
- A kitchen, to prep food and avoid going out
You should also choose a space that has enough room for a potential 10–14 day stay. You might also look for spaces that have entertainment options; for example, one family who recently stayed in Arizona specifically rented a house with a pool, in anticipation of a long indoor stay.
You’ll also want to follow a few steps to ensure your family’s safety upon arriving at your temporary home. Before dropping everything into your space, take the time to sanitize and disinfect every surface, especially those most-frequently touched areas, like door handles, cabinet knobs, refrigerator handles and faucets. Minimize the number of bags you bring in and out of your temporary space and the time you spend outside of your car and home.
These rules will also be helpful if you choose to drive home with your baby and have to stop at multiple hotels.
Most adoptive parents don’t have every single thing ready when their child is born. In most adoptions, this isn’t an issue — but, when many stores are closed and supplies are running low, finding what you need for your child can be difficult.
Start with the hospital. While the birth mother and baby are awaiting discharge, talk to the hospital staff. They will likely give you extra supplies of diapers, formula and bottles to keep you going until you can find a store.
But, when it comes time to brave a store for supplies, keep these tips in mind:
- Designate one person to be the runner. One person will need to stay with the baby, and making one designated runner can reduce your family’s exposure to the novel coronavirus.
- Always use gloves and wear a mask.
- Make a list and stick with it. Minimize the time you spend in the stores.
- When returning from the store, sanitize your hands before interacting with family members.
- If available in your area, consider curbside pickup or home delivery.
- Don’t take the baby into stores.
Don’t just think about baby supplies, though. As adoptive parents Vince and Jason discovered, they hadn’t thought about the difficulties of feeding their family during their ICPC stay.
“I went grocery shopping the day we got discharged with the baby, and that was one of the most panic-ridden grocery shopping experiences I’d ever had in my life,” Vince says. “Everything was gone. I was trying desperately to figure out how I could make a meal out of turkey hotdogs… You’ve just brought this baby home and you need food and stuff for the baby, but where do you go and what do you do?”
Looking back, Vince suggests packing simple food in your luggage on the way out, just so you have something to eat in the worst-case scenario. Even if it’s just a few bags of pasta, it will take some stress off your shoulders. Explore your local options for curbside takeout, as well.
Your Mental Health
Any ICPC stay can be hard. But, when you’re confined to one space for a few weeks, it can quickly impact your mental health.
As much as you can, prepare yourself emotionally for an indoor isolation. Download a few books onto your tablet, pick out a television series to watch and make a plan for your spouse. A newborn baby requires a lot of attention; being stuck in one hotel room for a long time will cause some tension in a new family. Talk ahead of time about the personal space and time each spouse will need, and try to be flexible during your stay. Consider the outdoor activities available in your area (going for walks, hikes, etc.).
This preparation will also come in handy later when you return home, especially if you plan to self-isolate for 14 days after travel.
Bringing Baby Home: To Fly or Drive?
Choosing to fly or drive home with your baby will be a personal decision. However, talk to your child’s pediatrician before leaving and see what they recommend. Because the COVID-19 situation is developing so rapidly, a doctor will provide the most up-to-date information about what is right for your family, given your situation.
Consider these factors when making your decision:
- How long each trip will take
- The availability of a car
- The baby’s age and health (including any underlying conditions)
Every pediatrician will offer different advice. Adoptive parents Will and Sloan were told to drive rather than fly with their baby home and to continue the precautionary steps they were already taking. Vince and Jason, on the other hand, were facing a 31-hour drive or a three-hour flight. Their daughter’s pediatrician was more concerned about underlying health conditions than the COVID-19 threat, and the couple decided flying would be quicker and less stressful.
There’s no one “right” decision — just what’s right for you. If you’re unsure of which path to take, talk with your child’s pediatrician and your adoption specialist for advice.
Tips for Flying
If you plan to fly home with your baby, make sure you have a doctor’s note and any other documentation needed. Check with your airline ahead of time, and contact your adoption specialist if you need any additional paperwork.
Because ICPC approval can come unexpectedly, research your flight options. Know which flights leave from the birth mother’s state at which times. That way, when you receive your clearance, you can book the next available flight without scrambling to throw everything together.
Many of the same rules traveling to the birth mom’s state will apply traveling home. This includes:
- Wearing gloves and masks
- Sanitizing hands and any items touched (such as IDs and boarding passes)
- Maintaining a six-foot distance from any other passengers
- Refusing in-flight beverage and snack service
- Sanitizing your seating area and staying there (rather than moving about the plane)
A baby can make it a bit more complicated, but Vince and Jason did what they could to protect their daughter. They covered her car seat with a muslin wrap and kept her away from other passengers and flight attendants. And, with five empty rows in front of and behind them, they said the flight was less stressful than anticipated.
“The stewardess actually wanted to take a photo of us for her Instagram — from behind, nothing to identify us,” Vince remembers. “She’d been getting a lot of flack — ‘Why you guys still flying?’ — and she was like, ‘This is why. Some people have to travel, no matter what.’
“I feel like the flight attendants felt validated by having us on the plane.”
Tips for Driving
Sloan and Will had planned to road-trip home with their daughter, and their pediatrician’s advice confirmed their desires. So, after receiving ICPC clearance, they started their 20-hour drive, broken up into three days of driving.
If you plan to take the same path, get road-trip advice from your pediatrician. The biggest challenge will likely be discomfort for your child; they won’t have the strength to support themselves for long periods of time in a car-seat, and they may need to be adjusted frequently. Sloan and Will chose to switch positions throughout the day, so one parent could be by their daughter’s side and adjust her as needed.
“I felt guilty, I felt awful, but it was also just to get us home,” Sloan says. “She bounced back the next day. And she wasn’t traumatized — she got back in a car seat another day with no problem.”
When driving, make sure you have all the supplies you need, including:
- Gloves to use only when pumping gas (to be thrown away immediately)
- Gloves to use while stopping at rest stop and gas station bathrooms
- Snacks and bottled water to eliminate the need to stop for food (Sloan and Will ate PB&J sandwiches for three days)
- Hand sanitizer and sanitization wipes, readily accessible in your car
- A small bag filled with overnight essentials, for any stops you need to make
- Baby formula and sanitized bottles and nipples
- Diapers and baby wipes (as well as a sealed container for trash, to minimize stops)
If you plan on making overnight stops during your drive, call ahead to the hotels in the towns you plan to stop in. Sloan and Will specifically asked for hotel rooms with microwaves (so they could disinfect baby bottles and nipples) and followed the same room-disinfecting rules every night. Sloan researched how long the virus lives on different surfaces for peace of mind when cleaning.
After showering and sleeping, they left as quickly as possible — to reduce potential exposure and to complete their road trip as quickly as possible.
Protecting Your Family After Arriving Home
Every adoptive parent dreams of the moment when they show their extended family their new addition. But prepare for those plans to change to keep your family and friends safe and healthy.
The CDC recommends that anyone traveling from outbreak areas self-quarantine for 14 days after travel. That will mean you and your baby will get two weeks to bond together uninterrupted — but it also means that your in-person visits with family and friends will need to be delayed.
Consider introducing your loved ones to your baby over video chat, rather than attempt to meet in person. Even after your quarantine, you may not be sure whether your loved ones have protected themselves in the same manner, and you run the risk of them transmitting the novel coronavirus to you or your child.
Here’s what Jason and Vince did: They met up with their family members in the airport parking lot. All parked six feet away, their families were able to “meet” their new daughter.
“We did this weird, distance, ‘Hi, here’s the baby,’ thing,” Vince remembers. “It was the best we could do.”
While Jason’s mom has extended her housesitting stay at Jason and Vince’s place to help them out with the baby, the rest of the family is maintaining a self-quarantine. When Vince’s immediate family members have finished out their 14 days, he plans to allow them to meet the baby at their house in-person. That doesn’t mean tough decisions don’t have to be made; Vince is still deciding which of his family members he trusts to truly last out their 14 days, without interaction with children, ex-spouses and others.
“It’s a weird dynamic, because I’m telling my sister, ‘Wait a few days and then, when you get here, we’re going to Lysol you from head to toe, put a mask on you, wrap you in a sheet, and you’re going to hold the baby for two minutes, and that’s it,’” Vince says.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to stay in touch with family — Facetime, Zoom and Skype, just to name a few. If you’re arriving home with a new baby, talk with your family members and friends about your expectations. Don’t feel bad about doing what you have to do; consider what makes you most comfortable, and always do what is best for your child.
Remember, if you ever have questions about this aspect of your adoption (or any other), don’t be afraid to reach out to your adoption specialist.
Have tips or advice for other adoptive parents? Share them in the comments!