The time between an adoptive family’s activation and when they receive an adoption opportunity can be stressful. You’ve put so much effort into your profiles and now you’re at the “hurry up and wait” stage of the adoption process. This is normal and something almost every couple faces, though everyone has different levels of anxiety and handles it differently.
Every adoptive family should review their APQ and Adoptive Family Profile from time to time to ensure that they are the best they can be. Beyond this, there is not much an adoptive family can do to speed up the process. You and your spouse should be taking care of yourself and each other, physically and emotionally and should be finding time to enjoy other aspects of life.
The waiting period can provoke anxiety because there’s no knowing when an adoption opportunity will happen. You must be patient and continue normal life, but also be ready to receive an opportunity at any time. This may not be easy, so try to minimize stress and anxiety. Below are some suggested Do’s and Don’ts that other adoptive families have found helpful during the waiting period:
- Do keep your normal routine. Keep up with your hobbies and interests. Take vacations or getaways you have planned. Always keep your normal work routine until after placement has occurred.
- Do get plenty of exercise and sleep, and eat right. These things may sound obvious, but they’re crucial to your emotional well-being and in handling anxiety and stress. High volumes of stress and anxiety can really hinder the adoption process, so it is important to take care of yourselves.
- Do surround yourselves with supportive people, who are positive and willing to learn what you are going through. Find support from those who listen to your experiences and provide valuable feedback and knowledge for you. People with their own adoption experiences can be tremendously helpful during this time because they can provide hope and encouragement with their knowledge and experience. Friends and family can also be a source of enjoyment, strength and entertainment, no matter how much or how little they know about your personal adoption journey. And it is important to still have experiences and relationships that are not surrounded adoption-centered.
- Do remember that it is ok to tell someone who you don’t feel like talking about adoption or to choose not to tell everyone you know about the process. You will likely find yourself tired of questions like, “Have you heard anything?” or “How long will it be?” Those around you likely feel a range of emotions as well and are trying to be supportive.
- Do support each other as a couple, and recognize your differences as you go through this process. It is not uncommon for one person to need more contact and reassurance and for the other person to feel more relaxed and calm. Utilize these differences and assist your partner by sharing what helps you. Communicate openly about what you need from each other.
- Do read and explore adoption topics. It’s unrealistic to read every adoption book ever written, so don’t pressure yourself to do so. Try reading articles and books about topics that are unfamiliar. Be careful of information you find on adoption from support groups, websites, articles, etc. Like anything in life, there are some outstanding materials and some more negative in nature. Begin researching/collecting Adoption books that you can read to your child someday. If nothing else, consider reading the personal adoption stories published on our website by birth mothers or families touched by adoption. You’ll learn while trying to walk in someone else’s shoes. American Adoptions also urges you to read our blog and newsletter to continue preparing for the adoption process and stay connected to us during the waiting period. Doing these things will allow you to feel like you are doing something for the adoption, and it will also help you be more prepared for your adoption journey.
- Do keep a journal. This can be a very healing and productive way to vent feelings. A journal can be a private outlet for your emotions and something you can reflect back on to see how far you’ve come and all you’ve made it through. It is evidence of your strength and resolve. Some adoptive families keep a journal of their whole adoption experience and capture the moments from pre-activation to when they finally first held their baby. This can be a precious keepsake for an adoptive family to have for themselves and their child. Photographs and other keepsakes can also be included.
- Do get counseling or talk to someone. Counseling can have a negative connotation, but the truth is that it can help anyone to sort out feelings or the heavy stuff they’re dealing with. Do not feel afraid or ashamed to see a counselor if you are feeling extra anxious or if this process seems to take over everything else in your life. This is hard stuff and a counselor/social worker can help you sort through emotions and keep perspective.
- Do believe, and keep your hope and faith. This is crucial; if you lose sight of your goal and quit believing that it will happen, it will lose all meaning. If an adoptive family keeps faith and truly is proactive, they can peacefully know that they are doing all they can and that everything will come together as it is meant to. It may not make sense at the moment– and timing may not be as you expected– but if hope and determination are not lost, it can happen!
- Do not change your normal routine too much. You may integrate some new activities to your routine, such as support groups or parenting prep classes, but keep to your normal activities. You need consistency in your daily lives. Do not stop working prematurely because there is no guarantee of when a placement will occur. Do not cancel vacations you have planned because it is important to keep having fun. We will get in touch with you no matter where you are as long as you let us know!
- Do not throw baby showers while you wait for an opportunity or even once you’ve received one. These can be better-timed after placement, when you are sure the adoption is taking place, and can relax and truly enjoy yourself. Do not purchase every baby item and decorate your nursery if it saddens you to have to look at it while you wait. There will be plenty of time to get things in order later if you find it too emotional beforehand. Read more on this in our post on When to Tell People About Your Adoption.
- Do not look at adoption websites (even ours) daily. This can increase anxiety. If you are always viewing waiting adoptive families to monitor who has a placement, try to cut back on how often you do this. It’s not a healthy activity because you cannot know how an adoptive family’s APQ preferences compare to yours. No two adoptive families can ever be compared. If you are consistently monitoring available adoptions situations, cut back on that also. Utilizing the website has many benefits (to help you educate yourselves, connect with others who are also involved in the process and feel more comfortable), but make sure it does not become an obsession.
- Do not talk with every single person you know about your adoption experience. You may find that people will then constantly ask questions and provide personal opinions. Most people are well-intentioned and truly care to know how you are feeling. However, even the most well-intentioned persons can be draining. It is ok to politely tell people when you do not feel like talking. It’s also ok to not share every piece of information. This is especially important after you’ve received an adoption opportunity, when outside sources can increase your anxiety and stress by creating questions or doubt in your mind. Think carefully about who you want to share this journey with.
- Do not focus too much on your exposure number or each individual birth mother who may not have chosen you. It is important that your Adoptive Family Specialist monitor this for you because it statistically gives us an idea if you are on the right track or if your APQ may need some tweaking. However, adoption is not a science that can be predicted. Nobody can tell you when you will receive an adoption opportunity because the variables cannot be controlled. When it all comes together, you sometimes realize it’s just meant to be. Nothing we could have done or not done would (or should) have changed the outcome. Try getting an update no more than every couple of months.
If you and your spouse are particularly struggling with the wait, share that with your Adoptive Family Specialist. She may be able to calm your fears or offer advice.