our adoption story (part 4): waiting to be chosen

This is the fourth installment in our adoption story series. Check out parts onetwo, and three

Once our home study was approved in October 2018, we entered the domestic infant adoption pool with 50 other waiting families. Some families had been waiting for upwards of five years and others, like us, were brand new to the pool. The average wait time to be matched with an expectant mom is 28 months. Knowing that we most likely had a couple of years before being matched with our child, we had to figure out how to handle the wait.  

As I see it, there are three kinds of waiting involved with adoption. There is the time that you’re just hanging out in the pool waiting for your profile (along with several other families) to be given to an expectant mom. Then, there is the time spent waiting to find out if your family has been chosen from the profiling experience. (This is called matching.) Finally, there is the time spent waiting for the baby to be born and placed with you (aka placement). Today, I’m talking about the first kind of waiting. I will talk about the others in future posts. 

On October 22, 2018, we were officially approved to adopt. The agency actually told us that we were “psychologically pregnant.” We decided to celebrate this milestone with tacos and margaritas from one of our favorite places. Because, let’s be real… drinking while “psychologically pregnant” is okay.  (Side note: Remind me to find a way to tell you all about the Halloween that we went as Bald Britney circa 2008 and pregnant Jamie Lynn Spears. Imagine the looks we got while bar hopping.) 

Anyway, once the excitement wore off. We had to figure out what to do to take our minds of the fact that we could become parents at any moment, but that that moment could be years away. 

Justin is the much calmer and more stoic member of our family. He takes things as they come and doesn’t worry much about what might happen. No, he leaves all the worrying to me. It’s part of our Smith family division of labor. Why should he worry when I’ve found *all* of the way’s things could go wrong? We call it spinning out. Yes, this post is about how I control the spins. 

For a little more context, I was spinning out harder than usual because we knew I was quitting my job and leaving higher education for good the following May. Not only was I coping with the fact that I could become a mom at any time, I was also figuring out who I was outside of being a professor. No biggie. 

I have two major ways of coping with things outside of my control. First, I sometimes lean into the spinning out. Like any merry-go-round, this can be quite fun… until it isn’t. I started researching everything from cloth diapering to vaccines to figuring out what a crunchy mom is. (Yes, it turns out that I’m mostly crunchy.) We had lengthy discussions about what we thought parenting might look like and how we would handle different scenarios. We imagined what our relationship with the birth family might look like. I started to physically prep for the baby to join our family by buying a crib and a car seat. I set a $50 a month minimum on baby stuff. That could be buying outfits or cloth diapers or stuff for the nursery. I bought what I thought would be useful no matter what so that I wouldn’t need to scramble in case of an instant placement. In short, I started to become a mom in terms of my identity. 

The other way that I coped with the waiting was by mentally avoiding it in as many ways as possible. Sometimes, I just didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to talk about how long we had been waiting or our current number in the pool. I wasn’t mentally ready to be a mom just yet, so I threw myself into being child-free. I had my best semester ever. (Which is funny because it was my last.) Students knew me to be attentive, engaged, demanding, but also wanting so much more for them. I started going to yoga three or four times per week. I deepened my practice in new ways and it helped me to find some peace. I spent time together with my friends and went to some amazing restaurants. We planned to do A LOT of travel including trips to Bermuda, South Africa, and Bali. We had a house built and had to attend to the appointments and choices associated with that. We embraced our life as it was. 

How we handled the wait probably isn’t replicable for most hopeful adoptive parents for all sorts of reasons. I have friends in the adoption pool who have refused to prepare for the arrival of a little one because the thought of an empty nursery causes them too much pain. Other folks I know are dealing with less-than-supportive friends and family. They’re excited, but don’t feel like they can share that with others. What I’m saying is that how one chooses to wait is going to look different for them and their situation. 

For us, our wait to be matched was only 10 months. This is not normal, and we know it. Our little boy is the perfect little addition to our family. It’s been a wild nine months with lots of challenges, but also lots of joy.  

More to come another time… 

What questions do you have about adoption? 

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