Question: My sister just announced her second pregnancy, and my whole family is excited. I’m so happy for her, but it’s also been hard because I had really hoped that I’d have become a mom by now, and it feels a little like I’m getting left behind.
The happy news has even caused some relatives to ask why we’re still waiting to adopt, or when it will happen for us. I’m trying to stay positive, for my sister’s family, and also for our own adoption plans, but if I’m honest, I’m just struggling. Any tips for this adoptive mom in-waiting?
Answer: It’s common to feel the bitter and the sweet when pregnancy, or even adoption, announcements happen among people you care about. Each adoptive parent has their own experience during the adoption wait, filled with a wide range of emotions, thoughts, and questions. When you're waiting to be chosen by a birth mother, pregnancy announcements can become a significant source of anguish.
Your loved ones may mean well, but ask questions or make remarks that feel hurtful or insensitive. Many people don't understand because they have never gone through an adoption wait. Even when someone you love gets pregnant or chosen by a birth mother, it’s common to feel a variety of negative emotions, such as jealousy, anger, and even resentment.
Here are 7 tips for celebrating others' pregnancies while you wait to adopt:
1. Be Gentle and Kind
Start by being gentle and kind to yourself. You might notice that this will come easy on good days, but when it seems like everyone is getting pregnant and adopting, self-compassion can be harder to come by. Suddenly, your internal monologue becomes full of harsh judgments, blame, and shame for the pain. To reclaim your well-being, try to practice self-compassion.
Also, strive to be gentle and kind to the people who spark your nerves. Here's a passage from Ephesians 4: 31-32 to live by: "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
2. Be Honest About the Hard Feelings
You know the ones: jealousy, fear, grief, or even resentment. There's nothing wrong about feeling upset over not being a parent yet. It's human nature to feel jealous of others who have something that's such a major part of life - parenthood - when you want it so badly. When the time does come for you to become parents through adoption, you'll appreciate it that much more.
Says adoptive mother Rachel Douglas, in a blog for Life After Placement: "For me, jealousy is real. Besides the basics of wishing I could bring my child into the world the way a woman's body is designed to; I worry and I am scared of not being enough. It's a real fear that seems ridiculous at times but at others overpowers me."
3. Do Something for Another
You can re-frame the narrative by using your season of waiting to bless others. Try shifting your focus to random acts of kindness and doing good deeds for others. Helping others will provide you with a new perspective and help you avoid focusing on your own problems. By focusing on someone other than yourself, your perspective shifts. As you perform good deeds, it can help you to see the world in a more positive light.
Lifetime adoptive mom, Karla, shares that during their wait she would "...buy gifts for other babies/children for Toys for Tots or shelters in our area, families through our church. Focusing on others helped me not feel so empty. Prayers for all those with empty arms. I promise someday it will feel like it was worth the wait!" What a sweet way to shift your focus and use the waiting to bless others!
4. Do Something for You
When you're depleted by physical or emotional exhaustion, you'll be less able to handle stress and challenging times. On the flip side, you become more resilient when you're feeling your best both physically and emotionally. A massage, manicure, soak in the tub, or another form of self-care will revitalize you inside and out.
Taking time out for self-care has several benefits, like improving self-esteem, achieving a healthy work-life balance, increasing positive thinking, and making you less susceptible to stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotional issues.
5. Take Control of What You Can
Remember that each one of us can “take charge” of our part of the adoption process. You may not be able to control all the details, but you can manage your response.
In domestic infant adoption, there are plenty of tasks for hopeful adoptive parents to complete before they adopt, like obtaining a home study, creating an adoption profile, and completing the necessary paperwork. Taking control might also mean making healthy choices, pursuing a goal, or taking a step toward your goal of adopting a baby. Some specific things that you can take control of and accomplish right now include:
- Taping an adoption video so that birth mothers can quickly learn about you
- Joining an adoption support group
- Attending or listening to adoption webinars
- Considering an update to your profile
- Getting the nursery ready
- Taking a parenting, infant care, or CPR class
- Using social media to spread the word that you're hoping to adopt
Lifetime encourages you to educate yourself on birth mothers and open adoption while you're waiting. Read books, birth mother blogs, and attend our free, information-packed adoption webinars. Doing so will give you valuable insight into the adoption process, and it will help you be better prepared for when you get "the call."
6. Don’t Fake It
Avoid holding in challenging emotions like grief, jealousy, and anger. Try to "sit with" whatever emotion you're experiencing. Become aware of what you're feeling, and don’t ignore it or try to push the emotions away. Bottling it all up inside will just make it bubble up and explode later, causing more painful emotions or even a shutdown.
If you feel the need to talk things out or process some hard emotions, seek a trusted friend who understands. Set up as much support around you as you can and take it day by day. Many adoptive couples have found it beneficial to seek counseling during their adoption wait. Seeking help from a licensed adoption counselor can be an invaluable tool in learning ways of coping, reacting, or addressing some of the challenges and feelings.
Also, learn to say "no" to people's requests when you need to tend your heart. If you say "yes" to everything and don't set boundaries with people, you'll often feel overwhelmed, stressed, and burned out. Most of us want to please others and be well-liked, so it can be hard to turn down requests or opportunities that others have made of us. But learning how to set boundaries and say "no" is key to having a healthy relationship with yourself and others.
7. Remember Your Goals, and Recognize Your Progress
The timing of your adoption won’t diminish how great it will be when you do finally become parents. The time you spend going through the adoption process, procedures, and to-do lists will seem like nothing once you have your baby in your arms.
Your time spent waiting to adopt will seem minuscule in comparison to the hugs that you will share, the moments that you tuck them in bed, and each time they accomplish something great in their lives. As you watch them grow, when they learn to ride a bike, or even when you listen to them read aloud for the first time, the time that you waited will seem like a blink of an eye.
So, hold on. Take comfort in knowing that your adoption wait will be over. Once you adopt your child, you will be able to use the patience gained during your adoption wait towards parenting!