The CoVid-19 pandemic is causing heartache for prospective adoptive parents everywhere. The shutdowns are creating complex impacts for documentation, matching processes, relationships with expectant mothers, and on everyone’s mental and emotional health. These impacts can feel HUGE and overwhelming to you right now. How do you cope when your domestic infant adoption is on hold?
I’ve learned in my journey as an adoptive parent that managing expectations – of myself, of my child, of the process – helps me cope when the unexpected inevitably happens. Before you dig into our tips for coping with this delay, take a moment to reflect on what your expectations might be right now. There’s no right or wrong answer to this, but it might take a bit of self-reflection to identify them and adjust them to the current crisis.
Tip #1 – Remember that you are not alone.
The “upside” – if there is one – of this global pandemic is that everyone is in the same big stalled boat. Your most cherished dream is this infant adoption, and you are stuck in limbo waiting for that to happen. But your neighbor’s most cherished dream might be to finish her master’s thesis and defend it to the university board. She is stuck now too.
Consider who around you might also feel as if their boat stalled too. Choose to find comfort in the recalibrating of an “others” focus. Try to keep self-pity at bay by remembering that this delay is not targeted to ruin your life. We are all in this together, whatever “this” means to you individually.
Tip #2 – Find ways to take care of yourself.
It may feel as if the term “self-care” is impossibly out of reach right now. After all, you can’t schedule a spa treatment or massage. The hair salon is closed. Dinner and a movie every night on the couch do not hold the same appeal as dressing up and going out.
So what DOES self-care look like in quarantine?
The answer to that is as unique and creative as you are. You might have to work a little for this one, but you should try. You never know what fun is waiting for you.
Is there a hobby you have forgotten about in the hustle-bustle of your former life? Can you do a virtual book club by Facebook chat with your best girlfriends? Do you need an hour of quiet after virtually schooling your other children?
Self-care for your partner is care for you, too.
If you are home with a partner or a spouse, trade self-care times so that both of you are refueling. You will both benefit from sharing a goal to refresh regularly.
Closely related to encouraging your partner to engage in healthy self-care is attending to your relationship. You are individuals, but you are also a unit that has to function well together to parent that sweet baby when he eventually arrives. This time at home can be a valuable re-set and refocus on nurturing each other and your relationship.
Tip #3 – Stay in contact with your agency or attorney.
I’m sure you have questions about what is next, what the delays mean for your paperwork, and when things are all going to “go back to normal,” or when your profile will be ready for expectant mothers to view. It is a reasonable expectation that your adoption professionals will keep you informed of changes.
Reach out to your caseworker or your attorney to find answers or to let them know that you are struggling with the wait. They should be understanding and patient with your worry.
While you are waiting, learn more about Open Adoption.
However, remember that this is new territory for them too. A bit of grace and understanding for the plight that they are facing is necessary. Consider dropping them a note of appreciation for how they are navigating these circumstances. In these difficult days, we all need to know that our efforts matter to someone.
Tip #4 – Expect the unexpected.
I’m reasonably sure that when we are all given the “all clear” to resume daily life, there will be glitches to manage and unexpected consequences that come of the shutdown and delay. How can you handle the unexpected when it happens?
Respond, don’t react.
Observe how you behave when you discover that the mayonnaise is gone. And you’ve already done your quarantine shopping for the week! That used to be no big deal, right? You’d stop on the way home from work, and the problem was solved. Now? Being out of mayo for a whole week (insert freak-out here) might feel like a catastrophe.
That internal panic and catastrophizing of the empty mayo jar is a reaction. A measured response might look like adding “mayo” to the next grocery list and thinking about what else you can eat that doesn’t need mayonnaise, or what would be a tasty substitute for mayo.
Now think about how you react to these unexpected delays and how you want to respond. Consider how you feel when you are reacting vs. responding and give yourself a bit of a script for the next time you have to face difficult news about your adoption process. Making a plan is itself a response that you can choose to implement.
True confessions: I am not the most flexible person in my home. I struggle to roll with the punches of life and adapt quickly. I need a plan. When my plan gets thwarted, I need a minute. Or twelve. If flexibility is a struggle during this wait for your infant adoption to pick up again, take heart in knowing that you are not alone.
To choose flexibility, become an observer of the behaviors around you:
- How are others around you demonstrating flexibility during the shutdown?
- What attitude do they have about sudden and unwelcome changes?
- Can you find small ways to practice adapting to the unexpected during quarantine?
- How does accommodating change make you feel?
Don’t forget to give yourself a huge pat on the back for the flexibility you’ve already exercised: learning to work from home, staying connected to friends and family, helping your kids do distance learning, and preparing meals from a shrinking pantry!
Find your resilience.
The dictionary defines resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” I’d say a national pandemic qualifies as a difficulty! Waiting for who-knows-how-long for your infant adoption to resume is a tough circumstance. How do you want to recover from these challenges?
You can choose the answer to that question. I’m not saying it will be easy, but you can decide now what you want recovery to look like. Think of it as a self-fulfilling prophecy, the good kind. The outcome is not here yet, and there is tremendous power in choosing a positive mindset to get you there. Point your mind and actions now toward the goal of a smooth recovery in the days to come.
There’s a saying in the trauma-informed adoption community: “We can do hard things.” We’re taught to assure our kids that we can do these difficult tasks of life and that we will be there for each other to accomplish them. It’s a valuable means of teaching resiliency to our kids. With whom are you doing this hard thing? Talk to each other in the positive: you can do this, you will do this, and you will come out the other side stronger and ready for your infant adoption to proceed.
Draw On Your Strengths
NONE of us could have anticipated “the unexpected” to be quite this wide-sweeping and life-halting. Coping with the impacts of this pandemic can thus feel quite a bit more overwhelming than previous life interruptions have felt. However, you can use these tips and draw on the strengths you have gained in past life experiences to cope right now while you wait for your domestic infant adoption to proceed.