Surviving the Adoption Wait

The old proverb is right—time does indeed move slowly for those who wait and after a few months, slow takes on a whole new meaning.  Keeping busy is the only way to survive.  Fortunately there is much you can do during this time to keep your mind off the creeping calendar, and it’s not just busy work.  You have more time now to accomplish things that need to be done, and your post baby life will be easier if you do them now.  In keeping with the pregnancy theme, I have provided nine months’ worth of activities if you do one a week.

Feel free to pick and choose your way through the list.  Which items we choose probably speak volumes about us.  A friend of mine favored the nesting and cleaning activities.  By the time her daughter arrived she had organized and cleaned everything in her house and had moved on to the garage.  I, on the other hand, favored the pamper yourself activities.  I wanted to eat, soak and shop my way through.  In fact, we got The Call the Monday after my husband and I had returned from a romantic weekend get away.  I would recommend waiting to do the items after number 20 until after you have a match or referral, since the wait will be harder once the nursery is ready and baby things are scattered around the house.

What To Do While You Wait

1. Get in shape.  You will soon be carrying, bending, and running more than you have since you were a kid, and you will be doing all of this carrying, bending and running while carrying your child.  You don’t need to add a sore back and aching muscles to the stress of new parenthood.  Start exercising.  Carry a 5 pound sack of flour in your baby carrier throughout the day to get ready and gradually work up to a 20 pound sack of rice.

2. Choose a pediatrician.  Get recommendations from friends. Make sure they have weekend hours. (Little known parenting fact—kids always get sick on Friday, but it isn’t apparent that it is a “go-to-the-doctor-sickness” until Saturday morning.) Of course, make sure the pediatrician accepts your insurance.

3. Get the required immunizations. If you are adopting internationally and traveling to get your child, find out if you are required or recommended to have any immunizations for your adoption trip.  Some immunizations, such as hepatitis B, require several shots over about six months, so get started.

4. Prepare a will or review your existing one.  Most wills are written to cover children by birth or adoption, but make sure.  Pick out guardians and godparents.

5. Find out your employer’s policy on adoption leave.  If they do not give parents paid time off for adoption, put together a proposal to change the policy.  Argue the fairness factor– if the company offers leave for employees who become parents by birth, it is only fair that they offer leave for employees who become parents by adoption.  Stress the long term health benefits of firmly establishing attachment.  Educate yourself about the Family and Medical Leave Act and what your employer is required to do.

6. Get both parents up to speed. A typical scenario during the adoption process is for one parent to take on the role of The Prepared One, while the other parent remains blissfully ignorant.  Now is the time to right that imbalance, at least a bit.

7. Child proof your home.

8. Prepare Grandparents on Attachment Parenting.  If you are adopting a newborn, this likely won’t be necessary.  But if you are adopting an older baby or toddler or child, then you need to educate then on parenting techniques to enhance attachment and how they can help.

9. Prepare Grandparents on Open Adoption. Your parents have no clue what we mean by “open adoption“.  Let’s be honest, neither did you until you became immersed in adoption literature.  They likely have many misconceptions that they may have been hesitant to express.  Now’s the time to start the education process.

10. Singles should line up their support team. Specifically ask if they would be willing to take over at night every once in a while to let you catch up on sleep if your child has trouble sleeping.

11. Read adoption books and articles.  But a word of caution: in an effort to show the full picture, many adoption books and articles seem to focus on the problems of adoption.  Be selective on what you read.  You don’t want to ignore the potential problems, but you don’t need to immerse yourself in them either.

12. Read child development and parenting books.  Sometimes we become so focused on the fact that we are adopting this child that we forget that he is first and foremost a child and more like other children than different.  If you are adopting a toddler or older child, anticipate that your child may be developmentally delayed.  The rule of thumb is one-month delay for every three months in an orphanage.

13. Get parenting practice. Volunteer to baby-sit for friends or for the church nursery.  You will become very popular and will be banking good will that you can cash out when you need help in the future.

14. Choose a name.

15. Pamper yourself.  Consider long soaks in a tub with candlelight and wine if money is tight, but take a vacation if you can afford to.  This babymoon may be the last childfree vacation in a long while.

16. Start a journal.  Save it to give to your child someday to show your feelings while you wait for him to join your family.

17. Write your parents a thank-you letter.  Tell them how excited you are and how much you appreciate all they did for you.

18. Research early intervention programs.  Unless you are adopting a newborn, your kiddo may be behind developmentally.  Most school district and counties have programs help preschool kids with developmental delays.  Your child may not need it, but it helps to be ready in case she does.

19. Organize your closets, drawers, and cupboards.  If you are feeling really industrious or anxious move on to your basement, attic, or garage.  If you still have excess energy, come start on my house.

20. Take a child CPR course.  It should cover the Heimlich maneuver for babies and young children.  Ask your pediatrician where a course is offered or call the local Red Cross.

21. Learn how to take decent pictures, especially of children.

22. Learn as much of your child’s birth language as possible.  Obviously this only applies to international adoptions. At the very least learn travel phrases (where’s the bathroom, how much is this) and polite phrases (please, thank you, hello, good bye) and child phrases (I love you, mama, daddy, are you hungry).

23. Prepare your pets for the baby’s arrival.  Make any anticipated changes to their routine (more time outdoors or in a crate) well in advance of your child arriving so the pet does not associate the change with the new arrival.  Contact your vet or local humane society for information.

24. Tackle your someday list. Learn to knit, play tennis, dance, play the guitar, or anything that you’ve been meaning to do someday.  Or, for the more Puritanical amongst you, tackle your shoulds: catch up on that stack of paperwork, the clothes that need to be mended, or anything else that you should do.

25. Schedule any of your regular appointments. You won’t have time for your regular dentist, doctor, optometrist, and vet appointments when your child first arrives so schedule them now.

26. Take childcare classes at the local hospital.  Ask your pediatrician or adoption agency who else offers them.

27. Buy a cookbook from your child’s country. If adopting internationally, learn to prepare a few simple meals.

28. Learn a few lullabies and bouncy games.

29. Shop garage sales for baby items and toys.  You will need less equipment than you think.  Ask your pediatrician and other parents for suggestions.  Garage sales are a great place to find bargains, and spring and fall are the best times for sales.  Don’t buy car seats, baby walkers, old playpens or cribs, or humidifiers.

30. Buy a few favorite children books.  Think back to your childhood and choose books you loved such as a book of Mother Goose rhymes or Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Also buy a few children’s books on adoption.  My favorites are listed on the Creating a Family Suggested Children’s Adoption Book page.

31. Learn baby massage techniques.

32. Pick out the perfect “cuddly” for your child. I wanted a blanket that was super soft and a stuffed animal that could withstand the washer and dryer.  If you are adopting internationally, check with your adoption agency and see if you can send either the blanket or stuffed animal to your child.

33. Begin preparing a life book for your child. See Creating a Family lifebook resources.

34. Print your posts from the online forums. Save these in your child’s life book.  Use discretion on which ones to include.

35. Get a local or national newspaper from your child’s birth date.  If your child has not been born yet, find out how to get one.

36. Arrange for the care of children you will be leaving at home if you have to travel to get your child. Write out an authorization for the babysitter to get medical care and leave a copy of your insurance card.  If they will be going to someone else’s house, consider having them practice for one or two nights while you and your spouse (or friend) get away for a weekend.  Buy and wrap inexpensive gifts for your child to open each day you will be gone.  In addition to giving him something to look forward to each day, the dwindling stack of gifts will be a visual reminder of how soon you will return.

37. Cook and freeze meals for the first weeks back home.

38. Get information on kid friendly activities. Your community likely has many inexpensive activities for you and your child to participate in such as library story times, mother/child gym or swimming classes, and neighborhood play groups.

39. Decorate the nursery or child’s room.  Sprinkle a little baby powder around the room for that delicious baby smell.

40. Buy or create baby/child announcements and address the envelopes.

41. Buy gifts for your child’s caregiver and children at the orphanage or foster sisters or brothers.

42. Start to spread the news and ask for prayers and good wishes.