What to Do While You’re Waiting to Adopt

For those who have been through (or are in) the process of adopting a baby, you know it can be a lot of “hurry up and wait” while you’re waiting to adopt. It can take from a few months to a few years to receive placement of a baby from the time your home study is approved–and even longer to actually finalize the adoption.

All of that lends itself to one big challenge for prospective adoptive parents: what the heck should you do with yourself while waiting to adopt? After all, a big life change is potentially headed your way, so shouldn’t you prepare?

Our Adoption Story

Our adoption story admittedly is on the faster side. We were thinking the process would take a few years, but in reality, we had placement of our first son within a few months of being approved. That being said, the wait was still agonizing.

Not being pregnant and expecting a child is a strange thing. You know it is coming, but unlike pregnancy, you have no idea when. Birth parents can decide to place their children for adoption as early as a few months into pregnancy–or they can decide to do so after giving birth. That means, my dear friends, that placement can literally happen at the drop of a hat. We literally drove around with the car seat in our car because of this. 😉 

Our placement was one of those “drop of a hat” situations. We got an email from our agency asking us to look over a possible placement profile and let them know if we were interested in our profile going to birth mom. Once we said yes, our now-son was living with us full time within two weeks.

What to Do While You Wait

I’ve heard friends who talk about how waiting to adopt feels like an eternity, even if it is just a few months. Similar to those eerily quiet few months leading up to a wedding after intense planning, you’re left with the feeling of, “I should be doing something.” From my own experience, there were many things I’d wished I had done (and a few I did do) in the interim while we were a waiting family . . .

Get educated.

One of the most important things you can do as a prospective adoptive parent is get yourself educated on adoption. Most agencies (if not all) require you to do some training as part of the approval process. Don’t. Stop. There. 30 hours of required training is not enough, my friends.

Adoption is incredibly complex and should take more than 30 hours of your time to learn about. Adoption is not about you as the adoptive parent. It is about your future child(ren), so learn how to best serve them. My favorite resources are Adoption: The Long View (podcast), Adoption Now (podcast), and Before You Adopt (workbook).

Talk about race.

If you are planning to adopt a child of a nationality or race that is different from your own, get comfortable getting uncomfortable. My children are black and my husband and I are white. Race is not a secret in our house and it will never be a dirty word. Their race is a special part of their identity and it is my job to help them learn what that means.

I will never be able to provide all of that as a white woman, but I can get comfortable talking about race, I can ensure I put myself in places where I am the minority, and I can find trusted adults who can help me teach my children about what it means to be black. 

I’ve heard it said that in transracial adoption if you are too comfortable, your children are probably uncomfortable. As a friend of mine put it: “Get really good at inviting people over who look like your children.” I read It Takes More than Love: A Christian Guide to Navigating the Complexities of Cross-Cultural Adoption and hope to read What White Parents Should Know about Transracial Adoption: An Adoptee’s Perspective on Its History, Nuances, and Practices soon.

Keep a journal.

Your future kiddos are going to ask you questions later about the time they came home to you. Keep a journal of your feelings, documenting the ways you felt when you were longing for them. I remember vividly sitting in my bed, sobbing waiting to meet a child I had never met. I felt an inexplicable connection for my baby. He was so close, yet so unknown to me at the time–and I don’t have this written down for him to read later. Learn from my regrets!

Prep your home.

For real, child-proofing is key. Though we set out to do domestic infant adoption, we ended up adopting a toddler and a newborn. This was such a gift, but totally unexpected. Because we thought we’d get a baby, we didn’t childproof. Do it now while you have the energy and time. Who knows, a toddler might be coming your way!

Figure out how you want to parent.

Again, because we thought we were going to parent a newborn baby first, we didn’t put much thought into parenting other than where we wanted to fall on the gentle-not gentle spectrum of parenting. Little did we know, there’s a heck of a lot more to it than that. Read, research, and watch your friends now for what you want to copy and what you’d rather not do with your kids. 

Go on a vacation.

Many adoptive parents joke that all it takes for you to get matched is to just go on vacation. No, seriously–for many people, they receive phone calls on their vacations or right after! Don’t stop your life because of being a waiting family. Live it to the fullest–take the freaking vacation.

Just be.

Relax, my friends. Just be in the wait and enjoy the ride. That is hard to live out with a huge change around the corner, but do try to enjoy it. Time without kids is sweet time, too, and time that you’ll want to remember. Take all of the afternoon walks after dinner, eat ice cream for dinner (because you’ll have to do that in secret once you have kids), and date your partner. This time will feel like an eternity ago once your babe is in your arms, so soak it in now.

Enjoy the ride!

Adoption is a beautiful and enormously difficult journey for everyone in the adoption triad. Waiting to adopt can be hard, but it is part of the journey. We hope that our experiences (and admitted failures) can encourage you to do–and to just be–in the journey. Your new family member is coming soon and we can’t wait for you to meet them!

Want to read more about adoption? Check out how adoption changed Kimberly’s view of the world here.

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