Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
In hindsight, these veteran adoptive moms would have done some things differently during the wait—but not others.by Lisa Milbrand
Tom Petty was right—the waiting is the hardest part. After my husband, Mike, and I decided to adopt our daughter, Katie, from China, there was a flurry of activity: completing paperwork, preparing for the homestudy, paying fees. Then, all of a sudden, there was nothing left to do except sit and wait...and wait...and wait.
Now that Katie is home and snug in her crib, I wonder what I could have done differently. Maybe I would have planned a few more romantic evenings with Mike, now that couple time has become so precious. Maybe I would have spent less time trolling adoption listservs for rumors, worrying and getting depressed about every delay. (In retrospect, we were matched with our perfect baby at the perfect time.) And if I could do it over again, I know I would have listened more closely to the experiences related by seasoned adoptive parents who went before me.
For those of you who are waiting, here are some personal thoughts from the veterans.
If I could do it over again, I would...
I had to wait 18 months to bring my two children home from Guatemala. If I had known it would take that long, I would have set some ground rules for my family. My mother called every day to ask if we’d heard anything. It got pretty difficult, as I was trying hard not to think about the adoption every second!
We adopted domestically, and thought the wait would be interminable. As it turned out, it was only four months! We had 10 days to prepare before our beautiful son was born. In hindsight, I wish we had gone shopping before getting the call—we spent too much precious time in baby stores during the days following our son’s birth!
During the wait, I wish I had gone out to dinner with my husband more, spent more time with my best friend, worried less about not getting a referral, gone on a few vacations, exercised, and focused on living for the day, not for the future.
I would have obsessed less and stayed off e-mail listservs (everyone had a different opinion and there was too much misinformation).
I wish I had spent more time getting to know other adoptive parents in my community. Even though our pediatrician has a number of internationally adopted kids in her practice, some of my questions went beyond her expertise.
I wish I had decorated and baby-proofed the house before our daughter’s arrival. I held off on these things because I kept expecting something to go wrong. All I could think about was how sad it would be to live with an empty baby room or, worse, to un-decorate if things didn’t work out. Now I wish I’d had more faith, so I could have avoided playing catch-up during my first few months as a mom.
I would have gotten more involved in the local adoptive and Asian communities and started taking a Mandarin Chinese class. My husband and I are working on these things now, but it would have been nice to have had a jump-start before our little one got home.
In the weeks leading up to my travel date, I would have prepared and frozen a few more meals for after we returned home. I seriously underestimated the amount of time it takes to care for our new daughter.
I wish I had taken baby-care classes. I didn’t know about swaddling until a friend mentioned that babies love it.
I would definitely have spent more time with my husband, going to the movies or enjoying quiet dinners out. We had to give up activities like these for a while once our baby came home.
I would have held off on shopping. Even at nine months old, fresh from a Chinese social welfare institute, my daughter had a clear sense of her own taste. She refused to put on or play with anything she didn’t like. Sadly, many of the items I had bought were non-returnable by the time she arrived.
I’m glad I...
During my long battle with infertility, I gained a lot of weight. After deciding to adopt, I joined a weight-loss program. It was the absolute best thing I did. While waiting for eight months, I lost 30 pounds. It kept my mind busy and my body healthy during a difficult, yet exciting, time.
If you know that your child has special needs, as we did, I’d urge you to read up on potential challenges. Then, speak with specialists and line up recommended screening appointments in advance.
It helped to attend agency playgroups. Sometimes, people who have “been there, done that” just have better answers. It also helps to see other adoptive families and their children, especially if you’re adding a child of another culture or race to your family.
You never know when you’ll get that call to bring your child home, so enjoy life to the fullest during the waiting period. We followed three rules:
1. ALWAYS expect the unexpected.
2. Be flexible.
3. You are NEVER in control, so don’t sweat the small stuff.
Even if you do sweat the small stuff and worry every day until you’re matched with your child, there’s one thing I know for certain—as soon as you hold your new child in your arms, that will all be forgotten.
Lisa Milbrand is the editor of Modern Bride’s 17 regional magazines. She lives with her family in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
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