Well, here we are. We are matched with our next baby!
He/she is due in September. The agonizing time of waiting, wondering, and searching for him is over. And the time of worrying has begun. I think it is a natural time of worrying.
Some worries are specific to adoption: Will this adoption really go through?
Some are the same as any expectant mother: How will our older child adjust? How could I possibly love my new child as much as my current child?! How are we going to manage our household when I am exhausted because baby is up all night?
And some are intensified, fraught with legitimate high-risk concerns: Will my baby be healthy?
All moms are concerned about baby’s health, but moms in high risk situations really have to grapple with this. We wonder about the baby’s nutrition without being able to take any actionable steps to improve outcomes; it is not in our hands. Not always, but often in adoption, there are concerns about addictions, substance abuse, and the child’s development. What is our plan if this child is physically or mentally atypical?
It’s a lot to think about. It’s a lot to worry about. And there’s so much joyful excitement in the mix that the wait seems eternal! Here’s what I’m doing while I wait:
Living with our birth mother
Yes! It’s true. We had friends over for dinner the other night who saw our set-up and casually asked when our reality TV show will start up! But it’s actually quite a sweet and lovely set-up for our family right now. Amazingly, after searching for the right baby for some time, Big Son’s birth mom got pregnant and so she will be our birth mom twice over! We are extra thrilled about having the chance to adopt a baby who is already part of our family – a biological sibling of Big Son. Big Son has a very open adoption, and we have a great relationship with his birth family.
At worst, living together is like having my 20-year-old daughter living in our basement. Sometimes I want to fix all her problems for her – my own way (think rigid self-discipline) – but instead I just need to be open, loving, accepting, and support her the way she wants to be supported. It’s great practice for having teenagers one day.
At best, we get to feel the baby kick together, and chat about baby names (if it’s a girl she wants to name the baby after me, and I want to name the baby after her).
Most of the time it’s a lot like the final season of Friends where Monica and Chandler host their birth mother. Remember Monica making big batches of chocolate chip cookies for Erica and slapping Ross’s hand away when he tries to take one? That’s our house right now.
Going along to prenatal appointments
Again, we are very lucky to be able to do this. Since our relationship with birth mom is excellent, this is possible for us. I didn’t think I’d be in a position to do this before I knew who our birth mom would be. It’s certainly not possible for many adoptive parents. I recognize that it’s a huge blessing. It also comes from the years of work I put into my relationship with her since Big Son’s adoption.
My advice if you are lucky enough to be in this position as well? Be a quiet wallflower who knows how lucky you are to be given entrance to this private and personal time between birth mom and her doctor.
Be ready to make a classy exit at any moment if the exam gets personal and you sense any tension whatsoever.
Be ready to speak up, briefly, only in the scenario in which you hold privilege, the birth mom does not, and a doctor or nurse is inappropriate, puts mom in an awkward situation, or tries to walk all over her. I mention this last point only because I have found that it can be shocking for privileged white women to see how women of colour, women of low socio-economic status, and women otherwise marginalized are frequently treated within the healthcare system. It’s different.
Dealing with/avoiding adoption paperwork
Okay we are a little behind on this… I have a couple of phone calls to make…
Planning our parental leave
Since I stay home already and am therefore not using any maternity benefits, Polar Bear is entitled to quite a bit of parental leave. 35 weeks at full pay (Canada is a good place to live). However, he may not want to take all the time that he is eligible for as he likes working out of the house – and us being apart, at least a few hours a day, brings a good balance to our marriage. He’s trying to work out how much leave he wants, and he’s having conversations about how much flexibility he has to shorten or lengthen that time last minute without creating too much chaos among colleagues on his team at work.
Decluttering and streamlining the house
Luckily I had some good motivation to start this process as we’ve been completing our foster care certification this year (and hosting some foster children through kinship before being certified), and so I’ve been reorganizing the house, decluttering, and setting up systems that work for lots of kids. Since planning this adoption, I’ve been continuing this process so as to make housework and our daily routine as simple as possible. Just wait until you see my new laundry system in a future post! It’s beautiful.
Starting to make food for the first 6 weeks
I have a friend who, in preparation for her first baby, made a lasagna and put it in the freezer. She said that they heated it up and ate it the first night they were home with their new baby, and as far as food went she said, “Well that was really nice. Now what?”
I am starting to plan for 6 weeks of food. Overkill? Maybe. But it’s not that I’m actually making six weeks of frozen dinners and storing them in a giant chest freezer. It’s just that we eat a lot of whole foods and I cook from scratch and, to the extent that we can, I would like to keep that up after the baby is born because we all feel so much better when we eat healthy homemade food.
So, I’m planning a few frozen soups and casseroles, but also making a simple weekly menu with a prepared grocery list ahead of time, planning simple school lunches for Big Son, and making some mixes for myself – like my own muffin mix that requires adding only oil and liquid, and dry soup mixes that I can just dump in to a slow cooker with water.
Spreading the word slowly and cautiously
Adoption is never final until it’s final.
Plus, even though it’s not fair to adoptive parents, the reality is that spreading news of an adoption is not like spreading news of a pregnancy. With adoption, people have weird reactions. Some graceful or sincerely excited people will seamlessly say, “Wow! Congratulations! When is the baby due? I’m so happy for you,” just as if you announced you were pregnant. Other people suck.
I got a lot of “Is it for sure this time?” and “I’m not sure you’re being realistic about how hard this will be” and “Wait, don’t do that yet – you can still get pregnant yourself!” and “You’re a saint; I could never do that.” Then I grimace, remind myself that people are usually well-meaning in their intent even when not in their delivery, and that I too put my foot in my mouth all the time. I try to move the conversation onwards to something simpler: “How about those nice muslin swaddle blankets you used on your baby. Are they up for grabs?”
But, spreading the news can also be nice, it can make me feel like I really am having a baby even though I am not nauseous or exhausted in the least, and it can help me feel supported when I least expect it. When I told one of my mom friends on our street about the baby she told me that she had a freezer full of breast milk she had pumped for donation to other mothers, and did I want all of it? A truly amazing score.
Talking to my son about what babies are like
I’ve been trying to throw out jokes, which are really little kernels of truth, about what it’s like to live with a baby, so that Big Son won’t be shocked when the time comes: “To you it will seem like the baby sleeps all the time! To your dad and me it will seem like the baby wakes up all the time!”
I’m sure he’ll still be shocked, but what can you do?
Remembering this is a special time in itself – not just a time of waiting for something special to happen
When we were adopting Big Son I felt like it was all just a big time of waiting for him. But looking back, I consider the time we spent dreaming of him and preparing our home and our lives for him to be an incredibly special time in itself. We’re in a special time right now too, and I remind myself to cherish these moments when I get too impatient.
What are you doing to manage the wait to be matched, the wait to gain parental rights of your child, or the wait for your baby to be born?