It’s been almost a year and a half now since my wife and I started our adoption journey. Back when we first talked with our adoption attorney around January 2013, we set a goal that we would have a baby by that Christmas. We knew this was an ambitious goal and there was no guarantee that it would happen that fast, but that was what we strove for at the time.
Now here we are, halfway through 2014, and we are still trying to finish up the home study.
In short, life happened. Things got crazy. We got busy and started to lose sight of our priorities. We ended up putting the adoption on hold for a while as we focused on other things. Even this blog got put on hiatus for a few months.
It all started last fall when we decided to move into a new house. There were several reasons behind our decision, but mainly we decided we needed a little more room, especially with the prospect of a baby on the way.
Moving in and of itself is always stressful, but on top of that, things were getting miserable at my job, so much so that it became necessary for me to leave. I was able to find a new job that paid a little less but was much less stressful. I’m much happier at this new job, but it was still a big adjustment for me at first.
There were other things that happened in our lives that I won’t go into detail about, but the bottom line is that things got overwhelming for a while. As a result, we stopped focusing on getting our home study done while trying to tend to all these other things. We also suffered a setback when we found out that some of our paperwork for the home study had been lost and we had to re-do some of it. This meant more waiting, more frustration.
However, I can’t make too many excuses for the slow pace of our home study. I will admit that a lot of it is our fault. My wife and I have a terrible tendency to procrastinate, especially when it comes time to the parts of the adoption process that aren’t “fun.” For example, it took me forever to go to the doctor’s office for the required physical because I hate going to the doctor. Nonetheless, it’s one of those things that needs to be done, like it or not, if you want to adopt.
Thankfully, we are almost done with the home study as I write this, and should have it wrapped up in the next week. I will have a full update when it is done.
I don’t know if any of you have experienced something similar in your adoption, where things went much slower than you expected due to life getting in the way or you losing focus. If so, know that you are not alone. I’ve learned quite a few lessons over the last few months, and I thought I would share 12 of them here in the hopes that they might help you out as well.
Lesson #1: Remember that life happens.
Life never goes the way that you expect it to, and neither will your adoption journey. I’ve heard a saying many times: “Whenever we make plans for our life, God laughs.” It’s so true! There is really no way to prepare for every little thing that might come up, because you just don’t know the future. All you can do is expect the unexpected. Know that life will get busy. Things will come up. But don’t let it get in the way of your goal. Anticipate the bumps in the road so you can be prepared to better navigate them.
Lesson #2: The adoption process isn’t always fun.
Most people only see the happy, glamorous side of adoption, but once you get into the process you realize that it’s a lot of hard work. You’ll probably have to fill out all kinds of paperwork, get background-checked, fill out more paperwork, get a physical, fill out more paperwork, take a few classes, more paperwork, share all your life details with people you hardly know, and oh, did I mention the endless paperwork? You get the idea. And this is before you have to put your profile together, start waiting for a match, and so on. It’s tedious and a big pain in the you-know-what, but it’s all necessary for the adoption to go through. Don’t feel bad if you don’t enjoy it, because hardly any of us do. Just take a deep breath and tackle it one step at a time.
Lesson #3: Ask yourself how badly you want to be a parent.
If you’re really feeling unmotivated to do the things that need to be done, you have to start asking yourself how badly you want it. Is your heart really in it? What about your spouse’s? Sometimes a lack of motivation can be a sign that you’re not really as committed to becoming a parent as you think. But if you know deep in your heart that this is what you want, without a doubt, then you need to use that as motivation. Picture yourself holding that child in your arms. Picture your life with your child as he or she grows. Are those thoughts making you excited? If so, then let that motivate you to take action. If not, then you may need to reevaluate whether this is really what you want.
Lesson #4: Ask yourself what’s holding you back.
Maybe your heart is totally in it, but there is some other kind of fear holding you back. I know this was the case for us. For me, it was a fear of change and uncertainty. For my wife, it was a fear of not getting a match or not being a good mother. It’s kind of ironic considering I recently wrote an entire blog post on the many fears that hold people back from adopting. Just understand that having some fears is natural. We all have them. Once you understand what those fears are and what the root causes of them are, you will be in a better position to overcome them.
Lesson #5: Stop making excuses.
Sometimes your reasons for putting things off may be legitimate, especially when life gets overwhelming. But many times those reasons are just excuses. I know I have a bad habit of saying “I don’t have time to do that,” then ending up on the couch watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory that I’ve already seen a hundred times. Like anything in life that requires hard work, whether it be losing weight, getting out of debt, or adopting a child, you have to remember what your priorities are and do what you need to do to reach those goals. It goes back to asking yourself how badly you want it and what is really holding you back. Each day you spend making excuses instead of working toward your goal is another day you aren’t being shown to expectant parents and potentially your child.
Lesson #6: Take charge of the things you can control.
You can’t always control life’s situations, and when you start waiting for a potential birthmother to choose you, you have even less control over the process. At that point you can only put your profile out there and hope for the best. Sure, you can do things to increase your chances of being chosen, but it all still depends on someone else choosing you. But when it comes to getting the paperwork competed for your home study, you do have control over that. When it comes to putting your profile together, you have control over that as well. Take charge of those few things that you do have control over, because they are few in the adoption process. The faster you take charge of those things, the shorter your wait will be.
Lesson #7: Setting goals is helpful, but useless without action.
It always helps to set goals with deadlines for each thing that needs to be done, but you also have to act on those goals. You and your spouse need to hold yourselves and each other accountable. If that doesn’t work, ask the social worker handling your home study to call you on a specific date if you haven’t finished whatever task you needed to do. Make a checklist and check off each task as you complete it so you can see your progress. Sometimes building that momentum will help you get things done quicker. Keep reminding yourself that every step you complete brings you one step closer to your child.
Lesson #8: Celebrate the little victories.
After you complete each task on your checklist, take a moment to celebrate. It doesn’t have to be something big; just something like going for dinner at your favorite restaurant, or buying yourself a little something that you can enjoy. When you finish the home study, you can do something bigger. Take a vacation, or throw a We-Finished-Our-Home-Study party or something! Sometimes adding these little rewards to your goals can give you the motivation to complete them.
Lesson #9: It’s okay to take a step back when you feel overwhelmed.
As stressful as adoption can be, you never want to let it stress you out too much. Take a break if you need to, and focus on other things for a while. Take time to work on your hobbies, read a good book, take a vacation, or spend quality time with your family. Let something else occupy your mind for a while, then get back to it. Just don’t take too long. You only want to take enough time to relax and recharge so you can continue your journey.
Lesson #10: Don’t beat yourself up.
Know that you are not alone; many others out there have been in your shoes. Don’t dwell too much on the “what if’s” and the “if only’s”. Learn from your experiences and move on. It doesn’t do any good to dwell on the past, so just focus on what you can do right now. Don’t agonize too much on where you are. Just keep plugging forward and in time, things will start to fall in place.
Lesson #11: Remember that every adoption journey is different.
Nobody ever said that the journey has to look a certain way. Some go through it pretty quickly, while others wait for years before they are matched with a child. Don’t worry about how other people’s journeys go compared to yours. Just focus on your own.
Lesson #12: This too shall pass.
I know firsthand how difficult this journey is, but I truly believe it will be worth it in the end. One day I will hold that little baby in my arms and know that every part of the journey, every setback and delay, happened for a reason. It will all have led to that moment. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the journey was like or how quickly it happened. What will matter is that Courtney and I will have received the child that God hand-picked for us.
Sometimes it might help you to remind yourself of that when things get tough. Picture yourself holding that baby in your arms. Picture what your life will be like as the family you’ve always dreamed of being. Let those thoughts motivate you and push you forward.
I hope that this post helped you, as I know it helped me just by writing it! As we get our home study wrapped up, I’ll fill you in on the details as we start moving toward putting out our profile and looking for a potential birthmother.
Thanks for reading, and I wish you all the best in your adoption journey!
Question: Has your adoption journey taken longer than expected? How did you deal with it, and what lessons have you learned? Sound off in the comments below!