I was texting with a friend yesterday who is a few months away from one year anniversary of her LID (log in date). She still has no referral. Their story is very different than ours because we sent the dossier on a Monday and 10 days later had our referral call. We weren’t logged in. Our entire adoption timeline from contract to travel was fifteen months. I remember the hurry up and wait stage. I remember all the waiting and I remember thinking it was so. very. hard.
Because it was hard. It is hard to wait.
Each stage of adoption has it’s unique challenges. It’s like saying “this preschool stage is my favorite stage!” but then you get to the stage when your children can read and then that becomes your favorite stage and on and on. The waiting stage is hard and different phases of those stages are challenging in different ways and the goal is to wait well.
Isn’t that always the goal when we are waiting for something – anything really – to wait well?
Waiting during the paper pregnant phase of adoption is challenging because there is so much paper to keep organized and get notarized and move along. Different waves of paperwork come and go and there are the fees and the fingerprints and the fits over notaries who make mistakes and doctors who are busy and holidays when mail and processing gets interrupted and all you can do is wait for the next wave. During this phase some know the face of the child they are doing all of this paper chasing and waiting for and others still do not. We did not – and I don’t know which would be harder. We kept busy during this phase and sold our house and packed and moved into a different one; but no matter how busy we were there was always the wondering and the waiting and the hope of a little one who would be worth all of the waiting.
Then you get the referral call and for some it’s the first of several, and for others it’s their one and only. Here the waiting well becomes different. For me it became harder – much harder because now I had a child with a story and we chose her and she needed us – like, in a hurry, because she was sick and getting sicker by the day. Fear crept it’s way in and I worried in my control-less-ness that we would come for her too late and she would never know the people who so loved her and had been waiting for her. Knowing just enough about her was a blessing and a burden because she was ours in our hearts but not in reality and when she was sick or in a hospital we had no rights to her, not yet. We requested that our remaining steps be expedited in light of a worsening heart condition and that request was granted, shaving off about three months of waiting. I’m forever thankful that our caseworker suggested that we try, it never hurts to ask!
Waiting well became nearly impossible when just days before travel she was hospitalized, battling pneumonia for the umpteenth time, and we were left considering moving our travel dates. What if she couldn’t travel to her far away province? What if she was worse when we landed and we were all trapped in China? What if we leave China without our baby? The fear is real if you like controlled situations and adoption is a master class in patience and faith.
Once you meet your child and sign the paperwork and make the finger print the waiting changes again. You wait in province for passports and pictures and begin to attach. Then you wait for your medical appointment and your consulate appointment for your child’s visa and then it’s time to all go home together. At home the waiting is not over. It’s so good to finally be at home and begin your new normal as a family. Waiting for jet-lag to pass, cocooning, waiting for doctor appointments and procedures or sometimes surgery appointments becomes a reality and it can be a little crazy but waiting for attachment might be more challenging than waiting for travel.
Some children attach quickly, and some appear to attach quickly but struggle weeks or months later after the honeymoon phase is over. Waiting for the child you love to make progress is difficult especially if the progress is to sleep well! This time of waiting is not idle, it is the hardest work of all and it is during this time that all you have learned and worked for becomes real and it becomes really important to do the work of attachment. When the progress does come, though, there are fewer things sweeter and more rewarding and worth waiting for.
Looking back, I told my friend, the waiting for referral time is in many ways “golden time”. There’s time to read, research, serve, and do all of the things during this time that you might not have time for in the months and weeks following an accepted referral. Once the referral is accepted – someone is missing at your dinner table. Someone is on the other side of the world waiting for you. Once you have that little face and a story life is never the same again and although they aren’t yours on paper – your heart knows they are yours and every day is one step closer to holding him or her and becoming a family.
Wait well, friends who wait in whatever stage you’re in. It’s not easy in any stage to wait but the journey of adoption is about the whole process, not just the destination. It is ever changing and growth is constant even if we can’t see it with out eyes. There are moments of great frustration and then there are sweet moments of victory progress and healing; neither of which end once you return home with your child. There are also moments of disappointing setbacks and covering ground you thought had already been covered. Waiting gives birth to parenting whether it’s a biological child or an adopted child.
Waiting makes us strong even though while waiting we often battle weakness. We wait through the changes but we do not wait alone. We wait in the wings of almighty God who promises to be our refuge, our strong tower, our healer, our deliverer, and our redeemer.
Soak up the golden time, dear friends who wait for their referral.
Bask in the busy of the wait for the next approval knowing that soon you will meet your son or daughter face to face.
Lean into your faith in a God who heals the broken as you wait to attachment with the child you circled the globe to love and make yours.
Rest, hope, believe that He who is in you has the power to strengthen you and teach you to wait well in each step of this journey of adoption.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The God who lives forever is the Lord, the One who made the ends of the earth. He will not become weak or tired. His understanding is too great for us to begin to know. He gives strength to the weak. And He gives power to him who has little strength. Even very young men get tired and become weak and strong young men trip and fall. But they who wait upon the Lord will get new strength. They will rise up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired.They will walk and not become weak. — Isaiah 40:28-31
— photo by Tish Goff