The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
– Dr. Seuss
I was a soon-to-be graduating senior when I received the book Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss. I read it and got a little teary. I was a selfish, self-centered, worldly teenager in the midst of my own Waiting Place. My Waiting Place was all about me. It was about moving out of my parents’ house, about going to college, and about entering the world of what I considered “grown up.” It turns out, there’s a lot of growing up you have to do before becoming a grown up.
My Waiting Place meant different things over the years.
Three times, my Waiting Place involved pregnancy and childbirth, anxiously waiting for the moment I would meet our newest little one.
Six times, my Waiting Place involved moving our ever-growing family to other houses or states, living in two places and feeling the desperation to have everyone together again.
Several times, my Waiting Place involved sorrow, watching loved ones slowly fade away and leave our world.
Once, my Waiting Place carried the loneliness of moving to a city and having an exceptionally hard time making friends, wondering if I would ever have friends there.
Twice, my Waiting Place has involved adoption. I think a lot of you adoptive mamas out there will get it, and for those who know an adoptive mama, here’s a peek at what’s going on inside her head.
My adoption Waiting Place was filled with emotional discord. In some ways it was like my pregnancies were. At times, I’m was excited and anxious. I wanted to get on a plane that very second and rush my babies home. On other days, I felt panicked at the thought of five kids, two being toddlers who are only nine months apart.
Often I was impatient that paperwork took so long to channel through the governments. Other days, I was on a high because my inbox delivered new pictures or a tiny update of my far away sons.
So what do we adoptive mamas do in our Waiting Places? How do we attempt to fill all the long days of waiting and hoping?
We nest. Although we don’t have pregnancy hormones coursing through our bodies, we nest just the same. I often joke that paper-pregnant mamas nest even more because we don’t have morning sickness or big bellies to work around. My nesting during our first adoption reached a level of crazy that could be measured on the Richter scale.
My husband and I refinished furniture. I crafted. I awoke in the middle of the night in a full blown panic realizing that I needed to buy more blue acrylic paint. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning creating an Etsy shop that I never launched. I almost adopted a cat on two different occasions. I mentally rearranged the furniture in the boys’ shared room 47 times.
We try to gain a sense of control through knowledge. Timelines for adoption can range greatly. We can be paper-pregnant for ten months or three years. Unlike pregnancy, our journey has no definite end in sight, no due date. To help cope, we join every Facebook group we can find to learn about every step of the adoption process.
We know what PA is, how long it should take from DTC to LID and why that’s important. We arm ourselves with vast knowledge of medical needs so that when we hear that our new FB friend got a referral for a little girl with thalassemia or unrepaired tetralogy of Fallot, we know what she’s talking about, and we probably already know someone else who has a child with that same condition.
And through equipping ourselves with this knowledge, medical needs seem less scary, softening our hearts for kiddos that once seemed an impossible fit for our families.
We seek facts. So much of our adopted child’s history is unknown. We have little more than a sparse medical file and an approximate birthdate. To satisfy our need for more concrete information, we absorb every tiny detail we can.
What was the weather on his birthday?
What does his Chinese name mean?
What was he wearing when he was found?
I have personally spent countless hours on Google maps trying to pinpoint our boys’ finding spots. I paid a researcher to locate a copy of a newspaper with their finding ads… anything so that I can have details to offer when they start asking questions one day.
We try to get into our adopted child’s world. We search Amazon for children’s books about adoption, Chinese New Year, and Chinese stories for children. We cash in our iTunes gift cards for albums in Mandarin for our babies. We listen to them on repeat until the lyrics that we don’t understand become second nature for our lips to sing. Every time I hear the Happy Birthday song, I get a little teary as I sing it in Mandarin in my head. (Fun fact: our kids can serenade Happy Birthday in English, Spanish, and Mandarin now!)
We prepare for the challenges. We dive head first into The Connected Child (Purvis) and Parenting the Hurt Child (Keck) to learn to identify trauma behaviors and learn how to best parent our soon-to-be sons and daughters who have suffered so much loss in their little lives. Besides the obvious loss of the birth family, our kiddos may have also endured neglect, abuse, or abandonment. We learn that what worked for our biological children could potentially be the opposite of what our adopted children will need to thrive.
To the Weary, Impatient Mama:
I remember. It’s been over a year and a half since I watched the days of my calendar tick by. I remember obsessively refreshing my email for the hope of good news. I remember being stuck in the Waiting Place where I. had. no. control.
No matter where you are in your own Waiting Place, try to rest in knowing that God already knows the date and time that you will meet your precious child. An ice storm that defers a Fed Ex delivery or a holiday in China isn’t going to change that.
For now, I imagine you glance at the clock and wonder what he’s doing. You check the weather in China and hope that she’s warm enough. And most of all, you pray that he is loved until your family can leave your Waiting Place to bring him home.