Thursday, March 01, 2012

Paper pregnancy

I wanted to try to explain the cause behind adoption-waiting-insanity.  (Yes, I do believe I've coined a new term.)  Everyone understands pregnancy-insanity... the phase when a woman is pregnant and is getting very close to her due date.  She is anxious about the birth, anxious to meet the new baby, usually very uncomfortable, is awash in a sea of raging hormones, her shoes don't fit any longer, and every person she meets feels the need to comment on how large she is.  People get it.  It doesn't stop them from making comments, but they get it.

An adoption, a paper pregnancy, is a little different.  There is nothing obvious about a waiting adoptive parent's physical appearance which makes her stand out as waiting for the arrival of a new child.  There is no set timeline.  With a pregnancy, there is a maximum amount of time that one can be pregnant, not so with an adoption.  There is no maximum, nor is there a minimum.  Adoptions can happen quickly or they can drag on for years.  And while people understand that a baby is growing and developing inside a pregnant woman, fewer people understand the ins and outs of adoption.  It is mysterious and time consuming and filled with a language all its own.

But they are more similar than you might expect.  A woman, while she is pregnant is getting to know the little person growing inside her.  Each baby has its own distinct personality and the expectant mother can begin to sense what her baby will be like based on her movement.  She imagines what this baby is going to be like and what it will be like to add him to the family.  She learns to love her baby before she is born by doing this.  Of course, we all know that life with a newborn is never quite like the imagined dreams before the baby is born.  The new mother has to learn what this real, live baby is like and in a sense get to know him all over again.  For some mothers this getting-to-know-you phase is easy and painless and the baby melds into the family as if she had always been there.  For other mothers, these early weeks and months are difficult and there is relief when the baby is older and settled and life goes back to new normal.

This is exactly what happens with an adoption.  As parents wait to bring a new child home, they begin to imagine what this new person is going to be like.  Because there is often little information, all sources that can provide even the smallest scrap are sought out and devoured.  All the little clues are gone over and over and over again in the hopes of constructing what this real child is like.  And in the process the parents fall in love with their child, often with just one or two pictures to look at.  In the time of waiting, the child becomes theirs.  Their child, but not in their home or with any power or say in what the child is currently experiencing.

I think this is why adoption waits are so particularly painful.  Often the adoption will ultimately take place, especially once a point has been reached when all official papers have been approved.  But, every delay is a day or week or month that is missed with this child we have grown to love.  A day or week or month that can never be replaced.

If you have not experienced adoption, imagine one of your children, one of those children whom you love and who lives in your home, is suddenly separated from you.  You have no control over what is happening to them and the only thing you can do to get them back is to fill out stacks and stacks of paperwork and wait.  You would ache for the child you are missing.  You would cry that they were not with you.  You would be angry at any delay that caused a longer separation.  You would despair that you would ever see that child again.

I know it is not quite an accurate analogy, but it comes very, very close.  Of course, the child we imagined is not the same as the child in reality.  There is an adjustment of expectations as reality takes over.  It can take time to learn to love this new, real child, or it can come instantly.  Just as with a newborn and her parents.  The trick is to be willing to give up the fantasy for the real child in front of you.  But just because this can be difficult, does not negate the amount of love that was required in the first place.

To be in a place where you yearn for a child, yet know that you don't really know the child. To want so desperately to bring her home, yet are a little fearful about what the future will look like.  To wonder when it will happen, or if it will happen.  This is a difficult place to live for any amount of time, much less an unknown amount of time. It all boils down to adoption-insanity.  Thankfully it's not a permanent state.
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Remember a while back when I posted the links about the children starving and languishing in orphanages?  Well, if you were like me, you desperately wanted to do something to help them, but probably didn't know what.  Now this is something you can do.  There is a hospital and doctor who have committed to helping the children who remain in a particularly horrendous orphanage.  They are donating their time and expertise, but there is still a need for funds for transportation and other medical expenses.  Head over to No Greater Joy Mom to read the details and more importantly to donate to this very worthy cause.  Even a small amount of money will help these children.

2 comments:

Shonya said...

Very well said--you express the process quite well!! I think it's good to share, especially for those who don't understand from personal experience or are considering adoption themselves.

Annette said...

I agree with Shonya. Very well said. Thanks for putting these thoughts and emotions down on "paper." I hope you don't mind if I link this post to my blog. I can't wait until you bring your little H home!

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