An Opportune Moment: Working on Mindfulness During the Great Wait

Ethan column topper

It’s no big secret among those who know me best that I have a hard time with things that are out of my control. I’m not great with the great unknown that is this weird space in between all the getting-ready-to-adopt stuff and the bringing home of the actual kid(s).  I know, I know, there are a lot of other people in this very boat – or ones who have been here. And despite my impatience and eagerness to move on to the next step, I  am trying to adopt (pun completely intended) the attitude that it will happen when it happens, and, if all those other adoptive parents are right, whenever it does happen for us – that will turn out to be just the right time.

waiting roomPart of my trouble, other than the whole lack of control and uncertainty about a timeline thing is my I’m-trying-so-hard-to-change-this-character-trait-but-I’ve-had-32-years-of-practice glass-half-empty perspective. A prime example that comes up each time we pass another monthly marker, which I feel oddly compelled to mention each and every time: “we’ve been waiting x months now.”  Except it’s not just that, it’s “we’ve already been waiting X months” (3as of December 24th).  Each time I say it, I hear a logical and assuring wifely voice beside me say “we’ve only been waiting 3 months…” And she’s right – all those months we were enduring The Great Wait prior to beginning the adoption process – well, they don’t count. The many months of the paperwork process? Nope, they don’t count either. Not officially.  Yep, like it or not, the Great Wait officially began on September 24th, a mere three months ago.

Although I do succumb to them every now and then, it’s obviously neither helpful nor productive to wallow around in thoughts like these. Rather than sit around moping and twiddling our thumbs, we might as well do something, even if it’s an intangible something, while we’re waiting.  We’re both happily self-professed nerds, and that wifely voice I hear every day happens to belong to a professional counselor, so we’re occupying our time in two rather ingrained ways: we’re learning, and we’re reflecting.  While it’s not making the time fly by, it’s helping us do something important: be more mindful of how far we’ve come and where we are in this moment – with an eye on the future, yes, but trying, trying, trying to keep our heads as much in the present as possible.

Here are a few of the things we’re doing to be more mindful and in the present during our Great Wait – maybe they’ll be useful for where you are in your process:

Mental preparation

We’ve read stacks of adoption books.  Stacks and stacks.  Kids’ books and true-life stories and scholarly stuff, too.  When we started this process, and for the majority of 2013, we practically oozed adoption out of our pores. We got to a point where we just needed to step away from intellectualizing about it quite so much. Mindful of our need for a break, for now we’ve moved on to books about parenting in general.  Like all pre-adoptive folks, we’re operating on the expectation that the Great Wait will eventually end with the intended result – and we don’t want to show up at the hospital and say, “Fantastic! Just what we were hoping for! Now what do we do?!”

While keeping an eye on our parenting future, we’ve also realized that this moment – this stressful and however lengthy moment – is a time to focus on maintaining our solid relationship as a couple.  Stress, busy-ness, doubt, frustration – all enemies of a solid relationship.  We’ve found it really important to disengage from all of this for a while every now and then and just be.  That’s it.  Just be.

Check that Tone, Negative Nancy

Many of the adoption books and particularly the personal adoption blogs we read and are still reading, have been super helpful and have given us a lot of insight on how things might or might not go.  Others were…well, the opposite. The big wide world of blogging is a fantastic place and it’s been such a useful way to connect with people who share and don’t share my views and experiences – but it can also be a black hole of doubt and despair.  Early on I encountered a few adoption and anti-adoption blogs like that and pretty quickly learned that for my own mental well-being, I had to move on.  A sea of doubt, negativity, and anger can absolutely stall out any thoughts of being happy with where we are and that we’ve made the right choices for our family-to-be.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that some of this stuff comes from bad real-life experiences with adoption and situations that aren’t what people had hoped for, and there’s absolutely a place for that – but right now, at this moment, I know that I need to distance myself from that.  And in thinking about my own blog, when I have a tendency to get bogged down in doubt and have thoughts of “we’ve already been waiting…” I need to check myself.  Nobody likes a Negative Nancy, and if I allowed myself to succumb to that attitude and incorporated it into our blog—which is not only a record of our adoption process, but also a family-love letter to our child and his or her birth parents—well, what kind of message is that? Those are the thoughts of a moment – they aren’t me or us in total, and I don’t want that to be the take-away from our story.  And besides, that doesn’t give much credit to the family and friends who have really been so supportive and caring and affirming of each curve in our road so far. Remembering that, ain’t nobody got time for negativity.

Comparison Really Is A Thief of Joy – Ours and Everyone Else’s

For a while, we were neck-and-neck with another couple whose blog we follow that started the adoption process the same time we did.  We were filling out similar bits of paperwork at the same time, waiting for our home study reports at the same time, we even managed to get “in the books” with our respective agencies within three days of each other. They now have a son, a beautiful little dude that has turned them into the sleep-deprived but still glowing parents we’ll be someday.

And I am ashamed to admit that when I first read their news, ever so briefly, some sort of not-exactly-jealousy-but-not-overwhelming-joy-either threatened to occupy space in my mind.  I did sincerely and wholeheartedly congratulate them on their new son – because I am truly happy for them.  I am.  And still, I found myself struggling with a wave of doubt and fear. It’s absolutely not that I wanted to take away the joy that this sweet couple has – they seem like great people and I really hope we get to meet them in person one day.  No, it was the fear that others would continue to get chosen to parent a child and we wouldn’t.  All of a sudden, in my mind, it’s like we were in the biggest dodgeball team choose-up of our lives and we were going to be the proverbial nerdy kid with the glasses that was left kicking rocks because nobody wanted us on their team.

The thing is, adoption is not akin to the t-shirt cannon at a pep rally, or catching a foul ball at a game. Being jealous of someone else or getting mired up in doubt and fear because another couple realized their dream of growing their family with the child that was really and truly meant for them – had I entertained these thoughts instead of dismissing them for what they are – well, it would’ve just brought everyone down.  Not comparing myself to others is maybe one of the hardest learned lessons of this Great Wait (so far).   I know we have a lot to offer, and I know we’ll be good parents.  It’ll happen for us, too.

Seasons Change

This season of our lives, though it seems like it’s dragging by, is just a season, and seasons do change.  It will be the springtime of our adoption story one day.  In the meantime, however long that time is, we’re making some adjustments in our perception and working on appreciating where we are right now.  That’s quite enough to be going on with for the moment.

About the author:
Ethan is the co-writer (with his wife, *A*), of their personal open adoption blog, The Littlest Brooks-Livingston, which chronicles the occasionally trying, sometimes humorous, and always introspective dips and curves in the road to bringing home their first child through open adoption.  Ethan,  a recovering English major who has since moved on to another (more employable) area of the Liberal Arts, resides in Western North Carolina.

Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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7 thoughts on “An Opportune Moment: Working on Mindfulness During the Great Wait

  1. This is a beautiful post! I love that you are focusing on mindfulness right now … it certainly is a valuable life skill and one that will absolutely serve you well when you are chosen to parent.

    I think reading parenting books is a really great idea – we focused more on the adoption books before we brought our daughter home and had A LOT of catching up to do in the first few months of parenting. Parenting through adoption really is a unique situation, but in addition to all the adoption stuff, we have to do all of the “normal” parenting things too … adoption is only one piece of our family make-up, not the whole thing.

    I am totally with you on setting boundaries as to what you’re going to read online and what you’re not. There really are some sad stories out there and who knows, maybe our kids/their birth families will have similar stories, but … I too need to hold on to the hope that we’re doing the right thing and that there are happy endings out there too.

    Seasons do change … and very quickly at that! That is one of the very interesting parts about adoption … our spring time is sprung on us with absolutely no warning! I love how you put this in perspective and understand that despite the lack of control, your spring time is coming.

    Thanks for this post! It’s a great reminder of being mindful … through the wait and through the parenting journey as well.

    • I’m glad you found something to connect with in this post – as I re-read it now, it seems like a lengthy note to self more than anything. It’s good to hear from people on the other side of the wait – thanks for reading and for the encouragement!

  2. “This season of our lives, though it seems like it’s dragging by, is just a season, and seasons do change. It will be the springtime of our adoption story one day.”
    Just beautifully written.

  3. We had your attitude & even actions during our wait. I second the idea of reading parenting books now. We still are trying to catch up 5 years later. We made a list of everything we wanted to do before a baby arrived…from cleaning basement to visiting New Orleans. We posted this list in our bathroom as a daily reminder of all that filled or could fill our present moment & distract us. We were shocked at how few things we actually accomplished in the end. A friend told me to enjoy being engaged because that phase of our relationship, of planning our future together would never come again. Same with the wait for a child….the delicious & dreadful anticiption – the unfetteredness of life without a child won’t ever happen to you again. (And asking….are we there yet? Never got the care to go any faster or the distance needed to travel any less.)

  4. Terrific advice. Where were this 12 years ago when I needed this? ;-)

    This, especially: “it’s like we were in the biggest dodgeball team choose-up of our lives and we were going to be the proverbial nerdy kid with the glasses.” Ha!

    • Thanks for reading – it’s very much a “note to self” on my part. And I really wasn’t much good at dodgeball…though my wife assures me that she has no idea what my metaphor meant, as she was always the one choosing up sides. :)

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