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When the Days Feel Darkest: Waiting, and Wrestling with Fear

Ethan column topper

For some reason, our road to become parents through open adoption has turned me, some days, into a bottomless pit of need for encouragement.

Generally speaking, I am not a needy person. I usually have plenty of whatever it is – chutzpah, perhaps – to make it just fine through most things that I’ve encountered in life. In at least two of those hugely significant, life-changing moments, I’ve had enough of the stuff to be able to ignore some significant obstacles that might’ve derailed others in similar situations and plunge forward to the other side, even without knowing what that “other side” might look like. It wasn’t easy in either of those situations, but I knew what I needed to do and while not completely disregarding the challenges, but not letting them come anywhere close to defeating me, I did what I needed to do. Now that I’m facing another life-changing moment – adoption – I’m flummoxed, as we crawl through the Great Wait, that my former ability to tackle something head-on regardless of the difficulties in the way – the very personality trait I most prided myself on – has seemingly all but vanished, or at least that’s how it looks when some days feel darkest.

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In the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting over where this feeling of deflation is coming from, mostly through eliminating the biggest obvious possibility: it has nothing to do with whether or not open adoption is right for us. We want to parent, and this is the avenue we’ve chosen. Since we made the decision well over a year ago, we haven’t looked back. No, my constant need for encouragement seems to be, whether I want to admit it or not, all about control, or lack thereof.

The several years-long struggle to start a family has made me realize, more than anything else I’ve ever experienced, that while I would not self-identify as an absolute control freak, I have to admit that to feel comfortable, I apparently need to feel a certain element of control in a situation. To some extent, I suppose, everyone has that need – maybe it’s just human nature.

On the pre-adoptive parent side of things, there’s just not much about the open adoption process – especially the Great Wait – that gives a pre-adoptive parent that element of control. We’re past the paperwork process, past the home study, and there’s nothing new to say to our adoption coordinator at our agency. All we can do is work on various ways of getting our story out there in the hopes that we’ll finally connect with someone. That’s not a small thing to do, and there are several tangible and achievable things that we have done and have put on our self-marketing to-do list. All with the full realization that whatever energy, enthusiasm, and finances we put into these actions have no guaranteed result – no “you did this, you completed this list of goals – here’s your tangible hoped-for result (a contact with an expectant parent).” But it is something we can do.

Fear
The deep, dark, ugly monster underneath all of it – the one that has dug this bottomless pit of need for encouragement – is fear.

Fear that all this energy we’ve been putting towards becoming parents for three years now (from the infertility procedures we endured before the decision to adopt, throughout the months of adoption paperwork, and now, well into the Great Wait), will not result in our actually becoming parents.

Fear that we are invisible because after four months, we haven’t yet heard a peep from an expectant parent.

Fear that the pre-adoptive parents we’ve connected with that have been waiting and waiting and waiting for years might not get chosen, and finally make the decision to give up.

Fear that the room we’ve carefully prepared, the stuff we’ve made and bought, the parenting books we’ve read, the crib we’ve assembled – it’s all some elaborate game of make-believe.

Fear that we started on the path to adoption too late – that the child(ren) who will one day share our lives will never get to know some older family members who mean so very much to us and who are some of our biggest cheerleaders.

Fear that, even as I write this, someone will mistake my honesty as only a whiny, woe-is-me moment of total self-involvement and not realize that for every one of these moments, I’m also mindful  that an expectant mother is making maybe the toughest decision of her life in making an adoption plan.   

Mindfulness and Encouragement
In my last column, I wrote about that desire to be more mindful, and how I’m making it a personal goal to fight the tendency to allow negativity to creep into my thoughts. I know what I need to do, though as you can see here, these are certainly not things I’ve managed to conquer or even get a real grip on, just yet.

Relying on my wife, and our friends and family, for support and encouragement on days when things look bleakest is something I cherish. They help pull me out on the darkest of days and remind me that this Great Wait is only temporary.

What No One Talks About
When I think about all those things that led us to open adoption, and all those things we knew and expected to be part of the process, I can’t remember anyone telling us much more than that the wait would be agonizing and to just keep-on-keeping-on.

I just never realized, way back in the beginning, that the adoption process would be anything more than paperwork-homestudy-networking-wait-match-kid-parenthood.

I never realized how many personal challenges I would face – how many unexpected fears would surface that I would need to overcome.

I never realized how much I would need to change as our story continues.

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 Jennifer Ellison / FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Continue reading