When it comes to adopting a baby, everyone knows that waiting is a big part of the process.
If you have a family member or friend who’s waiting now, sometimes it can feel like it’s the only part.
That can be tough on the waiting parent. But it can also be tough on you.
You may be anxious to help, but you may not know what to do. Or you may be worried about getting in the way.
To be sure, adopting a baby is complicated and can make for some awkward moments.
One thing you need to know is that there’s no direct path to do it. There’s no one clear way to get from Point A to Point B.
The other thing to keep in mind is that there is no set wait time. While some couples bring home a baby in a few months, most hopeful parents wait longer, sometimes a few years.
Here are 7 ways you can help a family member or friend as they try to adopt a baby.
1. Be a listening ear
Your friend may look like she’s got everything under control. She may seem like she’s doing okay. At least on the surface.
But given how unpredictable adopting a baby can be, chances are she’ll run into some rough patches and experience some curve balls along the way. You may not always understand what’s happening to her, and that’s okay. But there is one thing you can do for her: Listen and be there when she needs you.
2. Don’t judge
It’s hard to witness a loved one struggle. But struggling through adoption’s emotional highs and lows is a big part of the process. And while it’s tempting to want to jump in and offer advice, sometimes the best thing you can do is to just leave things be.
Yes, we all want wants best for our loved ones. And even though we think we know better, it’s their journey. They’re the ones who have to go through it. So, for the sake of your friendship, keep an open mind and refrain from offering your opinion unless you’re specifically asked for it.
3. Show your encouragement and support
Adoption is such a misunderstood topic that it may have taken a lot of courage for your loved one to share their story with you. And there’s a good reason why they did it. Building a family is one of life’s most important milestones and they wanted you to be part of it.
They may even felt that telling you would make the path smoother for them. Don’t let them down. Instead of giving them quizzical or disapproving looks, show your support. Be a cheerleader. Let them know they can count on you, whether it be in helping them spread the word or just being a sounding board.
4. Don’t Bombard Them With Questions
Adoption may be new to you. And understandably you’ll have questions about it. What does open adoption mean? How does the process work? How long is the average wait? How do you find a birthmother match?
There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. But don’t overdo it. For one thing, your friend or family member may not have all the answers.
And for another, they may not feel like answering them. And that includes the biggest, most annoying question of all waiting parents get asked when they’re waiting: “Any news?” Believe us, if your friend or family have any news on the baby front, they would tell you when they’re ready to do so.
5. Keep your adoption horror stories to yourself
This goes without saying. But we’ll say it any way: Keep your horror stories to yourself. When couples wait to give birth, we don’t remind them about the story of the botched delivery or the baby with birth defects.
Talking about a baby that joins a family through adoption is no different. Just because you know someone who had a bad adoption experience doesn’t mean that your friend will have one too. No two stories are alike. Your friend’s has yet to be written. Let it unfold the way it’s meant it.
6. Don’t be a know it all
We’ve all heard of the story of the couple who adopted just after they sent out their parent profile. Some of us have heard the story of the couple who adopted without sending out a parent profile.
Odds are, your family or friend will have heard those stories as well. So do them a favour: don’t bring them up. When you’re waiting to adopt, the last thing you want to hear is about someone who adopted before you.
Yes, at first glance, it may sound inspiring. But that kind of inspiration wears off very quickly and even though you’re just trying to help, it could backfire. Your friend could come away from the experience asking herself, why them? Why not me? And start to wonder whether her turn will come up at all.
7. Offer to help
Adopting a baby isn’t for the faint of heart. Besides the emotional toll it takes, there’s also mounds of paperwork to get through. And that takes time. Lots of time.
Even if your friend or family member hasn’t asked you outright, there’s a good chance they could use a hand. If they’re just starting the process, you could offer to write them a reference letter for their home study.
But even if there’s further along, there’s lots of things you can do. You can prepare a meal for them. Take them out to dinner. Get a pedicure together. Go shopping. Babysit if they have children. You can even throw them an adoption baby shower. Every little bit helps.
The wait to adopt can feel endless, and often hopeless, when you’re a hopeful adoptive parent. As an adoptive couple who waited years between adoptions, we can tell you that anything you can do to help your family member or friend during this tough, unpredictable time will be great appreciated and be remembered by them for years to come.
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