We’ve never met but I feel like I know you. You’ve worked long and hard to start your family.
When the fertility treatments weren’t successful—or maybe you skipped them altogether—you moved on to adoption, hopeful that the day would finally come when you would hold your baby in your arms.
You completed your home study (if a house could get a medal for cleanliness yours would have won first prize), created your adoption profile, set up a special “We Are Adopting” page on Facebook and Twitter, and have done pretty much everything you possibly can to turn your adoption dream into a reality.
But so far nothing is working — or at least that’s the way it looks to you — and you’re starting to lose hope.
Sometimes you feel like nothing has happened at all, that you’re just spinning your wheels.
The parent profile that you spent hours agonizing over has received no responses, not even a peep, while at the same time your Facebook feed is filled with announcements about countless of other couple who have successfully adopted.
And the worst part of it is that many of them have been waiting a lot less than you have.
On a good day, you comfort yourself by reminding yourself that your time hasn’t come yet. Your baby hasn’t found you. It will happen. You just need to be patient.
But on a bad day — and let’s be honest, lately you’ve had your share of those — you wonder if you’re just kidding yourself. Time is a-ticking and you’re not getting any younger. Who’s to say a match will ever come — that you’re not waiting in vain?
I hear you. The reason I know you is because I was once in your shoes. I know what you’re going through and how you feel.
I had the same doubts, the same questions, the same fears, the same dashed hopes, when we created our adoption profile and were waiting for an expectant mother to choose us.
But eventually we did get picked. Not once but twice. (Four times, actually, if you include the scam and, later, the fall-through, but that’s another story for another time).
In both cases, we were extremely fortunate. Lucky, too. Here’s what I learned from those experiences.
Manage your expectations
When you started the matching process you might have set a deadline on when you would get chosen. Maybe you gave yourself six months, or a year, or maybe two.
But now the time has come and gone and you’re still waiting and wondering if it will ever happen. Setting deadlines are helpful. They can help you focus and organize your outreach efforts.
Just don’t get too wedded to them. Finding a match is a bit of a crap shoot. I’ve had waiting parents find a match the day after they’ve posted their profile online. I’ve had waiting parents find a match a year, two years, sometimes three years later. I’ve even had waiting parents find a match just before they vowed to throw in the towel.
It can happen tomorrow or it can happen years from now. There is no set time. So much of the process is up in the air and out of your hands.
Yes, there are things you can do to increase your chances of getting noticed, like creating a website or having appealing photos.
But at the end of the day, a lot of it comes down to just plain luck. Being in the right place at the right time.
Or just having things in common with the expectant mother, whether it be the fact that you remind her of a favourite aunt or have the same kind of pet that she had when she was growing up.
So yes, go ahead and set a deadline. Goals and schedules are important. But keep in mind the uncertainty of the process and be prepared to adjust them if necessary.
Change your criteria
When you’re looking for a match, it’s important to know what your limitations are and not to take on more than you can handle.
But putting too many restrictions on your search could paint you into a corner and add to your wait time.
For instance, you may decide to focus your networking efforts locally because you don’t have a budget for travel or aren’t in a position financially to make regular trips after you’ve found a match.
Or you may rule out adopting a special needs baby because you’re only interested in a healthy newborn.
Changing your criteria, sometimes making even minor changes, could open you up to a larger pool of expectant parents and potentially increase your chances of finding a match.
For instance, increasing your search parameters geographically may be easier than you think. Thanks to tools like Skype and Facebook, keeping in touch face-to-face has never been more convenient.
Plus, with a bit of planning, you could get access to cheaper airfares and hotel stays and not have to worry about breaking the back when it comes to travel.
And in regards to special needs, there are no guarantees about the health of your child whether you have him biologically or through adoption.
Plus, the term itself covers a broad spectrum of conditions.
Upon further review, you might decide that while you’re not equipped to deal with more serious health issues, you would be open to taking on mild or correctable conditions, which again could make you more viable to expectant parents and have a positive effect on your wait time.
Get out of your comfort zone and try new things
There is no rhyme or reason when it comes to finding a match. Every expectant parent is different and as a result is looking for different things.
So for starters, there’s no point second guessing yourself and trying to be someone you’re not. Because the fact is, you just don’t know what she’s looking for. Be yourself, and have faith that eventually the right person will come along and chose you for who you are.
But that doesn’t mean you should just stand still and hand over control of your networking efforts to your professionals. If you do, you could be waiting a long time.
Adoption matches don’t work that way. It’s not a question of waiting your turn until you get to the top of the list. In order to get chosen, you need to do whatever you can to stand out and set yourself apart. And the more places and ways you can get yourself noticed, the more chances you’ll have of getting picked.
Create a website. Get active on social media. Or consider joining our adoption profiles. If one thing doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try something else. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. For instance, when it comes to getting yourself out there, word of mouth is still your most effective tool.
On the other hand, you may tell yourself that you’re a shy person and you’re uncomfortable with sharing your adoption journey with strangers. I totally understand that. But you need to assess the rewards and the risks. And in this case, I would say that the rewards outweigh the risks.
Adoption networking is a unique process. Chances are, you’ve never done anything like it before. So be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and try new things.
Look into foster care. After all, you never know what will work and eventually lead you to the child that’s waiting for you.
Don’t blame yourself
You wake up every day wondering if this will be the day when you finally find a match. But then the day goes by and nothing happens. No calls. No emails. Nada.
When that happens, it’s easy to dwell on what you’re doing wrong. To take your eyes off the prize and wonder what you don’t have or what you lack rather than to remind yourself of all the things you do have going for you.
For whatever reason, you may feel like you’re not enough. Not young enough. Not successful enough. Not outgoing enough.
Don’t beat yourself up. Adoption is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll need all the energy and stamina you can muster to get you through it.
And nothing will suck the wind out of your sails faster than focusing on your perceived flaws and drawbacks. Plus, it’s counter-productive.
It assumes that every expectant mother is looking for the same thing, and that you don’t have it, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
As mentioned, each case is different. Just because you haven’t been chosen so far doesn’t mean that you’ll never get chosen.
Stranger things have happened. A match could, and often does, happen at any time, often when we least expect it.
Be good to your partner and yourself
Adoption is a team effort. Not only do you need support and guidance from your social worker or agency or licensee.
But having your partner on board can also smooth the bumps along the road and give your journey and your spirits a boost.
So it’s important that you’re both on the same page. When one of you is having a bad day, it’s nice to have someone in your corner who you can lean on and can keep you moving forward.
Many couples talk about the stress and strain of adoption: on their lives, on their relationship, on their marriage.
And though adoption can create tension and spark disagreements, it can also bring couples closer together and strengthen their bond and their resolve to become parents. I know that’s what happened in our case.
Eat well, exercise regularly, and get a good night’s sleep. Adoption is an exhaustive and often exhausting process.
You’ll need to stay strong and hang in for the long haul, especially if, as is often the case, unexpected things come up and throw a wrench into your plans.
There aren’t a lot of things about the adoption placement process that you have control over. There are so many unknowns, so many ups and downs.
But one thing you can control is your attitude. You basically have two choices as you go through the process: you can be miserable or you can be positive.
Being miserable won’t help reach your goal any faster. In fact, it will only drag you down. So why not be positive?
It will make your life easier, and chances are your attitude will rub off on others and encourage them to rally around you and help you reach your goal. The fact it, they’ll want you to succeed.
Staying positive isn’t just a choice. It can also be an effective strategy that can make the hard parts of your journey more bearable and even influence its outcome.
Finding an adoption match is a complicated process. And if you’re not careful, you could do things that will make it even more complicated for you and add to your wait time.
Understanding that the process is unpredictable, it’s important to embrace the uncertainty, adjust your expectations, and be prepared to move out of your comfort zone.
Trying new things could not only help you find a match faster. They could also give you new skills and confidence that will benefit you once you become a parent.
Help us raise awareness about adoption. Like us on Facebook.