"Hurry up and wait" is an appropriate motto for adopting parents. Here are some thoughts to ease the pain of waiting for what will seem like forever.
If you are currently awaiting the arrival of your child, you're probably experiencing the same feelings we did before the call came to bring home our daughter. Those of you who have been through the waiting process will recall your own feelings and recognize these stages.
Looking back on those seemingly interminable months, I can identify five distinct stages of waiting.
Five Stages of Waiting
1. A Distant Ache
Having made the decision to adopt from a foreign country, we began exploring and were led to a wonderful agency, Bay Area Adoption Services. Beginning with the Information Night, our waiting became a distant ache, a remote sense that our life, though happy, was not yet complete.
2. A Glimmer of Hope
Through the agency, we met families who had traveled the road before us. Their success converted our fantasies into realistic hope. Encouraged, we embarked upon the "great paper chase" which kept us so busy baring body and soul that we had little time to long for the faceless child we knew was "somewhere out there beneath the pale moon sky."
3. It Isn't Fair!
The waiting got even tougher once we made contact with a source who agreed to help us find a child. Days became weeks, spawning the bewildered complaint, "Why, with millions of homeless kids in the world . . . ?" The concept of the adoption agency as "family" took on new meaning during this time. Questions about documents and procedures begged for and received patient answers from staff and "veteran" adoptive parents.
4. All of a Sudden . . .
Early on March 19, our phone rang. A call from our attorney San Salvador. "A little girl is available!” Suddenly it was like "Wheel of Fortune." We had fifteen seconds to give an answer that would change our lives--and that of a far-off child. We were told that the child was in general good health, but malnourished. The exact words were: "With good nutrition, love, and affection, this little flower will bloom." Esther looked to me for help. I shrugged and beamed a "Go for it!" smile. The brief conversation ended with as many unanswered questions as there were miles between us and our child.
5. Hard-Core Waiting
A week later, we received the first picture of our little girl. She was 99% ours (allowing 1% for a possible reversal). Then, began a period of "hard core" waiting. On March 31, 1987, we wrote a letter to our daughter who was waiting for us in an orphanage in San Salvador, El Salvador. In simple "Tex-Mex" Spanish, we did our best to expressed what was in our hearts: "You are beautiful. We love you. We can't wait for you to come and live with us so we can hold you and kiss you."
Adopting a child sight unseen was scary in itself. The paperwork was a bear. But nothing compared on the scale of difficulty to the empty waiting for it all to come together. The legal process snaked its way through the Salvadoran adoption court, but it would be mid-summer before she would be ours to bring home. Daily, we looked at our daughter's picture. She looked like a frightened little bird. The words of our attorney sustained us through this period: "With good nutrition, love and affection, this little flower will bloom."
And has she ever! Monica is now 18. She's a sweet and wonderful person, a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, and a joy to everyone she meets. Well worth the wait.
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Alfred J. Garrotto lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two adopted daughters, now in their late teens. His novel, Finding Isabella (Genesis Press, 2000) is the story of an adoptee who returns to her native country in search of her birth mother.
Copyright ( c ) 2001 by Alfred J. Garrotto
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For permission to reprint this article, contact Mr. Garrotto at alg.blsinc.com.