Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Advice from T

          So far in our wait we have had two disappointments with the waiting child list. Without getting into details, I'll say that both events were difficult for me. They were difficult for T also, but he's much better at recovering from disappointment. Equanimity is T's middle name. I asked T for advice on how to move on after a match doesn't work out, and his advice was pretty good, so I asked him to write a guest post. Here it is, complete with a graph, because Lovable Nerd is T's other middle name.

Emotionally Surviving the Wait

Step 1: Be prepared. Before diving into applications, home-study, and dossier work K and I did some reading on adoption (K far more than me) and attended some information sessions. We did enough research to know adoption was going to be an emotionally draining process. For statistics geeks out there, Figure 1 shows the normal distribution of adoptions along the continuum from “nightmare” to “sunshine and daisies.”


For those of you who are not statistics geeks, this graph has a very simple explanation. Ninety-five percent of adoptions will fit into the blue shaded zone, meaning they will be emotionally exhausting. Only a handful of adoptions will go so smoothly that they fit into the “sunshine and daisies” category. However, it is also important to note that only a handful will fit into the “nightmare” category.
          There are a few points that can be made by this graph. First, when the emotional roller coaster hits, think back to this graph and remember, this is what we signed up for. Second, and this is very important, if you think you are having a sunshine and daisies adoption, don’t let your guard down. Chances are, something will happen to draw you into the shaded zone and you should be prepared for that eventuality. Finally, if you think you’re having a nightmare adoption process, chances are you’re not and you might benefit from talking to others in the adoption community at various stages of the process. These conversations will probably help you understand that your experience is “normal.”

Step 2: Understand your emotions. It is important to remember that because of the circumstance your emotions can be on a hair trigger. Think about it: you’re getting ready to add a child or children to your family for the rest of your life. You don’t need me to tell you that this is not a trivial event, but be aware of how the gravity affects your emotional response. This goes for the ups as well as the downs. While the ups feel good when you’re experiencing them be aware that a setback can bring you back down. If your emotions were already running high, albeit a good high, the swing in emotion will probably be more severe in response to the setback.

Step 3: Attach to children not ideas. There may be times during the process where you feel very close to being matched with a child for adoption. You may have seen pictures, or even have been offered a referral, but for whatever reason it doesn’t work out. This will probably be one of the hardest times of the process because the promise will send you to a high emotional state and the let down will feel severe.
My advice in these situations is to approach with extreme caution. The tendency is to get very excited, and I understand this. However, with this excitement your mind starts racing, you look at the picture, and in your mind you’re holding that child. You imagine him/her running around the orphanage playing, or running around in your back yard playing with the dogs. You’re becoming attached to this child before s/he even knows you exist.
Attachment post-adoption is very important; pre-adoption attachment may be counter-productive. If all you have is a picture and basic information about the child, chances are you’re not getting attached to a child, you’re getting attached to an idea. I try to avoid the inclination to let my mind wander into the "what could be" realm because it only serves to make loss of the referral/match more difficult to deal with. Additionally, if you become attached to the idea of a child, the reality of that child could be very different, which in itself could cause hard feelings.

Step 4: Let go. If your referral/match doesn’t work out I recommend thinking of the event as “what happened” as opposed to “what happened to me”. At this point what happened is now in your family's history. Worrying about what happened or where the child(ren) will end up won't help coping. Look forward to the match that will eventually work for your family. Don’t take it personally, and don’t waste time ruminating over what you could have done differently. Remember it is “what happened” in this situation. Next time it may be different.

          This is my advice for dealing with the ups and downs of the waiting process. I’m sure the post-referral period involving travel, court, embassy and first family visits will have some intense emotional moments. Being in the waiting period I can’t speak on these events. Maybe when we are at that part of the process K will ask me for another guest post.

Hope this helps,
T

18 comments:

  1. The Wait, before and after a referral, is no joke. Tab's bell curve applies to either stage. Love this post. I'm sorry to hear you guys have dealt with some disappointments; this journey isn't easy and often takes unexpected turns.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love this! Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts. I needed to read this today. Katy

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is fantastic Tabb. : )

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I was changing gears a bit since the last thing I wrote about on my blog was the roadkill I see on my bicycle commute.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a great post! We are also a waiting family (13.5 months)--and I think I remember from an earlier post that we are using the same agency.

    I'm sorry you've had disappointments--I especially liked the advice of not getting to attached to "ideas" (I'm guilty!)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Michele, I'm very guilty of attaching to ideas. I did it with men before I met my husband, and I'm doing it with waiting children too. It's something I'm working on constantly.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is a great post! I'm sorry you've dealt with some disappointments lately. We also recently looked into a waiting child and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how NON-attached I got to the idea of that particular child. I guess I've learned how to keep my guard up through all of this. My husband was amazed at how I handled it (he had no faith in me, apparently!) :) But it is all so very tough. Hang in there.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks, Kelly. My husband has been a rock through all this (it's kind of his general approach to life) so I am getting through it OK.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Kyra, I hear you on that one! I have the same problem--it's a toughie. Hang in there...I am sure it will all be worth it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is just so fantastic. I wish I had read it years ago..... it is such a journey. I remember clearly our social worker telling me it would be a roller coaster. It was....more than we ever expected. But in the end we got off, readjusted and are thankful for it!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Just wanted to comment and say hi. I found your blog on The Sweetest Thing's blog roll a few weeks ago and have been reading ever since - we seem to have a similar slant on the world. My husband and I brought home our kiddos from Ethiopia 5 months ago - a 5 year old boy and a 6 year old girl, both waiting kids. Hang in there. The waiting does drive you batty (I don't know how many times I sobbed on my way to work), but its so worth it in the end. And, yes, it is easy to get attached to ideas and I don't really think that's too bad of a thing as long as you don't let it drag you too far down when the idea changes. When we got our referral I had to take nearly a week to reconstruct the vision I had in my head to the reality of our referral - things turned out perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great post Tabb! It should be required reading for everyone going through the adoption process. And hold onto that bell curve for post-adoption!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for all the kind comments. @dcorey, I agree, if you're good at letting go it is not terrible to get attached to ideas. However, as Kyra stated we have recently had some disappointments with the waiting children list, this has been a hard reality. We have also recently learned that because of the policies of our agency we will probably be requesting waiting child matches in the future. That said, for sanity's sake we want to keep a cool head when reviewing each case and remember we have not adopted until we have adopted.

    @kareydk, Thanks, Kyra will probably tell you I see the world through bell curve glasses. The bell curve is going nowhere soon.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Tabb--I'm curious about which policies from your agency you mean that will change your decision making to a waiting child? If you would rather email me, you can click on my profile- my email's listed there :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Michele,
    All I meant is that certain children automatically go to the waiting child list despite the fact there are PAPs on the waiting list whose homestudy/CIS matches that child. Because of this some children that meet our criteria will end up on the waiting children list. We've already seen it happen once, which is how we learned about the policy.
    -Tabb

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ahh. I see. Thanks for explaining!

    ReplyDelete
  17. i love the graph. i have a phd in math and am also agnostic (atheist?) and also want to adopt from ethiopia, so i'm glad i found your blog :). oh and i'm from NC but now live in CO. anyway, good luck in the process!!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I don't know how I missed this post but had to say that I too LOVE it! I'm going to come back and re-read this from time to time to help me keep perspective, thanks Tabb!

    ReplyDelete