In Kids & Family

"Motherfest" is an OnMIlwaukee.com-exclusive column about parenting.

Motherfest: Waiting for the adopted kid to come home sucks

Since I experienced both pregnancy and international adoption, people often ask me about the similarities and differences of raising an adopted and biological child. This is difficult to answer. In short, the relationships are equally as strong, but different. I'll leave it at that for now.

However, I often get asked which was more difficult, pregnancy or the adoption process, and this is much easier to answer. The adoption process. Absolutely. Pregnancy's weight gain, heart burn, hormonal hardships, mental blocks and inability to sleep soundly were feathers in comparison to the weight of waiting for the Guatemalan court system to give us the green light to pick up our son. We were gagged and bound with red tape, all the while knowing we had a son somewhere who was being raised by a person we didn't know.

In retrospect, our wait for Kai was a very average experience, even though at the time it felt like forever. We accepted the referral when he was 3 weeks old, and he came home at almost 9 months. However, waiting, no matter how long, is unbelievably stressful and sorrowful.

The hardest part was not finalizing Kai's adoption in time for Christmas. Around Halloween, my husband's grandmother said she "just knew" our baby would be home for the holidays, and I believed her. Of course I don't feel any ill will towards dear ol' granny, but her declaration made the fact that he wasn't home even harder.

So, we wrapped a half dozen presents for Kai even though we knew he wouldn't be able to open them on Christmas, Hanukkah or Yule. (We're loco for holidays and celebrate all of the above.) Since we had an artificial tree, we decided to leave it up until he came home. I'm not sure if this was a good idea or a bad one.

Seeing that tree in the living room, with my son's unopened presents scattered beneath it in January and February and March and April was a visual reminder that we were still waiting. One particularly frustrating day, when I was told our case had been bounced out of court, I kicked one of the presents across the room. Luckily it was a stuffed duck.

(And sure enough, the very first night we got home from Guatemala with our wild-haired baby, we opened his presents. He really liked the duck.)

A few adoptive parents told me that once he was home, I would start to forget about the frustrating wait, but it's been five years and I remember it all very vividly and know that I always will.

While waiting for Kai I lost too much weight, drank a small vineyard of wine and got stress-related shingles in my mouth. I look back on my creative work during that time and find it shallow and unfocused. I cried all the time.

I also, for the first time, used retail therapy as a form of self-soothing. It's weird, but for some reason, buying little socks and soft books made me feel like I was a tiny bit in control of my son's life.

Maybe I was so upset because I visited my son for 10 days when he was 8 weeks old, and then got on a plane back to the United States without him. (We sat next to a couple who was also returning to the U.S., but they had their Guatemalan daughter on their lap.) Then again, I probably would have been a basket case even if we hadn't visited, because he was my child from the very first time I saw his picture attached to an e-mail saying, "Here is a baby boy for you to consider."

I know I am lucky because my son came home, and there are stories floating around out there of babies who didn't or are still caught in the process, but I will always carry the pain of waiting deep in my bones. It tested me. It aged me.

But it also taught me patience, that oh-so-important trait few of us have enough of but so desperately need as a parent.

Now, the memories of waiting and pining are practically my faith, and they get me through rough times as a parent, like when Kai dumped a can of water on my husband's new iBook.

After weeping with frustration in the bathroom, I thought about the wait and how badly I wanted him home to coo and goo and even make messes in my house. I remembered the pain of separation and the frustration of being completely out of control of his life, and I felt better. Well, a little bit.

Talkbacks

Bella | Jan. 16, 2008 at 3:39 p.m. (report)

Also, if you are considering a Chinese Adoption and are older than 45, be forwarned that your baby might be around 4 years old by the time you bring her home

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dhoneybunny | Jan. 10, 2008 at 6:35 p.m. (report)

Thank you for your heartwarming story. It's a real comfort to know that I am not the first person to ever feel this way. I just hope that like the pain of labor (from biological birth) that this pain will fade with time and the joy of my son in my arms.

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college_dave | Jan. 10, 2008 at 4:54 p.m. (report)

No matter what any body says about any thing, the article was one heck of a nice piece of literary work to read. As a reader, I thank you for being so honest about it all no matter how ever you chose to word it. Which, of course, I think was just fine. Great job.

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julp | Jan. 10, 2008 at 10:51 a.m. (report)

Molly, Thank you for such a personal article. As another parent going through the Guatemalan adoption process, it is nice to not feel alone in the waiting game. Our first son went through the process quickly. We are now waiting to bring home our daughter and, as each day passes, it sucks more. I was tempted to buy Christmas presents myself, but I don't think I could have held off as long as you. Now I struggle with her 1st birthday approaching quickly. I think this whole process is something people must experience themselves before they can judge. It's like riding a roller coaster, only it sucks until the ride it finished.

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Bella | Jan. 9, 2008 at 7:34 p.m. (report)

OK, if all you can point out is the word 'sucks' or grammar mistakes, you are a pathetic excuse for a human being. That is NOT what this article is about. My Aunt and Uncle are waiting for their Chinese baby(one is already home) and it seems like every time we see them, they say it will be longer. Adoption is always a long, frustrating process and it SUCKS

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