I have found an amazing group of families who grew or are growing through Korean adoption both online and in person. We’re a group of people that just get it. A new photo or a new update that simply says the child sprouted a new tooth is enough for a full-on celebration among friends. These friendships are a gift.
Because we’re adopting an older child from a Korean orphanage, a lot of the stuff that goes into what they are going forward with isn’t the same as us. (Nursery, baby carriers, cribs, foster parents, etc…whereas we are going through a full-speaking in Hangul child, kindergarten/preschool, transition from orphanage to home life…etc…) But it seems like recently, some of my new friends keep getting this “thing”, this “phrase” tossed their way by well-intended friends. But today, I’m here to graciously help you see why this phrase isn’t really getting the “warm fuzzy feelings” you probably expect it is getting.
If you’re going through Korean adoption right now or know someone who is, chances are good you know that, despite it being mid-January 2012 right now, they have not let any EP’s even get so far as submitted. This is the last step for many of us waiting. Last year, they submitted the first working day of the year, so we all assumed the same would be done this year. Our agencies don’t know why and the Korean agencies can only wait for the government to allow them to submit.
We sit. We wait. We know nothing. Day after day we wake up and jump on our computers hoping we got an email that gives us more info. When we find we didn’t get an email, we head to our “group” to see if anyone from any of the three Korean agencies got any email. Then, when we realize that another day has gone by without news, we try our best to brush off the sadness, the empty unknown feelings and put a smile on…for you! For you and our family and our friends so that we don’t look completely insane.
It seems that lately the phrase that is being said to my friends who were all matched with bitty babies, now waiting for their 18mo+ children to come home is, “It sounds to me like the final weeks of a very long pregnancy!”
First, let me say to you, thank you for reaching out to your friends who are waiting and offering words of encouragement. If it weren’t for the people who check in and offer these words, it would be a mighty hard wait. We love talking about our children in Korea. We love them with all of our hearts and our hearts are breaking in anticipation of them coming home.
Let me be very clear in a very loving way – the wait is not like the final weeks of a pregnancy. Not even close.
When you are pregnant, there is an ending. When you are pregnant, you know that your doctor will take things into his own hands if you reach about 42 weeks in almost all cases. There is an ending. All along you knew that you were going to hopefully be pregnant for 9 months, give or take, and you would give birth to a newborn baby. You knew that, within all likelihood you would take maternity leave, if needed, around this time. Some of you were taken off guard with the delivery of an early baby, but it’s pretty much a guarantee that you will not have a baby past 42 weeks.
Oh, how those 42 weeks can get long. And painful, and exhausting. I remember. I was lucky enough to give birth to two sweet baby boys. I griped, I groaned, I ate my sorrows away, I swelled up like a balloon. It was not pretty. It was hard. There definitely are some similar feelings there.
But, the difference between adoption, any adoption that is not a domestic newborn adoption, is that your friend who is griping, groaning and eating her sorrows away…that baby doesn’t have an exit date. It already exited. It’s a living, breathing child. Every day is a day that that child grows, learns, sleeps, eats, loves without his or her forever family.
Every day, the family that you know that is waiting, every day they miss milestones. Let’s just average that a child comes home from Korea at age 18 months. The families that are waiting for them have missed: the first smile, the first rolling over, the first belly laugh, the first tooth, first foods, crawling, the first steps, the first night they slept all night, the first and likely second Christmas, a birthday and so much more.
When you are pregnant, that baby starts at day one every single time. Every single first is witnessed by the baby’s family. When you are adopting, every day you miss matters. It is not a pregnancy. It is not like a pregnancy. It is so hard to go to bed at night wondering what your child is doing at that moment. Going through Christmas wondering if you should have a gift or two, maybe a stocking for the child that is so far away. And when it’s your child’s first birthday and they live half a world away, deciding if you as a family should have a little cake to celebrate is excruciating.
And unlike pregnancy, with adoption there is no guaranteed “end date”. And right now, when things are in such an unknown place and no one has answers, rumors get started. So far, those of us waiting for EP submission knew we had to make it to Jan 2nd. We got that far with great joy and anticipation. It’s January 11th right now. The joy and anticipation has turned to fear and in our darkest moments, dispair. Rumors of March, April, May, July at the latest are getting thrown around. These months, so far away, are our nightmares.
We love our babies. Some are 1, some are 2, ours is almost 5. We’ve missed so much of their little lives. We chose this path of adding to our family, and with this choice comes the unknowns. Unknowns we have to accept, of course, but the unknowns are hard. Mentally draining hard. We have to sit and decide if we should, yet again, talk about our Korean babies with our children living at home. Should we keep talking about them? How hard is the wait on the siblings? Should we just give it a rest for a week or so? We think about our children living in Korea. Many of them don’t even really realize that they are waiting for their mom and dad at all, but my child does. She knows about us. She knows we’re coming and she knows that we haven’t come yet. My heart breaks for her.
I promise that I say this out of love, friends of my adoption friends. I think that because of my daughter’s age, I don’t get the “it sounds like a long pregnancy” comparison very often. A few times, yes, but it seems like this is a very common phrase used for encouragement from many. Might I make a suggestion?
When you read that your friend is sad, waiting, losing hope, trying to brush off the fear and move on through her day, all we want you to do is simply encourage with a,
- “I’m SO sorry you’re still waiting.”
- “You are doing great, mama! I’m here to listen any time!”
- “How can I help?”
- “Let’s grab dinner so you can tell me all about her!”
- “I’m praying for you!”
And my very favorite thing that was said to me from my brother-in-law, “I can’t wait to meet her! She’s amazing!” I will never forget the time he said that to me. “She’s amazing.” She’s AMAZING! (She really is, I must say.)
We love your support. We actually crave it. We need it. Without it, we wouldn’t make it through this.
Please talk about our child, ask us questions about his/her personality, living conditions, foster parents and siblings or caregivers. Ask us how much he/she weighs, what we still need to shop for. Ask if our babies have teeth yet, or if they have a picture in their purse to show you. And complement our babies and their cuteness because they are little gifts from God.
Please don’t ask us if he/she is ever coming home because that is our deepest darkest fear. Do not comment on all that we have missed. We know how much we’ve missed. We look forward to all of the different “firsts” that come along with adoption, but we also know that what we’ve missed is something we’ll always miss.
Please, friends, don’t compare our wait to a pregnancy. We’re in this unknown universe where we don’t yet have any say, we’re not necessarily recognized as mom/dad yet and there is no end date circled in red on the calendar.
We are floating on a raft in the middle of the ocean. We are praying that we get that happy ending of rescue, so we try to remain positive, but it’s exhausting floating there. We grip the raft and pray it doesn’t pop. We pray. We pray and keep floating because what else can you do but float.
Thank you for caring for us, some of you loving us, enough to be that bit of encouragement. You are making a difference in our lives. We thank you for that.