What to Do During the International Adoption Wait

November 28, 2017

The wait for custody, which can span years in international adoptions, can seem an eternity. A typical pregnancy is a definite period, while the international adoption wait is more often not. The questions from well-meaning loved ones come often. “How much longer?” “Any news?” And even “Why does it take so long?” A lack of control over the process coupled with a longing in one’s heart can be excruciating. “Do something!” the brain screams at the expectant parent. Because at some point, the paperwork stops and the waiting…drags…on. In retrospect, although the process went rather quickly for me (11 months in the Korea program), there were times it felt far longer.  Even so, there were things I wished I had spent more time doing (besides the constant worrying that anything could happen to prolong the wait even more). If you’re finding yourself in the throes of this waiting game, here are some ideas to help you through.

Learn Your Child’s Birth Language: International adoptions tend to involve children toddler age and older. In order to communicate and initially bond with your newly adopted child, a working knowledge of your child’s birth language will be essential and its necessity is often underestimated. Additionally, travel to your child’s birth country will likely be a necessary part of the process. During that trip, being able to communicate with locals in their own language may range from the need for occasional polite salutations to an absolute necessity, depending on whether English is commonly taught in the destination.  You Tube tutorials, Apps, Language Programs (such as Rosetta Stone), and online courses and/or tutors can assist in the process.  My only regret about the adoption process is that I did not delve into learning Korean sooner. To master the Hangul (Korean) alphabet, in and of itself, took a few months.  

Start a Life Book: A life book documents a child’s early years with mementos and photographs. Start putting your child’s story together with a scrapbook from the local craft store and referral photos, and add along the way.  We also added in our child’s quarterly developmental updates and items from our visits. Once the child arrives home, it’s unlikely you’ll have much time to put one together, so this time is optimal. 

Learn About Your Child’s Birth Culture: Learning what your child’s world is like can be an eye-opening experience. What is culturally acceptable and expected in his or her birth country can be vastly different than the world that you know. Learning and appreciating that culture and history is like the missing puzzle piece to your child’s early life. Amazon.com has a wealth of books on the culture of various countries. Additionally, some indulgence in the popular media may provide some insight into cultural norms.  Language courses often don’t cover toddler speak and slang that we were able to illicit from episodes of Korean reality shows.

Nest Away: That “nesting” instinct one gets is not merely hormonal, I’m convinced.  It’s  more like some deep-seated anthropological need to create a home for a new little one. Suddenly, everything seems like it needs to be scrubbed, painted, or fixed.  Dive in, I say. There’s something deeply satisfying about making your home more clean and cozy, and it has a therapeutic effect, to boot.

Spend Some One-on-One Time: Whether it be with a spouse, sibling, dear friend, or one of your other children. Spending some one-on-one  time with a loved one is a luxury you may be without for some time following custody. Nothing heals the soul like the company of someone special.

Cook Up Some Comfort: Your internationally adopted child will arrive home with a taste for foods from his or her birth country.  The ability to prepare these foods can be a comfort to a child that is adjusting to a new home, culture, and country.  If you do not share the same birth culture, learning commonly used recipes, spices, and ingredients will come in handy when your little one arrives home. Integrating these foods into the fiber of your new family meal times is a wonderful way to have early shared experiences.  For my little one, short grained rice cooked to sticky perfection was a must have in our first meals together. We became more adventurous, as a family, adding new spices and trying new recipes.