Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.

-Ethiopian Proverb-

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The 7 Stages of Waiting for an International Adoption Referral

When I was in college, I took several psychology classes, and in one of them, I remember studying about the 7 Stages of Grief. I don't know if you are familiar with them, but it really made sense to me that when a person is confronted with a major life event such as the death of a beloved person, the grieving person will move through a series of steps in order to reconcile and make sense out of something that may be too difficult to deal with all at once. The 7 stages of grief are shock and denial; pain and guilt; anger and bargaining; depression, reflection, and loneliness; the upward turn; reconstruction and working through; and finally acceptance and hope. I think that there is a correlation between grieving and waiting for an adoption referral in that just as there are steps in dealing with grief, there are steps in dealing with the intense feelings of waiting for the referral of your future children. I recall that when we were waiting for L's referral, I went through several distinct stages, and I find that I'm going through the exact same stages while waiting for Laurel and Willow's referral. So, upon deep and personal reflection, I have, for your reading pleasure, constructed the official "7 Stages of Waiting for an International Adoption Referral"!

The 1st stage of waiting is, I believe, very similar to the 1st stage of grieving; shock and denial. You are shocked that all of the insanely complicated and sometimes almost impossibly unattainable paperwork is compiled, completed, notarized, apostilled, and shipped off to some foreign country you've never been to and cannot easily locate on a map. You may be in denial because you cannot believe that you were capable of finding and retrieving documents you didn't even know existed within our sometimes inefficient government bureaucracy.

The 2nd stage of waiting is different than the 2nd stage of grieving in that they are polar opposites; excitement and optimism as opposed to pain and guilt. You are over the moon with knowing that you have reached this important stage of the adoption journey. You are optimistic that the wait will go quickly. You say to yourself, "4 to 6 months is nothing! That's just a blink of an eye, the drop of a hat!" and other corny euphemisms. Excitement is flowing through your veins because you know that soon, very soon, you will see the faces of your new children.

The 3rd stage of waiting is discouragement and distraction. The excitement of stage 2 has worn off, and it seems that time. . . is. . . moving. . .very. . . slow. . .ly. . . !. . . !. . . ! You know that your referral will happen, but the months of waiting that are stretched out in front of you seem insurmountable. You try to keep busy, and there is a flurry of plans being made in order to distract yourself. This is all to no avail because that feeling of discouragement keeps seeping back into your consciousness and even into your subconsciousness because strange dreams begin to make appearances when you sleep.

The 4th stage of waiting is similar to the 4th stage of grieving in that you begin to experience feelings of depression (not clinical mind you) and fear. You start to think that your referral call will never come and that maybe there is something wrong with your dossier paperwork. Intense and irrational fear ensues along with random tears. Thoughts such as these start swirling around in your head: "The orphanage lost my paperwork!", "Maybe my desired criteria regarding age and sex of children are too narrow!", and my personal favorite, "Perhaps they just don't like me!". At this stage, you assign a special ring tone on your cell phone to coincide with your agency's phone number.

The 5th stage of waiting is numbness. You don't feel anything when you think about the referral, adoption, traveling, the whole thing. You just stop feeling anything at all and try to get on with your life. You begin putting up a wall between yourself and the adoption. You don't keep contemplating paint colors for the nursery, and you stop looking at the stuff in the baby section of Target. Guarding your heart is common during this stage.

The 6th stage of waiting is reconciliation. You begin to realize that your referral will come in due time; that there is a divine plan of events already set in motion in order to bring together a bunch of people who are destined to be a part of each others' lives forever. You still are guarding your heart, but there is a faint glimmer of hope and excitement present once again.

The 7th stage of waiting is complete and utter bliss! You finally, FINALLY receive THE CALL from your agency!!!!! You gaze upon pictures of your new children with the realization that you have become a parent once more. The discouragement, fear, and numbness dissolve into the background, and you begin to understand that all of your hard work and waiting has paid off. Now you have something tangible, SOMEONE in fact, to cling to and to persevere for as opposed to some abstract child who is out there somewhere in the great nebulous mass of humanity. This feeling of bliss and parental instinct will keep you going as you move through the 7 Stages of Waiting for Your Adoption to be Finalized! I'm just kidding. . . sort of!

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