Monday, May 12, 2008

Thoughts at 6 months waiting...

I know I said that I was going to check in at monthly intervals and share my thoughts. I haven't done this for a variety of reasons. First of all, I feel frightened to say what I really think about International adoption. I don't want anyone to pull my Dossier, especially me. My desire to raise two children from Ethiopia is my strongest want. Even if I had a "private" blog, I am not sure that I would or could articulate everything that has been going through my mind.

You know the Kubler-Ross grief cycle? It looks like this...

Now in NO WAY am I saying that being in the process of adopting children compares to facing a serious illness or a devastating loss. The only thing that I am saying, is that I feel like this "waiting process" has several stages. I feel like I have gone through many of these stages already. I hope that by mentioning them here, I might hear that someone else wrestled with some of this stuff. This is sounding vague and I am just going to spit out what I want to say. Before I do I just want to say to my social workers and the Department of Justice, Thanks for reading, I hope you think my photos are funny, and I am fully committed to my adoption. It is the single most important thing (next to my current family) in my life.

So here are what I think have been my stages of waiting . It has been six months since we applied to adopt two small children from Ethiopia. Again, these are my thoughts of how it has been for me. In no way am I trying to project or assume that others have had the same experience. Not everyone is a resident of Crazytown.

First Stage of Waiting: RELIEF. Relief that you and your husband have finally landed on the same page regarding your family building. (Page 93 right honey?) You agree on the country. You agree on the agency.You agree to the expense.

Second Stage: JOY. Joy overwhelms you. There is a light (two lights) at the end of a long, nine year tunnel. You have a spring in your step. The excitement is palpable. You can go to a playground without weeping. You become a member of a club that has up until now excluded you. You can talk about preschool and even attend community school board meetings without fear of someone carrying you out in a straight-jacket. You skim the paper to see just what is the name or number of that education account you can start? Is it a 503k or something? You weigh the benefits of trundle vs bunk? You childproof. You tell EVERYONE you know about your plans.

Third Stage: What I would like to refer to as the WIN/WIN/NAIVETE /MELISSA FAYE GREENE STAGE. You have just finished,"There is No Me Without You." You think, not only I am helping myself, but I am helping Africa. We want kids, these orphans need families. They do. They absolutely need help. There are millions of orphans that need homes. There are families that have been decimated by AIDS and other diseases. There are so many parentless children. It is a win win situation. You get your family, they get a family.

Fourth Stage: HARSH REALITY/ ETHICAL QUESTIONING. A lot of these children up for adoption are not necessarily orphans. In fact a lot of them have TWO parents, a mom and a dad. They have siblings. They are being relinquished because their family can no longer afford to feed them. They will be, by your adopting them, taken from their country, their family and the only lives they have ever known. Their losses will be enormous. This is where it starts to get tricky. This is where you start wrestling a lot. " If I really cared about Ethiopia, I would take these thousands of dollars in adoption fees and bring them immediately to the organization that would do everything in their power to preserve this Ethiopian family." These thousands of dollars could keep many Ethiopian families intact. Which brings me to my next stage...

Fifth Stage: The I AM A SELFISH ASSHOLE. My white privileged need of having a family is much stronger than my need to help Ethiopia. My mothering hormones are not going to be dissipated by my concern for struggling Africans. I am an asshole.

Sixth Stage: BARGAINING. I am an asshole, but I agree to change my need. This is when, if you are me, you announce to your husband one morning, " I think that we should adopt a twelve year old from Ethiopia instead. Our neighbor is twelve and they can hang out together. Our child can go right into school. We will make sure that she is in actuality a true orphan, an only child, and HIV positive. We have good health insurance ."

This is when your husband starts to wish he never met you. Your husband who likes, more than anything, to make a decision and stick with it. Your husband starts some questioning of his own,"Who is this Crazy person and why did I ever marry her?"

Seventh Stage: OUTRAGE. Why doesn't everyone else know how bad things are around the world? Why aren't people doing more? Why is Haiti in the shitter and no one cares? Is Don Cheadle getting through to anyone? Unfortunately this outrage turns into a self-righteousness and a judgemental attitude, which sends me back down spiraling into...

Eighth Stage: GUILT. I feel guilty. I feel guilty for judging. I feel guilty for adopting. I feel guilty for eating, you name it...I feel guilty.

Ninth Stage: RESOLVE. I will do more. I will bring awareness. I will make a difference. I will do something. I will start a project that will help.

Tenth Stage: RENEWED OPTIMISM. It's okay. I will continue. I will call today and give our agency the third payment they have been asking for. I will continue my reading. I will learn more about parenting. I will do my best to be a mother to these two children. I will give it everything that I have. I will continue to wrestle. I will try to do what is best. I will look for answers.

So that's where I am at. See why I don't write about it every month?

If you have any thoughts that you don't feel comfortable posting in the comments, please e-mail me. (I just realized that you could link an e-mail address to your profile. Duh.)


  1. Thanks for the honesty in this post. You've done a great job verbalizing what we all struggle with. International adoption isn't the solution to the problem. But maybe it can still positively influence the real solution.

  2. I appreciate your sharing. I definitely think I have been through a few of those stages. This is an emotional roller coaster we are on but I know in the end when we hold our children it will all feel right. And we can take the guilt we feel and propel it in to helping solve the problems.

  3. You are not now, nor have you ever been a resident of Crazytown.

  4. i'd high five you if i were into high fiving. you've touched on many of my own thoughts and feelings. it's a struggle!

  5. oh this is JEEEEENYUS. Seriously - awesome stuff, totally honest and totally accurate. I recognize these stages for sure!!

    I like this so much, I've linked to you from my blog - hope that's cool.

  6. I love this. I know plenty of people who went through #four, but I'll have to admit I skipped right from third to fifth. I knew I was selfish from the beginning. Loved the honesty. You were spot on.

  7. I really could relate to all of this, and I'm just the sibling of someone who is adopting from Ethiopia - but the same ethical issues troubled me, the same questions about "what in the world can I do", the same outrage, the semblance of reconciliation. You just totally pegged it, I think.

  8. Wow, this is so amazingly true. Although having received a referral in December and not having a court date yet, there are probaby a few extra cycles in the Kubler-Ross grief cycle that I am going through (can you say, anger, bargaining, depression acceptance, repeat...). What a wild ride.

  9. That was amazing. Thanks for posting it.

  10. Bravo. You really nailed it. It could be said for adoptions in Eastern Europe or anywhere for that matter.

  11. Yes! You do a wonderful job of summing it all up! I felt almost all of those things as we waited to bring our two children home and still feel some guilt.

  12. Great post, I found it from Porter's blog. My daughter has been home 3 months now and I still go through some of these stages. Right now I am in the judgemental stage of why doesn't anyone else get should write a book:-)

  13. absolutley! It has made me a mad woman. We have been given a pinch more waiting/reading time than most because we had to push back our file date and my head spun through these stages often... it has left me questioning my very foundation as a human. AMEN! I am not alone... thanks God.
    Blogs under

  14. Hi!

    I friend pointed me towards this post - we've been waiting for 8+ months, and I can relate. Actually, I think I went through most of those in the first 4 months. Shall I give you a tast of what MAY be still to come?

    Panic. Totally distraught and not able to concentrate because someone, somewhere, must not be doing their job or you would have your kids already!

    Peace. (This is a quick one.) You understand you just have to wait and you have all the gender neatural stuff you can buy so you decide to wait it out and read for novels from Africa. Your husband is releived and thinks this may last until referral.

    Disenchantment. It's been so long of a wait, that you really aren't thinking about the kids anymore. It doesn't seem real. Some days - you don't even check your email.

    I'll let you know about 9-10 months, if necessary (sure as heck hope not.) As Cathy said, it's such a roller coaster....


  15. We've been waiting over 13 1/2 months for a referral and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. I have found myself go through the same emotions during this wait as you do when someone has died (obviously not to the same magnitude, but still).
    And Nicky, I know you and you know me and I think we are rowing in the same boat....c'mon girl let's move those paddles :)

    Thanks for your honesty in this post!

  16. Julie, this was such a great insightful post. You're so very good at articulating the issues and emotions. The one thing that sticks out to me the most is the point that all the money spent on adoption could keep a family together. As a practical matter, how would we give this money to a family and do so with the absolute certainty that this family will stay together and the family/children will not struggle. I definitely wrestle with the thought that the baby I will accept is leaving a mother and/or father, but I wonder too if it would be that mother's choice regardless. Would that particular mother choose otherwise, I mean it all depends on many variables for that particular person. I wonder, if I didn't adopt this baby will it grow up in an orphanage. OMG, I have this article to send you that I read recently which shocked me sort of. If I can find it, I'll send it to your email with some thoughts...

  17. When you do the "Self-Help Guide to Ethiopian Adoption" book tour, will you please stop in Boston? I want to print this post out and give it to the people who have watched me try to rule Crazytown for 13+ official (as opposed to regular) months. Then maybe they could understand me like you do. As you know, I'm often stuck at 7 these days. What is truly amazing to me is how FAST I can go from 7 to 8 to 9 to 10 to 8 to 9 to 7 to 10 to 9 to 7 to 8 to 10 to 9 to 8 to 7 to 10 . . .

    I hope you stay at 10. You are brilliant.

  18. Yeah, I jump around the stages too. I think you covered all the emotions so well! I do have a lot of outrage, and lots of it at my selfish self. I need to do MORE! But how? When? With what money? Etc...

    Right now I'm looking at my little chubby 18 month old Ethiopian baby girl curled up playing in a cardboard box and laughing, and she is just so darn cute. I think I have all stages at once.

  19. Thanks so much for writing this post! We are also at 6 months waiting and you definitely got the waiting stages down pat.

    I went thru Stage 3 and Stage 6 at the same time...after I read "There Is No Me Without You" it was all my husband could do to keep me from changing our referral to as many kids as possible any age range...I have since calmed down.

    If you don't mind I am going to continue to follow your blog - even if you only post occasionally

  20. I found you as well, and wanted say that is a brilliant post. I know those stages, and I am not even offically waiting yet.

  21. Julie, your post obviously hit close to home for so many of us. You did, as usual, articulating the feelings that are so hard to explain. Now that I'm on the other side, its gotten more murky instead of less. I also hated the feeling that cyber "big brother" was monitoring my every keystroke & could manipulate my status in the process.

    ps- 22 comments-- you are a celebrity blogger!!

  22. Amen. I just waited 16 months for a referral for a sweet baby boy. I think I feel guiltier now than ever. Stage jumping is a real talent of mine.

  23. Such a great post - I was nodding and laughing while I read it. Our wait was ridiculously short, but I remember wanting our referral so badly until it occurred to me that I was hoping that someone would have to relinquish their child in order for that to happen. (In my sick mind this is what it became.) And then GUILT - oh yes!
    Thanks for posting - very well done!

  24. For me the question is how to leave the guilt behind...I mean why does there need to be guilt in the "let's build a family" stage of my life. Then I remembered that I don't really have a "right" to anything and maybe guilt is a valid response to injustice. Thanks for posting your deep down feelings so honestly.

  25. 4 / 7 / 8 - those are the ones that really get me. It would upset me more to hear that you werent thinking about these issues, these challenging choices that encompass all of adoption.
    Thank you for being so brave and saying what so many of us feel, I totally connect

  26. Julie, it's amazing how many people you reach and relate to!
    I too, know all these feelings all too well. Now that Charlie is home, a new kind of guilt pops up as he becomes more enchanted with Spiderman, chicken nuggets, and going to Wal-Mart. Sigh. It never ends...but nothing takes the joy away, either.
    Stop in ATL on that book tour, lady. Love ya.

  27. I laughed out loud as I could relate to every step! We have been waiting 6 months as well and just recently I went through the "lets change our referral to a much older child stage"- my husband thought I had gone crazy and convinced me to stick with our original plan. It is so nice to know that others feel the same way that I do. Thanks for the great post and it was nice to have a good laugh for a change!

    Carolyn (PEI)

  28. Thanks for being brave enough to articulate and wrestle with all of these stages! I feel like this process grabs your heart, wrings it out and puts it back all bruised... yet it still works and has the capacity to love! You are not alone!

    Evelyn (waiting 8.5 mo for a sibling pair from Ethiopia)

  29. Request #900....PLEASE WRITE A BOOK. Really, Jules, you have a knack for writing and even though I am not adopting, I was sure before I read your 29 comments that everyone would tell you that they felt the same way, but only you have the ability to translate feelings into words that COMPLETELY make sense....and draw people in to want to read more about what you have to say. I am going to call you on my way home from work to convince you to write a book....starting NOW!


  30. Writing the book really would help pass the time until your referral...
    I'm just sayin'....

  31. Loved the post! I was actually just thinking about you yesterday and wondering how your wait was going. I knew had seemed a while ago that you sent in all your paper work.

    6 MONTHS DOWN! That is good news!

    I am definitely in the "What was I thinking? What am I going to do with TWO children stage"

  32. Post adoption, I still go through those stages. This should be required reading for pre-adoptive parents. How can we possibly understand what our kids will go through as they struggle to make sense of their lives if we haven't thought about all these issues?

  33. Yep! Accurate portrayal, and as Shrijnana said, it doesn't really stop post-adoption. Whenever I'm disciplining one of our kids, I think about their family in Ethiopia -- the importance of whatever issue we're discussing (defiance, usually!), always pales, and I'm brought back to the first weeks home. And I look at them, really look closely, and again recognize the impact all of our combined decisions had on these kids. I just hope we do our best by them.

  34. Bravo! I fully appreciate your post- well done, well done! Such a ride, isn't it?

  35. May I link to this post? I feel like you have explained so much moe eloquently than I could have exactly how I feel.