ADOPTION IS… WAITING
Written by Earl D. Robinson. He is an adoptive dad and pastor of the Community Church in West Basinstoke, UK. He is also the author of the book Our Road to Adoption: The Story of our Family and the Great Family of God which is a personal reflection and narration of his adoption journey paired with the retelling of stories of adoption and family from the Bible.
“Adoption is waiting.” That seems like a boring and uninteresting title, doesn’t it?
Why read on? What could be so good about waiting?
Wait for it though…waiting can be an action.
It’s not the kind of sitting in the doctor’s office mindlessly flipping through a magazine until your name is called type of waiting.
It is a waiting that is hoping…expecting…looking forward.
It’s the feelings you had as a child going to bed on Christmas Eve knowing when you woke up it was that special day. It’s looking out the window to see if your Grandma is at the door, or if your friend’s mom is in the car there to pick you up yet. It’s the anticipating as you wait for the doors to open to the concert so you can get as close as possible to the stage. It’s not sitting idly by, it’s active, not passive, and it’s a great way to build character.
The trouble is most people don’t wait well.
Life is so instant.
Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter…no longer is waiting part of our everyday vocabulary.
It’s hard to focus, isn’t it? Phones are constantly pinging and buzzing, and in the rushing to and from the next thing I still find myself checking Facebook and email, just in case someone wrote or posted something interesting. I’m sure that you can think of instances every day when you ‘can’t wait’, but there are times in life when we are practically forced to.
I’ve had to learn to wait and I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn.
When my wife, Rebecca, and I began pursuing adoption we knew it would entail a process, one that was not all that straightforward.
We were invited to move to the UK to lead a Community Church so in the summer of 2008 we left the comforts of Northern Indiana to begin life in a little village in the south of England. Like so many married couples, we wanted children. We were unable to and because of moving to a new continent, we had to wait to start the adoption process.
After a few years of settling and building relationships, we began to feel it was the right time. We plunged into the murky waters of adoption in late 2011. It was exhilarating.
It was only a matter of time and our deepest longings would be met, we’d be dad and mom. Sure, we expected hurdles. You don’t jump into the adoption process without knowing there will be the inevitable ups and downs. While you know they exist, you can’t predict how high, how low or how often you might encounter them.
It’s confusing, but we were attempting to adopt in America while living abroad, essentially the backwards of the well-known international adoption. We thankfully found an agency to take us on even though we didn’t live there. We did a homestudy, attended the meetings and trainings all in one exhausting month-long trip to Indiana.
Soon afterwards, we were approved.
We just had to wait to be chosen.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just wait for a phone call. From that point, the only thing we could do was wait.
There was no marketing ourselves, no fostering through social services, no pre-adoption groups to find friends in solidarity. It was to continue to live in the UK, hoping the phone would ring or “the email” would appear in our inbox.
I wouldn’t say those months of waiting was fun, but it definitely built character within us.
It was very interesting to see how much people wanted to know ‘when?’ Not how are we doing with the waiting.
That’s a scary question to ask someone (at times, it’s just the right question though!). Rather, we usually heard, “When do you get your baby?”
As time waned on, it was not easy to answer that question. We had no information until a phone call was received; until we were chosen by a mom who wanted their newborn to live with a family in a quaint English village.
All we could say to those well-wishers was “we’re waiting,”’ and it was usually at that point the conversation moved on quickly.
Why are people afraid to wait or ask how it’s going with the waiting?
The Bible speaks about waiting time and time again; whether that be the heart cry of a couple like Abraham and Sarah, who desperately wanted offspring and were given an amazing promise of a son who Sarah bore some 24 years later; or Hannah who was barren, which was essentially a life sentence in the ancient near east, she so desired to be a mother; or the waiting and anticipating for the Messiah which spanned the Old and New Testaments for over 400 years.
We found ourselves living out the story of Abraham and Sarah, and even having various people tell us we were like them.
I admit we hadn’t waited 24 years after a promise, but there were similarities within our stories. Since there was no news, people essentially stopped asking us and it was life “as normal” for a while. Until we discovered that we could adopt using the UK system, even though neither of us were UK citizens.
This was life-giving news to us.
It meant stopping the process in the US, starting afresh in the UK and you guessed it… still more waiting.
However, we were pleased to get started with the process quicker than we expected and, in the early summer of 2013, we went to our first meetings with an agency close to our home in Hampshire.
We filled in all the paper-work again, did the whole homestudy and trainings again and started being asked the question of “When do you get your baby?” again.
The process is quite different in the UK from the US.
Firstly, getting a newborn or young baby rarely happens. The children who are up for adoption are from the care system. They are children who have been removed from their family home for a variety of reasons, often through some combination of neglect, abuse or criminal activity.
There are not agencies that deal with birthmothers who choose a family to give their child to and attempt to keep an open adoption. Here in the UK, it is local authorities who work with agencies or their own social workers to place children in foster and adoptive situations.
All we could tell people was that we were “in the process” and when we hit milestones like finishing the homestudy or going to a panel meeting, we could celebrate those occasions.
The most difficult wait came just after the panel meeting. We essentially received final approval to adopt, but we could not move forward until our case was officially signed off by the manager of the agency.
This took around a month longer than expected…only about a month…yes…but it felt like years!
There are so many details that have to come together for an adoption to take place.
In our case, after two processes, two countries and numerous stops/starts, we were finally matched with an amazing sibling pair of girls.
The saying is “Good things come to those who wait” and I think that’s true.
For us, the process built in us a new level of faith and hope, a deep down understanding of the promises of God in our lives.
It has been such a joy to share this story with people far and wide; to be able to walk with and encourage many others who too feel called to adopt, because it is that, a calling.
It’s not an insignificant “Oh, I think I’ll do that” decision.
It’s life-changing and not to be entered into lightly. I think anyone who’s met our girls would definitely agree, it was worth the wait.