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What not to say to adoptive parents
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When youre not in the drivers seat, you dont need advice. You dont need suggestions or questions or opinions. You just need a hand to hold and an ear to listen to you so you know youre not alone on this ride. - photo by Erin Stewart
Its been two and a half years since we officially started trying to adopt, which meant a whirlwind of paperwork and home visits. After two years, weve been through a lot of ups and downs, including a few adoption scams, one failed adoption and months of endless waiting. Now, after moving cross-country and completely redoing our home study so we can once again be eligible to adopt, we are re-entering the waiting game.

If theres one thing Ive learned about this process, its that adoption is not in my control. I can make the profiles, get the fingerprints and spread the word on my Facebook page that we are hopeful adoptive parents, but really, I have no control over whether an expectant mother picks our family to raise her child. Just like women struggling through infertility, I am 100 percent not in the drivers seat.

And to anyone who knows me, I love being in the drivers seat. I hate not being behind the wheel.

But Im not. Im a passenger on this crazy ride, and the most I can do is hold on and make sure my home and my heart are ready for when the day finally comes when a mother somewhere out there needs me for her child.

Until then, every day is filled with a dose of heartbreak. It sometimes comes out of the blue, when I see a newborn baby at the grocery store. Or it comes subtly, when my youngest daughter says, I put my special things up high in my room so the new baby wont reach them.

Hope and heartbreak. They seem to go hand in hand.

Along the way, I have also noticed that people generally dont know what to say to someone like me who is waiting to adopt. So, like in most socially awkward situations, they blurt out something that is meant to be supportive but that just adds to my heartache.

In particular, I wish people would understand that saying the following things only makes me feel more alone than ever in this journey:

Id love to adopt. Ive always wanted to. People think this creates some sort of bond between us, but it doesnt. Instead, it just shows that person knows nothing about the process of adoption. Adoption isnt some fun hobby Im picking up. Its the result of a lot of pain on my end and an excruciating decision for some expectant mother. Its not something I just wanted to do on a whim. If you really want to adopt so badly, start filling out your paperwork, and then lets talk.

You want to adopt? Ive got a 3-year-old you can have. Oh, the ridiculous things people say when they are uncomfortable. A friend of mine also trying to adopt told me she wants to start carrying around legal documents to give to people who make jokes like this. She would hand them the documents and say, OK, I just need you to fill out some forms, and well make this happen!

My friend adopted and her son ended up in jail. Really? Would you say this to a pregnant woman? Because Im pretty sure the jails are also full of people who weren't adopted. Dont tell me the horror story of adoption that you heard third-hand from a friend. Yes, there are risks in adoption, but there are plenty of risks in pregnancy, birth and raising a biological child, too.

Whats taking so long? Are you being really picky about what child youll take? Yes, every day I get a catalogue of eligible children that I browse through, dog-earing the pages of the ones I like. Not at all. An expectant mother has to pick me to raise her child. I can post all the profiles of our family I want, but the choice is hers just as it should be.

Of course, for every person who says something dumb to fill the silence, there are 10 other people who say exactly the right thing: That is so great. You guys will make great adoptive parents, but Im sure its a hard wait.

When youre not in the drivers seat, you dont need unsolicited advice. You dont need suggestions or questions or opinions. You just need a hand to hold and an ear to listen to you so you know youre not alone on this ride.

Hopefully, I will exit this waiting ride one day and embark on the new journey that begins with a phone call saying my child and his mother have found our family. And while I still wont be in control, thats a ride I cant wait to take.