|Piles of things waiting to be packed for our second trip.|
In Ethiopian adoption there are three waits. The first is the wait for referral. Depending on what your priorities or limitations on what type of child you would like to adopt the first wait can be a few months to a few years. Want to add a healthy, young girl to your family? Sit tight, you will be waiting 3 years. Want to add a 12 year old boy with a diagnosed medical condition to your family? Go ahead and buy a plane ticket. He is waiting right here.
The second wait is the most predictable and probably the easiest. After you've accepted a referral, you wait for the Ethiopian courts to process your case and schedule your court date. This usually takes 4 months. During those 4 months there is a lot to do. You finally know who your child is, so now you can plan: doctors, schools/child care, decorate their room!, clothes, and your travel plans. Also, there is paperwork to do. (There is always paperwork to do.)
The third wait sucks. There is just no way around it. It's a mountain. Can't go around it, can't go under it, can't make it magically disappear. You just have to go through it. And there isn't even any paperwork to do!
The third wait is after you've traveled to Ethiopia to meet your child/children and appeared in Ethiopian court. Your children are legally yours. Only you are back home in America and they are still living in an orphanage.
During this time the US Embassy in Addis Ababa reviews your case, interviews birth family and sometimes does an investigation into the circumstances of your child's abandonment or relinquishment. This can take a few days, or a few weeks. In the rainy season, nothing happens at all, because the roads to the villages where your child was born have been washed out. The third wait can be a few weeks, or a few months. You will get an email from the US Embassy with your visa appointment 1-2 weeks before you travel. You will pay a ridiculous amount of money for plane tickets to make that appointment because goddamn it, you have waited long enough.
I have very little useful advice for the Third Wait. My coping strategies were compulsive nesting and cookie dough. Most of the women who traveled to Ethiopia with us were either the thinnest they've even been, or the heaviest.
Here is what I would say to those enduring the Third Wait: if you've got the energy, use it. The nesting impulse is very strong. All that mothering you are waiting to do has no outlet. At one point during this time, I found myself: making chicken stock, baking muffins, sewing curtains and freezing produce at the same time. I was never tired, except when I was exhausted.
(People who know me in real life will say, but Becky, you seemed fine! Yes, that's because I went home every day and ate a bowl of cookie dough. It is amazing how good that can make you feel, temporarily. Also, my sister did me the great service of needing help planning her wedding. Nesting, deluxe!)
Here's what you shouldn't do: worry about your children. They are fine. And anyway there is nothing you can do for them so you may as well try not to go crazy thinking about them. Also, don't eat too much cookie dough that you can't fit into any of your clothes. Don't Google MD any of the medical issues your child may or may not have. Those are not good ideas.
Here's what you can do: Pray. Ask others to pray for you. If you are not the praying type, sit quietly in a chair with a cup of tea/glass of wine and think about how sitting quietly in a chair is not something you are going to doing again for a long, long time. Savor the silence. Cook your favorite meals and freeze them, because you will not be cooking, properly cooking, for a long time either. Do all those little projects that need to be done. Make your house beautiful, then take a photo of it to remind you that your house was once clean and beautiful. Very soon and for a long time it will be filled with noise, plastic crap and unbelievable amounts of crumbs and cheerios. Go out with your partner and your good friends and gaze upon them. This is what it is like to be out in the evenings with people you love without worrying about if you will be late for the babysitter.
As much as the Third Wait shreds you, you must try to treasure it. This separation only brings you closer to your child and your child's first family. For them, the separation is permanent. The universe is so large, and your child so far away, but in this way, your heart and their hearts are right next door.