Nothing seems to describe the adoption process better than the old adage "Hurry up and wait." For months, you've diligently done your research, filed paperwork, opened up your home, finances, and personal life to scrutiny -- and now you have to simply sit back and wait for your child to be placed with you. While there's no doubt that the waiting process can often be nerve-racking and painful, there are things you can do to make the time both fun and productive. Here is a list of things you may want to tackle.
Update your health insurance. Call your human resources department or health insurance provider, and find out how to get your child covered under your current health plan. Check to see whether there's a waiting period before coverage begins, or whether there are other stipulations you'll need to be aware of.
Make out a will. If you don't have a will, have one drawn up; and if you have an existing will, be sure to update it so that your child is included from the day you adopt him. Also, be sure to name a guardian (or guardians) for your child, in case something happens to you.
Find out about your company's "adoption leave" policy. Some companies offer adoptive parents time off with pay, but many don't. Call your human resources department to learn about your company's policy, and speak to your supervisor about the possibility of taking a leave of absence, with or without pay.
Locate a pediatrician. Even before your child comes to live with you, it's a good idea to have a pediatrician in place. Ask friends, relatives, coworkers, and people at your adoption agency for referrals, and set up some exploratory appointments if possible. Some doctors charge for these "get-acquainted" visits; others don't. When searching for a pediatrician, look for a doctor whom you'll feel comfortable with, and who has experience with foreign-born babies (if you're adopting internationally), offers a convenient location and hours, and takes your insurance plan.
Explore child care. If you're planning to return to work after your baby arrives, start looking at child-care options now. While you don't have to make a final decision about which day-care center or situation you'll choose, you can get a sense of what's available -- and how much each option will cost. Also, be aware that some popular child-care centers have waiting lists that are several months long, so you may need to sign up even before your baby comes home.
Take a new-parent and/or CPR class. The more information you have about the practical aspects of baby care, the more confident you'll feel when your new baby arrives. Ask your adoption agency whether they offer a class for "expectant" adoptive parents or whether they can refer you to a course in your area.
Read books about parenting and adoption. There's a huge selection out there, so save some money by going to the library as well as to the bookstore. Ask other parents for books they recommend and turn to for advice time and again.
Select a name for your child. Even if you're adopting an infant, she may already have a name that's been given to her by her orphanage, foster family, or birth mother. You may decide to keep that name, use it as a middle name, or drop it completely -- the decision is up to you. If you're going to rename your baby, however, take the time now to compile a short list of names that you and your spouse agree on. Consider family names, names that reflect your child's ethnicity (if you're adopting internationally), names that you simply like, and those that (hopefully!) go well with your last name.
Spend time around babies. If you've never spent much time around infants (or 1-year-olds, 2-year-olds, or whatever age child you're adopting), take the opportunity now to familiarize yourself with what babies or toddlers demand. If you have friends with little ones, offer to babysit for a few hours here and there, so you can get some hands-on experience.
Spend time with other adoptive parents. Another way to prepare for the journey ahead is to meet other adoptive parents. They can clue you in to the realities of adoption, and often allay your fears about the adoption process. To locate other families, ask your agency or facilitator for the names of parents or support groups in your area. Or join an adoptive-families group, such as Families with Children from China (www.fwcc.org), Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption (www.frua.org), etc.
Learn about your child's birth culture. If you're adopting internationally, read about your child's birth country and culture, and sign up for a basic language course or purchase tapes so you can learn a few key words or phrases. Also try to find some children's videos, CDs, or tapes from your child's birth country, and play them for him when he comes home. The sounds of your baby's former homeland may be comforting to him in his first weeks and months in America.
Prepare your baby's bedroom. When it seems as if your adoption is imminent, you can paint and set up your baby's room. Since you may need to buy (or borrow) a crib and other baby necessities, take the time now to review what you already have and what you'll need to purchase or borrow.
Shop for baby clothes and products. Likewise, once you receive a referral for a baby (and know his or her sex, weight, and age), or once you're certain of a birth mother's due date, you can begin to buy all those adorable baby clothes, toys, and products that your child will need -- and soon outgrow! A word to the wise: Don't go overboard. You will probably receive gifts at a baby shower, and you can always pick up other essentials once your child comes home.
Keep a record of your thoughts. The waiting period is often fraught with excitement, hope, fear, frustration, and anxiety. To help keep balanced during this emotional time, record your thoughts in a journal, or join an online adoption community and print out all of the posts you send and receive. Sometimes the very act of writing about your feelings -- in a journal, in a letter, or through e-mail -- can help free you from anxiety and provide an insightful record of your hopes, fears, and aspirations during this difficult time.
Take an exercise class or renew an old hobby. Keeping busy with enjoyable, productive activities is one way to ward off the "waiting-for-baby" blues. Plus it can help you maintain a positive mental attitude and keep you from obsessing about all the things that could possibly go wrong with your adoption (but most likely won't!).
Spend time on yourself and on your spouse. Once your new child arrives, she will likely be the focus of your family life for a good 18 years. If you have the time now, go to movies, go for walks, read books, get rest, and nurture yourself and your partner. Remember, your new child will demand the best of you, and you'll want to be ready, rested, and waiting with open arms.
Sources: www.adoption.org; The Adoption Resource Book by Lois Gilman; The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption by Chris Adamec
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.