Adoption Limbo: 3 Tips When You’re Stuck Between “Just Us” and “We’re a Family”

This guest post is by Barbara Herel, an adoptive mother and blogger.


Having a baby come into your life has been described by many a parent as a miraculous event.

The baby part, yes, babies are miraculous. The domestic adoption process, well, not so much.

There’s a real checklist of things you must do in order to adopt and I like me a good checklist.

It’s tangible. It’s action-oriented!

And darn it, it feels good to feel like you’re moving forward and in control of something for a change. (Take that, tired old eggs!)

Then the checklist ends. And so does the forward-moving momentum.

Soon the uneasy and persistent feeling of Limbo takes over.

Some people call it “The Wait,” but to me, “Limbo” describes it perfectly.

There I was stuck in between the chapters of my life – somewhere between the “Just Us” chapter and “We’re a Family” – clumsily, helplessly thumbing at that last page that just wouldn’t turn.

Grrrrrr…. All the while, holding my breath, wondering how my cliffhanger of an adoption story was going to end.

Even after connecting with Kim, my daughter’s birth mother, and we were seemingly moving forward, I still didn’t know. All I knew was that Limbo continues until it doesn’t.

There was little I could do.

Except, try to get me some unshakeable peace to get me through every next step, misstep, frustration, anxiety, and quiet excitement that came my way.

I quickly turned to my tiny toolbox of inspiration that I learned as a single gal from Jennifer Macaluso-Gilmore, teacher, diva extraordinaire of the inspirational classes called “Something Different for Women.”

I am pleased to pass them along to checklist lovers everywhere.

Limbo Checklist

Fortify yourself with gratitude

Giving gratitude is one of the most feel-good, grounding practices I know.

Simply write down at least five things you’re grateful for every day, even if it’s being grateful you made it through the day.

Here are some things I wrote during Limbo – “I am grateful to be on this exciting, scary adventure—it makes life worthwhile. I am grateful to know that every step back, every obstacle opens old wounds, yet they do feel less painful.”

Giving grats kept me focused on the good stuff. I also found it to be a positive way to chronicle my thoughts and emotions during Limbo.

Do what’s in your control

And then let go of the rest. I found comfort in doing things that were in my control like keeping my promises, such as calling when I said I would call.

Or when Kim wanted a sonogram (hey, I certainly wanted her to have one, too), I decided to do what was in my control by asking her if my OBGYN could speak directly to her OBGYN.

The docs spoke, Kim got her sonogram, and happily she sent them on to me.

Keeping doing the next indicated thing

I first learned about this after reading Victoria Moran’s Creating A Charmed Life.

When life is extraordinarily overwhelming and uncertain (just like adoption!), take a deep breath and focus on the one most important thing on your list.

This will help you stay focused and calmer.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the things you could be thinking about like finding a pediatrician, decorating the baby’s room, updating your will, learning baby massage techniques… whew!

There’s no sense further adding stress to your life.

Everything that needs to get done will get done in its own right time – if you keep on doing the next indicated thing.

You certainly don’t have to love the Limbo, but feel the Limbo.

Embrace the Limbo.

Respect the Limbo.

Because it only feels like it’s going to last forever.

Here’s hoping you move through your exciting, scary adventure sanely and gracefully.

Barbara Herel chronicles her (nearly five-year) open adoption in the Improv Mom blog for Adoptive Families Circle. She is also the producer of the web series Open Adoption Truth which gives voice to first families, adoptive families, and adoptees as they candidly share their open adoption stories. When not writing or interviewing, you can find Barbara in the play kitchen creating feasts with plastic food. 

Do you have an open adoption story? Email us any time or find out more about how to share it with our community.

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6 thoughts on “Adoption Limbo: 3 Tips When You’re Stuck Between “Just Us” and “We’re a Family””

  1. I love, love, love your web series Open Adoption Truth as I am living it every day. I think we are kindred spirits. I’m on AFC, too, but just as an adoptive parent. I occasionally post an adoption article, but my blog is one of humor.

    I look forward to learning more from you via this blog. Thanks Barbara!

  2. So what should you do if the wait is forever. Six years and counting. Now our agency says we are too old to adopt (dh is 48 and I’m 46) Our agency recently created a policy that said if your older than 42, then they can not longer work with you. Trying to contact with other agencies isn’t working either. They are all quoting max age of 42 to 45.

    So what should you do if the wait is going to be forever?

    1. Hi Sue,

      Please forgive the delay in responding. Okay first of all, there are plenty of us older moms out there. I was 45 and my husband was 47 when we adopted our daughter. Have you thought about using an adoption attorney or at least speaking to one? Or adopting a child in foster care?

  3. We are stuck in limbo because of an adoption ban that Russia started in December 2012. We had met our daughter in July 2012 after waiting 8 months for them to allow us to travel. I made this video in honor of all the families and children who are not together this Christmas because of the ban. We would love it if you would share our video so more people know that we have not forgotten these children. My daughter just turned 8 last week. She has Down syndrome and she is towards the end of the video with a huge blue bow in her hair. i am teaching her sign language while looking at her sticker book.

  4. Oh my goodness, Katrina! Your video is tremendous… so very moving, so very heartwrenching. Ugh, ugh, ugh… those kids… Consider it shared. Is there any movement on the ban at all? How are you coping?

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