There’s nothing like the start of a New Year to get you fired up about your plan to adopt a baby.
This time of the year is all about new beginnings and fresh starts — a chance to look beyond the mistakes of the past and invent the future. So if adopting a baby is at the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions, congratulations!
When I was waiting to adopt, it topped my list, too. Every year, it was always the same: January started out with high hopes and a wave of enthusiasm. But by the time February and March rolled around, things changed. My optimism began to fade and I found myself besieged by doubts, wondering and worrying if I would ever become a parent.
What I eventually realized is that I couldn’t just sit by and wait. If I wanted things to happen, I would have to make them happen myself. And so, little by little, I took things into my own hands and created an action plan. Eventually it paid off. We created an adoption profile and posted it online. We became parents a short time later after our son’s birth mother found it and connected with us.
Each adoption match is different. No two stories are alike. But now that the New Year is here, it’s time to begin a new chapter in your life and start making things happen. So let’s take the hope and optimism you’re feeling and make the most of it. Let’s create a game plan that will get you through not only this month, but the months ahead, so that this year will be the year you adopt.
Create an adoption networking plan
Everything begins with a plan. Without a plan, you’re just drifting from one idea to the next. Failing to plan really is planning to fail. So before you make any promises to yourself about adopting a baby this year put together a strategy on how you’re planning to do it.
And don’t be vague. Set specific goals, timelines and a budget. Then hold yourself to them. Instead of saying this is the year I want to connect with a birth parent, come up with some concrete ways to do it. It doesn’t have to be anything major.
For instance, it could be something as simple as checking in with your adoption agency once every few weeks and letting them know you’re still hoping to adopt. That way, when a situation comes up that matches your criteria, you’ll be the first to know about it.
Control the things you can control
When and how a prospective birth mother finds you is out of your hands. But there are many things you can control about your open adoption journey — the words and photos in your profile, for instance, and how prospective birth parents will find it. Make a list of all the things you can do on your own, without outside help. Then decide how hands-on you want to be — whether you want to sit back and let someone else do them for you or whether you want to roll up your sleeves and do them yourself.
In the meantime, start preparing yourself for a match. Get up to speed about adoption advertising laws in your state. Think about various scenarios that might arise at the hospital at the time of placement. Read adopting blogs and books. Speak to adoptive parents. Learn about birth parents. Ask questions. Find answers. Start thinking like an adopting parent.
Try new things
You’ve done everything you can to get the word out to expectant parents, but your adoption profile still hasn’t gotten a single response. So what do you do? Just keep plugging away? No, try something different. Look at new ways to increase your exposure. Want to create a bigger presence online? Explore social media, bookmarking sites and internet advertising.
Don’t throw yourself all over the map and try to do everything at once. You’ll only get frustrated. Instead, focus on two or three areas and master them. If they don’t produce the desired results, move on to something else. Online or off, there is no shortage of places and platforms where you can get your message out and be found by a prospective birth mother.
Review your adopting plan
Having a plan will give you something to focus on and work toward in the coming months. But along the way, be prepared to make tweaks to it or to drop things if your outreach plan doesn’t pan out. Find out what works and what doesn’t and alter things accordingly.
Once again, the problem you’re facing may be minor and easy to fix. Maybe your contact information is buried too deeply in your profile. Maybe you’re using the wrong keywords in your advertising campaign. Maybe you’re also interested in semi-open adoption situations but your agency has you marked down only for fully open ones. Maybe your adoption letter focuses too much on your infertility problem and not enough about what you plan to bring to your relationship with your future child’s birth mother. There are many small, simple changes you can make to your adopting outreach campaign to shorten your wait time.
Manage your expectations
When you’re putting together your networking plan, be realistic. Set reasonable goals and deadlines. It’s unlikely you’ll adopt next week. But within the next six months? It’s possible, provided you’re willing to do the work. Create a check list and try to do something every day or every week.
Be resourceful. Join a adopting support group. Sign up for an open adoption forum. Read a birth mother blog. Check off things once you complete them. This will not only give you a sense of accomplishment. It will help you build momentum for the days when it looks like you’ll never find a match (and be prepared for those days because there will be lots of them).
Start with small goals and once you achieve them, move on to bigger ones. For instance, you may decide to spruce up your parent profile, but you may not want to re-do the entire thing. In that case, focus on the stuff that will have the most impact — your photos, which are the first things that prospective birth parents will see — and make sure they’re as strong as possible.
If, on the other hand, you don’t want to go through the trouble of re-writing your adoption letter, add a list of the 10 favorite things that you and your partner like to do on your front page. It will say more about you — and get noticed by prospective birth parents a lot faster — than making over your entire parent profile.
Be good to yourself
When another month goes by and you haven’t made any headway with your adopting journey, when the phone doesn’t rang and your inbox is still empty, it’s natural to be disappointed and look for someone to blame. And chances are, that someone will be you. Don’t make that mistake.
Adoption networking is a lot more complicated than that. The reason you haven’t found a match likely has nothing to do with you at all. It could be something as simple as the birth family that is meant for you just hasn’t found you yet.
Stay grounded and don’t waste time wondering what’s wrong with you. (Take it from me, you’re perfectly fine!). And don’t let your difficulties adopting or starting a family define who you are. Surround yourself with positive people who understand what you’re going through or have gone through it themselves — a friend or an adoptive parent who will be there to cheer you on when things go well and comfort you when they’re don’t.
Focus on trying to find a match and don’t let it take over your life. There are too many other things out there that need your time and attention. Find a balance. Take things one day at a time and celebrate your successes, however small they may be. And even if you haven’t found a match, think about all of the unexpected things that your open adoption journey has taught you, things like humility, patience, empathy, honesty, and respect.
One last thing: as hard as it may be to believe, people really do adopt. Thousands of people every year. As long as you’re prepared to stick it out, you will, too. So just because you didn’t find a birth mother match last year doesn’t mean you won’t find one this year, or even this month. Just hang in there and keep at it.
There will be good days and bad ones. Some better than others. But once you adopt, you’ll realize that all the worrying, all the waiting you went through was totally worth it, just part of a wild and crazy journey that will end — at least for now — when your baby is placed lovingly in your arms.
What are you doing this year to adopt? How do you plan to find a match with prospective birth parents? What’s your adopting resolution for 2013? Feel free to leave your comments in the section below.