Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dear Sugar: To the Hopeful and Waiting Adoptive Parent at Christmas

Dear Sugar:

This is my absolute most favorite time of year.  Like I'm certified Buddy-the-Elf-Christmas-crazy.

I love every single thing about Christmas:  the tree decorating, cookie baking, gift buying and wrapping, music listening, church attending, photo taking, present exchanging, movie watching.  It's also going to be quite magical to celebrate the holiday now that our daughter is a year old:  bring on the wrapping-shredding, bow-wearing, box-smashing!  

I'm very thankful for both the peace and chaos this season brings, because wow, has it been a year in the G-house.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had subsequent surgery, my sixth book was published, and we finalized our daughter's adoption.

I am, while full of joy (and relief) for the season ahead, remember what it was like to celebrate Christmas without a baby...again.  Waiting for your child can be the most excruciating, heart-torturing, soul-shaking season of your life.  You might smile on the outside, but there's an internal storm.  Everything around you is all-about-family.  It's all very Hallmark.  But you don't have those warm and fuzzies, because everywhere you turn, you are reminded of what you do not have.

^^^This photo was taken on Christmas Day in 2007.  You can see that we had baby on the brain, just as we had for several years.   (We were SO young!)

We were gifted many things that day for our future child...and we laughed, and awwww'd, and smiled.  But, I remember taking a bathroom break during the gift-opening chaos and having to take deep breaths and collect my thoughts before stepping back into the joy and mayhem of wrapping paper and cookies.  

This season is hard.  Because when you're waiting for a baby, there are babies EVERYWHERE.   And not just babies, but beautiful babies who grin and wave, who sit on Santa's lap, who snuggle and drift to sleep in Christmas jammies. 

There is no way around the pain.  There is only through.  

I don't know how long you've been waiting for your day to become a mommy, but I do know that waiting is never easy. Adoption is full of unknowns.  You know the call can come at ANY day and ANY time, which is both the hope and the discouragement.  

I'm not going to tell you to "suck it up" and enjoy Christmas. That's not helpful.  I'm also not going to tell you that "there is purpose in your pain" and that "everything happens for a reason." Also not helpful.

But I will tell you there's a pretty well-known baby who was anxiously awaited for...who was born into unexpected circumstances.  Who was a treasured surprise.  And He is who we celebrate at Christmas.  Look to Him, to His miraculous story, when you wonder, where is my baby?

As you wait and wonder, wait and wonder, I want you to know that it is OK, even healthy, to fall in love with a baby that is not yet yours.  You are an REM.  (If you've read my new book, you know what that is!).

As you struggle and savor (repeat), here are a few ideas on how to enjoy the holidays while waiting:

-find your future baby a Christmas gift.  Wrap it.  Put it under the tree.  It can be anything:  a toy, a onesie, a board book, a photo frame.  (Remember how women used to have hope chests?  My mom has one:  it's full of super-special things.  Maybe it's time to bring back the hope chest?)  How about this highly anticipated new children's book by mom-by-adoption Hoda Kotb?  (Click on image to pre-order)

-give yourself permission to grieve and yearn.  It's perfectly OK to turn down attending some celebrations in order to curl up on the couch with hot chocolate and a movie while wearing your pjs, because you are trying to deal with BIG feelings.  Give your soul a chance to relax and unwind.  

-while you want to give yourself grace, please don't neglect the things that you know will bring joy.  Don't deprive yourself of that joy as if you're making some sacrifice that will superstitiously make your phone ring.  Bake cookies with your relatives, participate in the Dirty Santa gift giving/taking game, wear the reindeer ears to work like your fellow co-workers.   

-buy your future baby a Christmas ornament.  Something that symbolizes your anticipation.  Hang it on the tree.  Pray over the anticipation of a child joining your family every time you glance at the ornament.

-check-in with your partner over a lovely date night dinner.  Relish in your moments as a pair where you can eat and drink what you want, stay out late, and have quiet conversations.  It's OK to be happy while also struggling to wait for your baby:  the two can co-exist. 

Please know, you are NOT alone. Madeleine Melcher (adoptee and mom-by-adoption) and me (mom-by-adoption) co-authored a book centered on faith and adoption to bring you the encouragement you need year-round.   We pray it blesses you as you wait for your baby.

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