There is a lot written about the time after the baby comes home but not a lot written about the wait. Because we hear from families that the holiday season is an especially difficult time to be waiting, we would like to share this piece, written by one of our waiting adoptive moms during her wait. We hope you find some comfort knowing you are not alone in this. Please be warned that there are parts of this post that may be triggering for parents who have experienced losses.
I consult a highly detailed spreadsheet to provide you with the exact number of days: ninety-eight. Ninety-eight days ago I missed Hurricane Harvey by hundreds of miles, received concerned texts from far flung family members, and acquired a salt water fish tank.
That rainy morning, with my windshield wipers set to chaos, I left home in The Mood. The Mood is a persistent and wrenching aspect of The Wait, which began nine months ago. The Wait is counted in months, never, ever, in days. It officially started after a criminal background check, a physician’s certificate of good health, a marriage and financial verification with certificates and tax returns, a review of house floor plans and smoke alarm locations, various financial and legal agreements, the completion of a family profile book, and a home visit from a social worker who said in all seriousness “Tell me about your mother.”
What I crave in this time of The Wait is a lightened heart and soft edges. To this end, I travel through the hurricane derivative downpour in search of a small fresh water aquarium and a few genetically modified danios, popularly called GloFish®. They are easy and cheery, movement against stillness. In these past months, I have stopped running — too tiring, stopped eating salad— too virtuous, stopped working on complex projects — too fuzzy static in my brain. I have developed a new habit of deserving cake, and a fondness for chips and cheese baked in the toaster oven for two and half minutes.
During the first three months of The Wait, I read books such as The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, and Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories. We believed we could become parents at any moment. It does happen. The next three months revolved around support groups, workshops and encouraging conversations with friends and family. Only in the last three months did The Mood arrive in full force. I no longer mention when we are being considered as adoptive parents. It prevents the second conversation which starts with “So?!” and requires the response: “We were not chosen.” Everyone tactfully withholding “Again.”
With two big box pet stores kitty corner to each other, I expected to easily find and purchase the fish tank solution: longing blunted briefly by glow-in-the-dark fish. Instead I stand in a dimly lit geodesic structure called AquaDome. The sphere is filled with the sea, segmented into hundreds of chambers, all linked by habitrail plumbing, and brimming with alien life. I challenge the storekeeper to disqualify me, to send me back to Petco for a lightweight acrylic tank. Instead, she helps me load jugs of salt water, living sand, rocks from Florida, and a 16-gallon glass Coralife Biocube into my car.
The nascent sea world requires a life support system and my first visit to Aquadome is followed by the purchase of a heater, an improved water pump, a wave maker, a protein skimmer, an in-tank media basket, filter media, better filter media, a water testing kit, a replacement light kit with mobile app, an algae scrapping magnet, a refugarium light and chaetomorpha, an accurate heater that doesn’t cook the tank while I’m on a business trip, and a second aquarium when the first springs a leak.
The sea creatures are added as impulsive decisions vindicated by extensive research and methodical care. Clownfish and Blue Leg Hermit Crabs follow Aquadome’s advice. First corals, Candycane and Richordia, conclude an hour long conversation about clean up crews at the other local fish store. Pipe Organ, Blastomussa, and Neon Green Hairy Mushroom arrive from an online shop that makes helpful YouTube videos. Duncans appear, with Pavona and Caulastrea added on to make the free shipping minimum. And an Open Brain Trachyphillia is traded for the Pavona, who was aggressive and sad. Each day, I consider placement, lighting, and flow, and measure the success of this life support system against the lives it maintains.
Ninety-eight days is coincidentally fourteen weeks. My two lost children also swam in warm salt water. Each grew as large as a lemon but never an apple. The first time my tank crashed, I was sent home to muddle through the ending with a pamphlet. The second time, an obstetrician performed a D&C and I skipped the part where the dead future child tumbles into the toilet.
The Wait turns ten months tomorrow. It will persist until a mother, and perhaps a father, chose us to be the right family to parent their child. In the mean time, I tend nine small coral, two fish, one shrimp, and a variety of snails: Trochus, Nassarius and Margarita. I read discussion boards, learn biochemistry, talk to geeky strangers near and far, and continue to test the waters. The Mood fades as the aquarium thrives. The Wait will be forgotten, when it finally ends. ♥