For me, the hardest part of the adoption process was the decision to do it in the first place. For my wife, the most difficult aspect was the wait. If God is calling you to adopt, you may well have a time of waiting. Sometimes the wait can be quite short—weeks or months. In some cases, it can be a year or more, if a birth mother is difficult to locate or if the country from which you’re adopting experiences political trouble. In almost any case, it will seem to be a long time as you wait for the call telling you that your child or children are ready for you.
This waiting can wear on a family, especially on a couple who’ve come to adoption after tragedies such as infertility or miscarriages. Sometimes adopting parents can even exhibit physical symptoms from anxiety. I’ve known people with chronic headaches, stomach problems, heart palpitations—even someone who wound up in a hospital emergency room thinking he was having a heart attack—while waiting for adoptions to go through. In all these instances, it was simply their bodies reacting to the stress. In all these cases, there was nothing wrong. It was just the uncertainty of it. You may feel—especially if you’re a man—as though you ought to be fighting someone for your children’s lives. But there’s no one to fight.
You may feel as though you should be doing something to hurry along the process, even after all your paperwork is done. But there’s nothing more to do.
This sensation isn’t unique to adoption. God has designed the universe around us so that anticipation is built into the order of things. Even in the most typical situations, after all, God doesn’t create babies out of nothing. A woman may cry out from the bathroom, “Guess what, honey? The test says I’m pregnant!” but only rarely does a woman cry out from the bathroom, “Guess what, honey? I just gave birth!” God slowly knits together a child in the womb as his parents wait for his arrival.
God does this in almost every aspect of life. He didn’t blink the universe together in an instant but instead called it together, piece by piece, over the space of six days. Even when God created humanity as the crown of his universe, he made Adam wait for his queen, creating anticipation for her by showing him in the world around him that “there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:20). At the ascension of Jesus, his disciples wondered if it was “at this time” that he would “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). Instead, for thousands of years, so far, the gospel has gone forth through the invisible dynamism of the Spirit, while we wait still for Jesus to appear in the eastern skies.
Growing Your Patience
There’s something about patience that God deems necessary for our life in the age to come. And so, whether through agriculture or discipleship or bodily development or eschatology or procreation, God makes us wait. And he makes us into the kind of people who can wait. We rejoice in such things, Paul tells us, because we know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom. 5:3–4). Our adoption in Christ involves patient waiting, hopeful anticipation (Rom. 8:24–25). In the earthly scenario of adoption, as in the heavenly experience of our own adoption, we “hope for what we do not see” because we “wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:25).
While you’re waiting, spend time cultivating the spiritual disciplines you’ll need as parents. After all, you’ll be waiting again someday. It might be on a Friday night when you don’t know where your rebel child is at three in the morning. It might be in a hospital waiting room as you flip through magazines waiting to hear from the doctors if the transplant was successful. It might be as you sit by the phone, hoping to hear from the battlefield where your baby is serving as a soldier. Learn now to pray with dependence. Pray together as you wait for the protection of your child. Pray for his future salvation. Pray for your own wisdom to lead your child toward godliness.
Our adoption in Christ involves patient waiting, hopeful anticipation.
Spend this time preparing your family and friends for the new arrival. Adopting couples are sometimes surprised by how the people in their lives react to adoption, both positively and negatively. Some family members I expected to be completely apathetic to the adoption were tracking the days with us, almost as excited as we were. Another family member was cold to the whole idea, changing the subject whenever Maria brought it up with her on the phone. She eventually, and inexplicably, warmed up to the idea—and to the boys—as soon as we received the call to get them. I suppose she was “protecting” herself from getting too excited, in case it all fell through. You may find similar situations among your family and friends. Bear patiently with them. If they love you, they’ll come around.
Sometimes social workers or adoption agencies will tell adopting parents to keep grandparents and other extended family members away for the first three to six weeks (or even longer) after a child has been adopted. This is to give parents time to bond with the child. In some of the more dire circumstances—a child who has been through major trauma such as abuse, etc., in recent days—this may be appropriate. In the vast majority of situations, though, such advice is misguided. We don’t bond in isolation from others; we bond together in community. You don’t want to overwhelm your child with new faces, but you want him or her to know that he or she is now part of a larger family of people who love him or her. You also don’t want to rob grandparents and aunts and uncles of the opportunity to be a part of your child’s life from the beginning. An arrival home from adoption is very much like a birth. There’s no shame to this. Don’t treat it clinically. Allow your loved ones to celebrate with you.
Often friends will want to have a baby shower for the adopting mother. This is, of course, appropriate, just as it would be for a pregnant mother. It can be complicated, though, not only by the unpredictability of the adoption process. Sometimes a family not only doesn’t know whether they’re “having a boy or a girl” but also whether they’re having an infant or a toddler. Sometimes too, a baby shower can add anxiety to an already worried mother, if it happens too soon for her. She may wonder, “What will I do with all these gifts if the adoption falls through?” In these cases, a husband ought to discern his wife’s best interest and help their friends decide whether to go ahead or wait on the shower.
Even when there’s some uncertainty, though, a baby shower can be helpful in the waiting process. After all, the fears of (especially firsttime) adopting families are, in the vast majority of cases, unfounded. The baby shower can be a time for family and friends to pray for the family and for the quick resolution of the adoption process. The shower, or a dinner in honor of the new family, can also be an excellent way for family and friends to be reminded of the gospel archetype of adoption. Such things can spur on others who can adopt to start praying about whether God wants the next baby shower to be theirs.
This article is adapted from Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches by Russell Moore.
We believe Jesus in heavenly things—our adoption in Christ; so we follow him in earthly things—the adoption of children.
Adoption reflects the gospel to a watching world. Learn more about the process and purpose of adoption.
Russell Moore shares his own family’s adoption journey, explaining why adoption is important for all Christians—even those who never actually adopt.
When we adopt—and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our churches and communities—we’re picturing something that’s true about our God.