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May 9 2014

Waiting in Limbo on The Last-Minute Adoption List

By at 10:05 am

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In college, Brian and I lived in a dorm which was known for one thing in particular: fire drills. Well, not exactly drills, more like people setting off the alarm in the middle of the night. For most of the first quarter, two or three times a week, approximately 600 of us would sleepily file onto the dark street in front of the building.

(Note to all college students: It is advised that you remove the pop tart from the foil before putting it in the microwave. Also, who microwaves a Pop Tart?)

After a few weeks of this, I created a routine before going to bed which consisted of setting out sweatpants, a jacket, shoes and keys so they would be easily accessible at 1 a.m. when the alarm was blaring. As I climbed into my little dorm bed, I would think, “I wonder if the fire alarm will go off tonight?”

Fifteen years later, I go to sleep with a similar thought on my mind, “I wonder if we will get a last-minute phone call tonight?”

In the world of adoption, a last-minute call means that a baby has just been born and the birth parent(s) has selected you to be the parent(s). And you should come to the hospital. Now.

This means that, technically, we could become parents at any second. (I know!) Only about 15% of the adoptions our agency does each year are last-minute placements, but in the mind of someone who is “Always Prepared!” this statistic means absolutely nothing. As a result, I’ve spent most of the last six months feeling a bit like a firefighter: always ready to go at a moment’s notice, but trying to not to think about fires all day long.

This constant state of being alert is extremely draining. Wondering each morning, “Will our lives completely change today?” Remembering to bring my phone with me wherever I go (full disclosure, for about three seconds I actually considered an iPhone holder that attaches to your belt). Seeing the packed-with-a-few-essentials suitcase in the closet. Trying to have things at work prepared in case I go on maternity leave tomorrow. But, also trying to be a regular person and not think about adoption stuff every moment of the day.

Each agency or lawyer has different criteria for being eligible for these lists, ranging from how long the adoptive parents have been waiting to how close they live to where the baby was born. And for some people, it’s not the right thing for them. We had multiple conversations about whether the added anxiety which I knew for me, would come with being on this list, would be worth any possibilities it would bring (clearly, we decided yes). So while, yes, we did choose this, it was with a clear understanding of everything that went into it.

Fifteen years ago I didn’t have a cell phone to plug into its charger as part of my pre-bedtime ritual. But now, it is the most important part of my routine.

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