"Nesting" is different when you're waiting for an adoption

June 4 | Guest post by WHanna
By: Robert S. DonovanCC BY 2.0
We live in a two-bedroom apartment in a beautiful city. We have the space for the kids we're waiting for (in an urban kind of way) and sometimes, like any expectant mum, I get the urge to "nest." You know, get the nursery all ready so I can sit in it and imagine my future. Paint it muted colours and put a rocking chair by the window. All that soft stuff that we imagine new parents doing.

But here's the thing: I'm not expecting. Not in the traditional sense. My husband and I have decided to adopt one or two kids from foster care between the ages of four and seven. We applied to adopt through our local government agency one year and three months ago. In that time we have done the mandatory training program, I have taken a special course on adopting children of aboriginal heritage (a large percentage of children in foster care in Canada are First Nations) and we have waited and waited for our names to move up the wait list for a home study.

But just because there is no baby in my belly doesn't mean that I don't feel the need to make a home for my kids.

I watch the herons fly by my window with twigs and sticks so they can make a safe spot for their babies. I want to create a safe spot for mine. The problem is that we don't have a nine month wait for our family expansion — we could be waiting for years. It would be a little ridiculous to have a room all set up for our kids for years before they come home. Besides, our kids might want to have a say in their choice of bedspread. (Unless they choose Hannah Montana. No Hannah Montana.)

So how do I nest? I've turned inward. The most important thing that I can give my children is a safe and stable family. That means a mama who is ready to help them battle their demons. To be that mama, I need to be at my best when my kids come home so I am using this time to prepare. I am learning about my emotions. I have come to terms with my past. I have learned to eat better. I am drinking more water. I am exercising more. I am prioritizing. I am creating my support network. All these things take time and as a non-goal oriented, champion procrastinator, I am thankful for the time I have.

Inward nesting has another benefit. It is slow moving and personal and as such, its greatest reward might be learning to be patient with one's self. My moody days aren't going to disappear over night. My downward dog might be shaky for months. There will be times that I will drink a little too much wine or eat a few too many French fries. That's ok. I am not trying to create perfection. I am not planning on being a perfect mum. I am planning on having the patience to know that improvement takes time and perfection is impossible.

You know that quote about the journey that matters more than the destination? Well, insert that annoying inspirational poster here. I think they got it right.

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  1. I love how you consider making yourself a better person "nesting"
    You will be a wonderful role model for your new family.
    Best of luck and I hope you get your family soon

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  2. Congratulations on your decision to adopt – I really hope that the process goes as smoothly as it can.

    Years ago, I dated a man who was partial to making statements that I found overly inspirational and annoying. However, one thing he said to me actually struck me as fairly on-target. I was droning on and on about journeys versus destinations, and he stopped me and said, "No, no, man (he called me "man", another annoying habit), you've got it all wrong. The journey IS the destination." I was all "oh, can it" but as I've gotten older, I realized that he might be right.

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  3. I'm a bio and adoptive mom and absolutely understand. It is different, isn't it? The slow, steady, fairly predictable 9 months of choosing names and listening to heartbeats and picking out the perfect nursery theme vs. the fits and starts and highs and lows and mounds of paperwork and inspections that come with adoption. Thankfully, no matter the route, the end result is amazing. And as far as waiting years goes…you never know. We were given 2 weeks notice, and had 24 hours to choose a name. In the blink of an eye, we had a new baby. It could happen to you too! Best of luck and hang in there!

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    • Wow! Two weeks notice to bring home a baby! That is crazy/amazing. I'm thankful that the process for bringing home older kids is usually a little longer- a lot of visiting and getting to know one another before they come home for good.

  4. You are wonderful. I'm bookmarking this for reading when I'm at that stage in our adoption.

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  5. So timely. I just finished setting up a toddler bed and washing the new bedding, waiting for children to come to us through foster care. We don't know their age(s), so we have a bassinet, a crib, and a bed. We have been in the process for a year, licensed for two months, and now just waiting patiently. I just keep reading foster and adoption books and blogs, and trying to prepare myself for the unpreparable. Now the challenge is preparing my toddler for a coming child, not knowing if, when, or who the child will be. The magical, mystical possible sibling-t0-be! Maybe while I am waiting, I should write a children's book on this very matter…"My Friend Arrived One Day".

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    • Good on you! The world needs more people adopting and fostering, especially those that take the time to understand how incredibly complex and difficult it is. I work in this area as a psychologist, so if you want any advice/input around what to tell children or where to go for further information, feel free to get in touch.

  6. THIS. What a lovely post and so, so true. I think sometimes adoptive mamas-to-be can experience the need to wait on the external nesting as a loss, something traditional mamas get to do that they don't. I think this is a great re-orientation for anyone planning to parent but especially great for those working on adoptions. I think this will serve you so, so well as you move forward building your family.

    • So much about adoption is about loss. Both the children and the birth family experience loss. The adoptive family experiences the loss of the "normal" family building experience (whatever that is!).
      It is really important to acknowledge the loss. It is also extremely liberating to realize that even though things are different, it doesn't mean they can't be beautiful in their own way. Thanks for your comment :)

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  7. This post is so beautiful, as someone who is not at any stage of life to have children bio or adoptive I think I will embark on a smiliar nesting experiance.

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  8. I just wanted to say that I love post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Thank you so much. We are at the beginning stages of our adoption journey, and I've wondered about how to create a home for a child who could show up at a moment's notice or not for years. So we've focused on taking good care of ourselves and our dog and making our home as beautiful and happy as possible. Wishing you all the luck and love in the world as your family creates itself.

  10. We are also awaiting a child from foster care. It is so true that the outward nesting isn't the same. I have been trying to do some emotional/mental nesting too. I was so happy to see another Canadian waiting mother's perspective. I wish you all the best in your journey.
    Warm thoughts from the East coast.

    • Yay, a Canadian! My blog is linked in my bio. It chronicals our process as it is in BC. I've found that so much of what I read about adoption is from an American perspective. Many of the emotions are the same so it is still really helpful but there are differences in culture and in the way our governments handle adoption so it is always nice to hear from other Canadians.
      Best to you from the sunny (for once) West Coast!

  11. Loved this, my younger siblings are all adopted from foster care. Some of my earliest memories are from my mother's nesting for the arrival of my twin brothers, who we didn't know would be twins, or brothers, until right before they came! I just wanted to say that in terms of all the material stuff…give yourself a bit of freedom. It didn't matter, in the end, that my mother had gone and bought a couple of pretty dresses and then the little girl who was coming was suddenly going somewhere else. It didn't matter that some of the bedclothes weren't "boy colours" or that some of the gifts that came were for children much younger or much older (because people had lost track of who we were expecting). When the moment comes and you meet your child it's a big crazy, exciting, loving time and working out all the little logistical bits and pieces will happen, just like it happens for people with biological children. Congratulations on beginning what will be a beautiful journey. You've obviously got the most important elements of a family home (love, dedication) down.

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  12. We want to adopt from foster care as well, but that's a bit down the road. HOWEVER, this post is just stellar and is definitely something to be mindful of as we work toward that goal.

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