Trials and tribulations of "The Wait"

I have an ugly confession to make. The wait is getting to me. And I don’t just mean mentally. I’m starting to exhibit symptoms. Symptoms I’m not happy about.
I was very proud of myself for the past year. I was doing well - living in the moment. I had things going on. I was in my groove.
And to tell you the truth, the wait has done good things for me. For both of us, actually. It’s been a busy time for us, a time of hard work and of fruition. It has done good things for our relationship. Two years ago, we were a couple of carefree kids. OK, we’re sorta middle-aged, by traditional standards. But we were living “the life”. We were in Vail. We hiked every day, skied, snowboarded, biked, and did a lot of road tripping. We traveled. We ate well. We experienced the world. We weren’t wealthy, but we had what we needed.
But since starting our adoption journey some 13 months ago, we have evolved into something much better, stronger and more profound than what we were before. We have become adults, and good citizens of the world. We have learned to think like parents, and partners, and responsible citizens of humanity. And to our tremendous surprise, we have greatly enjoyed the transition.
Our decision to adopt coincided (not entirely coincidentally) with our decision to move to the Front Range, buy an actual house (as opposed to the condo that was all we could manage in “resort country”), and get serious about our careers. And that has worked out for us. More than that, it has worked out beyond our expectations. M landed a terrific job with the wonderful health insurance that allowed us to enter the Special Needs adoption program. He was also ambitious enough to take on grad school in his “spare time”, and has pretty much rocked out his business school classes ever since. He’s learned to not only deal with the high-stress lifestyle, but to make it work for him.
Meanwhile, I’ve dived headfirst into my freelance career. While in Vail, I more or less drifted, taking the jobs I could get in either journalism or illustration, not really pushing for more than what I could survive on. Since moving to a more urban environment, I promised myself that I would take full advantage of the larger career opportunities and make something of a real name for myself. I’m not sure that I was really convinced I could do it. I was not, after all, the consummate career woman. But diligence and a 7-day work week have paid off for me.
This year, I have completed my first illustration of a children’s book (release slated for May 2008). That was my goal at the time I left Vail. I really don’t think I believed I would achieve it in under two years. And it gets even better. Recently, I’ve won some illustration jobs that I not only needed but very much wanted, allowing me the ultimate luxury of actually doing what I most love to do...for a living! I’ve also maintained a sideline of portraiture that has both honed my skills and nourished my love of painting children, as well as allowing me to create beautiful things for people who have become my friends.
Through all the ups and downs of the adoption journey, I’ve learned to work through stress and emotional turmoil. I’ve even learned to feed off of it, and to compartmentalize like nobody’s business. The day I had to take my beloved Sam to the vet for what I fully believed would be his last physical exam, I managed to put in a 12-hour work day, and a very successful one at that. These are good lessons to learn. These are lesson which, I sincerely hope, will serve me well once we have Flynn at home with us, and our family life takes on a whole new dimension.
All this is to say that the adoption journey, as long and nerve-wracking as it inevitably is, has served us well. We have learned and grown by leaps and bounds. And it has added tremendously to our overall joy in life.
That said, it is now weighing on me more than it ever has. As we approach our anticipated referral time, every day makes me more anxious. I no longer have the luxury of being immune to all the random rumors that come down the pike. Now, each nervous rumor runs down my nerve paths like a shock wave. I mentally mark off each day on the calendar, and each morning when I wake up I immediately check the adoption lounges and our agency website for any hint of a new list.
I am not a fan of this new über-awareness. I’m not a person who thrives on nervous energy. I prefer serenity. I prefer to live in the moment, rather than in the past or in the future. I prefer to let life follow its own path. These days, I’m troublesomely detail-oriented. I note the date and the time. I pay attention to averages and referral histories. I worry about our dossier. I register time passed.
I noticed, for instance, when it was the 11th of March, exactly two months following our first failed referral. I haven’t spoken about that referral on my blog, for many reasons. It was nobody’s fault. It was one of those things that happens in the adoption world. It was sad, and it was traumatic, and it was difficult for us. That first referral was unexpected, and came earlier than our anticipated refferal timeframe. The child that was referred to us appeared to have a very minor condition, but turned out to have very major health issues, issues so bad that she turned out to be unadoptable. As I said, it was nobody’s fault. It was an extremely rare genetic condition (less than 1 in 10,000) that few doctors would have caught. But it happened, it was dreadfully sad for the child, and it affected M & I both very profoundly.
Eventually, I comforted myself with the idea that it would be approximately another two months before we could expect another referral. When it became clear that the next list would take longer than expected to arrive, my mind began to rebel against me. And , yes, I started to lose my cool.
Since then, I have experienced the expected mental effects: anxiousness, nervousness, a klieg-light glare focused on the corner of my mind that deals with our adoption proceedings.
I also have a weakness that I’m not proud of. I have a system of weights and measures in my mind that leads me to hold the secret belief that I have to give up certain things in order to enjoy other things in my life. I have a private suspicion that I simply cannot “have it all”. It doesn’t seem right, after all, that I should have so much when others in this world have so little. So I balance it out in my mind. By this system of reasoning, a part of me thinks that because I am achieving success and personal fulfillment in my career, and because I have been fortunate enough to have such a wonderful married life, it’s possible that I might not have the same success in my adoption journey. A small, paranoid part of my mind believes that I have to choose between those things.
Now, rationally, I know that this shouldn’t be the case. I have been working hard and diligently at my career. I have also been working hard and well at my home life. There is no reason why this should prevent me from achieving my dream of becoming a mother. Still, some part of me thinks, “Well, if I have to choose...then take away the success I’m having with my work, and give me my Flynn instead. I will deal with the consequences.”
The problem is, that choice is not mine to make. I have been doing my best. I’ve been doing all that I believe is right. I can no more take back the hard work I’ve been doing in my career than I can reverse the success I’ve been handed. And when it comes down to it, I have not been “spoiled” by life. I’m no Paris Hilton. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and I haven’t been handed success on a silver platter. So where is all this guilt coming from? Why do I feel that I have to give up some of my fortune in order to have the right to raise a child?
And I also know that childrearing is no picnic. It’s not a lottery prize. My life will not be a bowl of cherries once I have that much longed-for child to raise. In fact, I will have a whole new set of challenges, a whole slew of new fears to overcome. And work? Well, if I think I’m working hard now, I have another think coming. So, once again, why the guilt complex?
I don’t know. I chalk it all up to nerves. And along with the protracted concept of time, I’ve also been experiencing physical manifestations. A twitch under one of my eyelids. Skin problems that I was never prone to in my youth. Troubled sleep. A temperamental stomach. And the worst problem of all: panic attacks while driving. I can't thank Rony enough for telling me that these stress issues are not unheard-of during the wait. Were it not for her brave post, I might have really thought I was losing my mind. But panic while driving? Really there is no worse fate than that for me, the traveler, the road-tripper, the wanderers’ daughter.
So, there it is. I’m admitting to you, dear readers, my weakest moments. For many months I watched my fellow “waiters” grow antsy, then anxious, then stressed, then angry..and all along I thought, “Hey, chill out! Enjoy your life. It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen.”
So this is me, eating my words.
Hugs to all my friends and fellow waiters. May your road be fruitfull.


Vivian M said...

Oh Maia...the wait gets to all of us eventually, and you are human after all. You will be fine! Like with any life change, it may take a few days, weeks or months for you to reorganize yourself and decide what works for you. But there is no reason why you can't have it all!
As for the marriage, becoming parents only made ours stronger and better. I got to see a new side of hubby, one that I love. M will be a wonderful Daddy and you will have one more reason to love him.
And career...you can do it! Especially if you have the freedom to put down a brush and pick it up later. If you are not confined to an office and have a flexible schedule, I don't see you giving up what you love to do...just maybe working weirder hours sometimes.
All the rest will be forgotten the moment they put that child into your arms...and then replaced with new emotions. What you are going through is absolutely normal, scary and wonderful all at the sime time, as crazy as that may sound.
Be proud of yourself...you have done a wonderful job with the wait so far, much better than I did!

3D said...

This wait has changed me. As hard as it is, it has left a mark on me. One that I hope does not fade. It will be a reminder of what we waited for, how we got thru it. A reminder to not take our children for granted.

This is our evolution from couples to becoming parents.

Almost there...

Keep smilin!

Yoli said...

I agree with Vivian, the wait gets to all of us and changes us. How could it not? It is the most important event in our lives that we are waiting for and it could happen today or tomorrow. So it sets us up to be in constant vigilance. We cannot help it, so please be gentle with yourself.

tiffany said...

I popped over to your comment page to say something cheerful. But the truth is that I took a minute to read the other couple of comments and got lost in thought. The wait(s) have changed me so much too and I just really relate to that sentiment. I try to keep a positive spin on it...you get the child right for your family...you will understand why the wait was what it was someday...etc. But our waits werent all that long and still they kicked my booty. I look and feel different and not all in a good way if I am honest. It just is what it is and it is difficult.

Of course you will be fine. You will "have it all" in your own way. You will be a fabulous mother.

I hope your referral arrives mighty soon my friend.

Juliette said...

Maia, you are a great person and will be a great Mom, never doubt it!
You should not feel guilty for being happy in your career and your couple, you worked hard for it and you totally deserve it.
We all go through different phases in this wait and it's back and forth between a lot of very opposite emotions. I think it wouldn't be normal if you were not experiencing the lows and were always seeing everything in a positive way, even you, the super optimistic Maia!!!
This wait definitely changes all of us, not always with nice side effects, but in the long run it will be for the best.
This little girl with a big red balloon that you draw all the time, she will laugh soon in your backyard with Sam, be sure of that my friend. Courage!

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

Hugs to ya sister... I am sure with the first referral you had to do what you had to do... regardless of what anyone says or thinks... your Flynn is out there just waiting for 'fate' to take a turn... we are all human and no matter how 'tough' we try to be... this wait is a bitch... you have the right to be ticked off, doubting, scared, anxious etc I too always thought that I was going to be 'tough' but hey, I had my 'pity party' recently and it did feel good... the way I see it... had we not gone through this whole adoption thing... I would not have met the people I have, learnt the things I did (even all the things I have learnt about China - another culture, customs), I even learnt to drive (never thought I would do that) and sometimes I sit here and wonder how I have changed just from going through this whole adoption thing... had we not gone through this, I would not have met you and had you 'push' me to do the photography thing I had always wanted to do... so, don't think of all this as bad... the way I see it...
'You need to go through the bad, to appreciate the good' - 'You need to go through the sad, to appreciate the happy' - 'You need to go through the bad, to appreciate the good'
I am sure you will be fine and Flynn will be spoilt rotten with all the love, her little adventures and her journey to growing up with you and M as her mum and dad... she will be one chic little chick... hehe
Take care... (and enough of all this - you can wake up now...lol)

Stephanie said...

Coming from someone who let the wait drive them crazy from the moment their dossier landed in China almost 16 months ago, I'm sorry to hear it's gotten to you. It sucks. And the worse part? The anxiety doesn't go away once you receive your referral because then there the even more dreaded wait of omg, when do we travel?!! Ooops, I'm sorry. I should probably be writing uplifting things for you.

Hang in there, friend. You are not alone.

TBG Happenings said...

The wait is horrible. I was an insane person every time it got close to the time I "thought" our agency would get a new list of waiting children.....and you know what??? They called when I least expected it, I even said you not supposed to call for 2 and a half more weeks! See crazy what waiting mom points that out!!!

The wait is labor without an epideral!

Enjoy a glass of wine, snuggle up with the ones ya love and day dream about your Flynn...she will be there soon and you won't be able to remember a time she wasn't a part of your family!

Tamara said...

It is very hard sometimes to feel like parenthood is so, so close but to have so little control over it happening now, tomorrow, next week, next year.

Maybe the anxiousness is also part of the whole becoming a mama thing when you adopt. I think all mothers feel a visceral need for their child to be safe and to be able to keep them that way. Its harder to feel when waiting to adopt because we don't have any control until we bring them home.

I'm sorry you're having a hard time right now but I don't for a second think that adding Flynn to the mix will be anything but wonderful in the end for all of you. I hope your day comes very, very soon.

The Powers said...

Maia - once you see your daughter or son you will want nothing more than to hold that child ... the time to travel comes quickly as there is alot to do between referral and travel... the time in China is precious and hard enjoy it to the max...!!! A new life to take care of, new challenges to your spousal relationship, etc., etc. Enjoy your free time cause you don't get much when the baby comes... there are many challenges with adopted children... sleeping through the night, etc. but it's all worth it... hang in there and do as many fun things as possible 'cause pretty soon you'll be so sleep deprived, haggared from no personal time, etc. It's all about the child and not about you any more... really don't remember life before Leela ... she's so wonderful and when you get your match you'll understand when people say "this child is SO perfect for our family..." - not sure how the matching gets done, but it is magical! Hang in there!!! We'll be looking at pics of your new addition soon!

Tish said...

blessings and peace to you...

Tish said...

oh, and on a different note, will you be able to share with us the title of the children's book that you mentioned? i would love to see your illustrations.

Snowflowers Mum said...

if there is an immunity to the stress of the wait just let me know where to buy it! I had panic attacks(first since preg loss era) and a bad case of psoriasis prior to boarding the plane for Paisley...everyone gets stressed and handles it differently...I dont believe anyone is truly immune, you can fight the stress or you can let it take it's course, it's normal...freakily so.

you are so 'centered' but the last few months have added additional factors that would have most people curled up in the fetal position in a corner of the bathroom with a mojito and 16 bars of dark choclate!

Frankly darhling, you are doing pretty well, and talking about it is proof!

Hopefully the new list will be here soon.


kris said...

I hear you- I do, and like you, I am a person of solitude, thrive on it, and hate when I get worked up over anything...

But really- this is huge. You're on the verge of becoming parents. I think in some ways these "symptoms" show the depth of your EXCITEMENT. Waiting is hard, and I think it catches up to most of us, eventually.

You know how it is though when you're on a really long road trip, those last 30-60 miles always, always seem the longest, and you get impatient for home. Well, you're in those last miles now.

Hang in there. Don't be too hard on yourself, and embrace this part of you- don't reject her!

Stacie said...

Ohhh!!!!!!!! The fear of convergence? It is an intrinsic trait of mine...can't shake it no matter what- i so understand how you are feeling.

This wait is the worst... you are not nuts.... it gets to us ALL eventually. I managed to block it out of my mind until the last three months then i slowly started to lose my mind. It was like reading my own thoughts from one year ago, exactly.

My panic attacks were not limited to one specific time or activity... they never went away. I constantly felt like i had irregular heart beat and a vise around my heart, squeezing harder every day. (Acupuncture was wonderful for my panic attacks and the only relief i was able to find).

I was changed forever during the wait... in some ways for the better, in some ways not.

I think my first post i ever put on your blog was how this wait was "hell on earth" and you had not reached that point, yet. It is hell on earth.... and the only thing you can do is put your head down and push through it. Which, by many accounts, i KNOW you can do.

I am so sorry about your loss of the first referral. It IS a loss- just like a miscarriage and you deserve to grieve for that loss. I cannot imagine the pain that came with that.

At the end of all this you will given the most amazing gift. it is truly like staring into the sun and it does not seem as if it can be real- but it is.... and soon you will know that feeling for yourself!


At the end you will have the most

J said...

BTDT, and not all that long ago. You will do it. Trust me. You will be a wife, a mother, an artist and a writer. You will not always pull it off gracefully, but you will manage at first, then you will excel. When you find yourself there, you won't even see the difficulties for what they are. You just do what you need to do, and don't even think of it.

I also started losing my marbles toward the end. I was a wreck. I don't know what to tell you about that, since I never figured my way out of that one.

I hope your wait ends soon.