Adoption: How To Defeat The "Waiting-for-Referral Syndrome"
"Why is it that as we get closer to referral, each day gets longer and longer?
Picture this scenario.
Your Dossier has been sent. You've received notice that it's been logged in at the country's adoption office. You begin your wait.
At first, there is a letdown. You've been so caught up in the paperchase 24/7 that you now feel a sense of purposelessness. What to do with all that free time?
Next, you start communicating with your online adoption groups. You have 6, maybe 7 months to wait before any real chance of receiving your referral. The days come, the days go. You develop a routine with your work and family and the wait seems bearable.
Six months later, you are chained to the computer with your phone strapped to your hip. All you can think about is "When will the call come?" You can't function at the office. You spend valuable productive hours chatting online with other waiting parents. The days now seem to have 48 hours instead of 24, and they drag on from one to the next.
All you adoptive parents out there know what I'm talking about. It's the oh-so-common "waiting-for-referral" syndrome where the closer you get to your referral, the longer each day becomes.
We all experience some form of WFRS at some point. What is important is how often and how severe it is.
Mild Waiting-for-Referral Syndrome
In many people, the symptoms come and go. They have waves of obsession that come over them every few days or so.
You find yourself counting on your fingers the number of months, weeks, or days until your referral should come.
The calendar pages are becoming frayed because you keep flipping forward to the anticipated "referral" time, daydreaming about what day it will arrive.
What to do:
Relax and remember that the feelings will soon pass. Hundreds no, thousands of parents have gone through this before. If they can do it, so can you.
Think of a useful project related to your soon-to-be child: paint a piece of furniture for their room, knit a cap, start an adoption lifebook some activity that will allow you to think about your child during the time you are focusing on the project without becoming obsessed with it.
Moderate Waiting-for-Referral Syndrome
The next stage of WFRS is commonly identified by increasing anxiety and focus on the length of the remaining wait.
You may begin to have dreadful thoughts about the possible conditions in which your soon-to-be child is living.
You have the child's room furnished, arranged, and all the clothing folded and put away 6 months prior to the referral. You go in and rearrange, pretend you're holding the child while you rock.
You may begin to eat to calm your nerves, especially M & Ms, which seem to be particularly soothing.
What to do:
Continue the useful projects you started when the symptoms of WFRS were in the mild stage. You may have to make a conscious choice to limit the amount of time you spend on said projects.
Be sure to get to bed at a reasonable hour each night. Make a habit of preparing healthy meals for you and your family. Make these daily routines.
Limit the amount of time you are online reading posts and sending emails related to adoption, waiting, referral rumors, etc.
Don't purchase M & Ms, except for the occasional small single serving bag. Key word is "occasional" which means perhaps once every two weeks.
Severe Waiting-for-Referral Syndrome
WARNING: Symptoms of severe WFRS can be debilitating. You should be on alert for these symptoms. You may need to seek help by relying on a good friend to hold you accountable for your daily activity.
On your days off (or if you work at home), you wake up at zero-dark-thirty, stumble to the computer, log in to read the latest posts to see if any new rumors have been started.
The sun rises, the family gets up, you are in the zone reading through the hundreds of emails from across the world, and you are still in your PJs. You just can't tear yourself away, for fear a news flash would be posted saying that referrals are on their way for the next two months' worth of dossiers! Your family rolls their eyes and goes on about their business, hoping that you will snap out of it and live life again.
Your every waking thought is about the referral: when will it come, when will you get the call, do I have my camera ready to take photos, and so on.
Your work suffers because you cannot focus on your professional responsibilities.
What to do:
Remind yourself that this process is something you cannot control. Breathe deeply and focus on the here and now.
Force yourself to wait to check the adoption group email postings until your family has gotten up and you've all had breakfast together.
Allow yourself one hour in the morning, and one hour in the evening MAX (preferably less) to read the adoption group communication.
Go for a date with your spouse. Talk about the weather, current events, football scores, anything other than the latest referral rumor. Remember, once you have that new little one in your home, it'll be much harder to have that precious time with your honey.
Allow yourself a window of time each day to daydream, journal, pray, think about, and talk about your anxiety over the adoption referral. This will then allow your mind to be free to concentrate on your other responsibilities. By setting aside this special, reserved time each day tell yourself that you can then get back to focusing on the rest of your life and your family, because you'll have another special, reserved time tomorrow.
In summary, keep in mind that all this waiting will be well-worth it when they place that little child in your arms. The more you are able to care for yourself during the wait for your referral, the better parent you will be from day one.
Copyright 2005, Edi Sowers