Monday, December 9, 2013

How to Love Your Waiting Friends

When I was a child, I remember certain winter mornings. I woke up with a hope, a wondering. Did it snow? Maybe there was a glow from behind the blinds or a certain smell in the air and I leapt out of bed, yanking the cord and praying, yearning to behold a sea of white glare. Some days it came true, other days the sun tricked me with its brightness. Winter was one long wait- for the next snowstorm, the next snowball fight, the next Nintendo marathon with the neighbors in place of school. And it was a fun wait. Eventually it turned into a mushy wait for spring but with that came new joys- soccer would soon start up again, the wearing of shorts, the leafing of the trees, that first afternoon when the sun feels warm again. Waiting is easier when you know the certainty of the outcome. Every year, winter happened. Every year, spring arrived.

For those of us waiting on an adoption or a pregnancy, though, the waiting is uncertain. Nothing is guaranteed. We might never match with a birth family, people undergoing fertility treatments may never conceive. It's a time of hope and waiting- but it's oh so different. People who haven't experienced this type of wait have a hard time understanding. And so many of them want to offer words of encouragement or specific opinions on the "how." Humbly, though, I submit that there are only a few simple things you can do to love us well through this process. I also humbly submit that not all those waiting will agree with these points. We are all different.

WAIT WITH US. QUIETLY. What does this look like? Well, there's no particular process. Think to yourself, "What posture might I have if I were waiting on something that I wanted more than anything else in the world and had no control over getting?" How would you feel? What would you want said to you and what questions would drive you mad? Say the former, avoid the latter and just hang out with us. And don't abandon us when the wait turns us grumpy or mean. We don't mean to be a jerk- gently tell us, let us apologize and stick with us.

DON'T USE THE PHRASE "HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT...?" I know you are well meaning. When our wait goes on, you hurt for us, you want to solve it, you want to see our children come home to us. But we HAVE thought about it. Almost all of it. Most of the fertility options. Most of the adoption options. We've prayed, we've researched, we've been through invasive procedures, we've filled out mountains of paperwork and been asked probing questions. We've thought about it. And when you ask if we've considered a different type of adoption two years into our wait, you just demoralize us. You tempt us to regret a choice we most likely painstakingly made. You make us wonder what we have done wrong to continue to wait.

STOP ASKING IF WE HAVE ANY NEWS. I recognize that this may not be true for everyone but after you've been waiting for something for five years you can rest assured that when it happens, you will shout it from the rooftops. Asking me every time I see you if I've had any news just drives home the point that no, I haven't. No news. Nothing happening. And when I've had a good week of not thinking about it too much, it may derail that because my thoughts immediately will go back to the "why" of all this waiting. So, please, I know you love us and you want to know what's going on. But don't ask me if we've had news. Just ask me how I'm doing- if I have news, believe me, that will be a part of how I'm doing.  And on another point, if we do have news there could be situations (involving birth parents or keeping a pregnancy quiet at first) in which we can't yet share it which just puts us in the awkward position of whether or not to lie to you, our friends. We don't want to have to do that.

AVOID CLICHES. Seriously. Telling me to "never give up" or that you "know it will happen for us soon" or "God is in control" doesn't do anything but remind me that humans feel a need to have a solution to everything. If we decide to give up, that's our business. And, to be honest, it might not even be giving up, just a quiet recognition that one dream is not viable and moving on to a new one. Making me feel badly for considering a new dream doesn't help. And you know what else? You don't know whether or not it will happen for us and certainly not soon. We don't "deserve" this, we haven't earned the right to have this particular happiness. And telling me constantly that God is in control just makes me want to ask him the "why not us" question again. And that brings me nothing but hurt and bitterness and self-pity. So, again, just hang out, just talk to us like there are other things going on than our waiting. And if we do need to vent about it? Just listen. No cliche will make the waiting easier.

PRAY FOR US. A lot of you wonderful people tell me how often you pray and hope for us. Thank you. That really is something you can do. You can talk to God  for us because sometimes we are too exhausted to keep asking for ourselves. Knowing there is a faithful group of people who love us, who want good for us and who dream of this coming true really does bring us joy and reminds us how very much we are loved by God. That, after all, is what we need most.

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