Handling the holidays when you’re adopting

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If you are in the process of trying to build your family, the holidays can add an extra layer of stress. And, despite the joy they can bring, the holidays are sometimes just stressful all by themselves. There's a lot of uncertainty attached to the holidays this year. All plans seems to have that “up in the air” element right now…thanks global pandemic. I do know a lot of people who are planning out their holidays a little bit earlier this year. I've heard a lot of people say early Christmas prep makes people happy. I've got some tips for handling the holidays when you're adopting to help you navigate some potentially tense situations with extended family and friends this holiday season. 

And sometimes, it's hard to directly address a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Sharing this article on your social networks or emailing it to loved ones as a resource may do the trick of getting the message across without making you feel weird. 

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Handling adoption during the holidays: The questions

Chances are, this holiday season will put you in contact with relatives or friends you haven't seen in a while. They'll be anxious to catch up on your news and vice versa.

Oh, you're adopting, did you say?

Being center stage at a family gathering can be awkward if you're not a natural attention seeker. And, even if you do relish the spotlight, some of the questions can be a little invasive and personal. And, just because it's family doesn't mean you have to be okay with doing a deep dive into your motivations to adopt and your fertility.

Are you still trying to get pregnant? Now that you're adopting, I bet you'll get pregnant.

Hopefully not followed by queries of how long you've been trying to get pregnant or speculation on the position of your uterus.

Why are you adopting from (insert whatever system or place you're not adopting from.)?

Because someone will always hold the opinion that that's where you should be adopting from versus where you are.

And sadly, whether you're adopting after an experience with infertility or not, people will most likely assume you are. Every situation is different but if a couple who has been childless for a while announces an adoption, it seems like open season on discussing your plumbing and why it might not be operating as it should be.

You might also like: New around here? Read our family's adoption story

Handling adoption during the holidays: The comments

Most people in your family will probably not intentionally say things to hurt or embarrass you. If you have that one relative who always picks a fight or if your family is prone to some eggnog fueled drama, you probably already know it.

“Your sisters had no trouble getting pregnant. There's got to be something wrong with you.”

“You never know what you're going to get. What if the real parents are on drugs?”

“Oh, you're taking the easy way out.”

Whether a comment was made with the intent to hurt you or not, have a strategy in place to protect yourself. That can be anything from limiting who you interact with during the holidays to declining invitations to excusing yourself and going to another room. My best advice here is to make sure you and your partner are aligned on how you'll handle invasive questions or rudeness. There's a line between borrowing trouble and assuming the worst and being prepared to support and protect each other.

How to handle being around kids

Being around kids impacts everyone differently. If you're already a parent, seeing children at holiday gatherings probably isn't a big deal. If you're in the process of adopting, particularly if you're in any phase of your adoption where the waiting is wearing on you, being around other kids may be harder. Spending time around other kids might make you pine for what you don't have yet. 

If you know being around kids upsets you, think about how you're going to handle it. Offer to help cook or figure out a way to stay engaged with another activity. Can you adjust your plans? Stop by for dessert versus spending the whole day or even look at opting out this year. Consider ways to spend time with individual family members or friends one-on-one instead of in a small group. 

I remember going out to Sunday lunch with my husband when we were in the process of adopting our son Zack. Since both my daughter and my mom were in another country, it had escaped me that it was Mother's Day. I never thought I would have any sort of reaction over seeing mothers and kids together so my teary reaction to all the families out to lunch with mom took my husband and I both by surprise. Instead of relaxing and enjoying what I had in front of me, I turned a nice day into being upset because it was May and we weren't expected to travel to complete our adoption for another few months (we ended up traveling in late August.) 

Being around a bunch of kids and babies or around pregnant women if you've come to adoption through infertility or miscarriages might be triggering. I wouldn't borrow trouble and by that I mean worrying about a situation that might not happen, but if things feel different to you this year, spending a couple of minutes thinking about how you might react to certain situations might save you some stress and reduce tension among family members. 

Try something different this year?

If this is a time of change for your family, why not go all in and really switch it up? Start new traditions. Think about how you're going to celebrate the holidays with your new child. If this is your first child or your first child together, spend some time talking about how you might incorporate the different traditions you and your partner might bring to the new family dynamic. I remember being really surprised when my husband didn't want to let our son (adopted in August) open Christmas presents from family on Christmas Eve because that's how we'd always done it growing up. If you're waiting on an adoption, this is a good time to dream and plan and have those conversations. 

One family tradition to consider starting with your new child is to add a Christmas ornament for each year. There are some beautiful, adoption-themed ornaments you can order and the Christmas while you're waiting to adopt might be a great time to check some of them out. This one is my favorite because it commemorates the adoption without being too “in your face” and it's something that you'll feel good about putting on your Christmas tree for years to come. Etsy has lots of options and it gives you an opportunity to support a small business. 

You might also like: Adoption Christmas ornaments you will love

This is also a good time to start thinking about being selective about what invitations you accept. Whether your adoption wait is making you anxious or you cringe thinking about dealing with people's questions at parties, this might be the year to dial it back. Actually, I think this is good advice for anyone. Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the holidays gets to be a bit too much and if we've got something going on in our lives that's taking extra energy, maybe it's time to take a few things off of the calendar. 

Everyone's feelings and family/friends circle are different. What might be no big deal to one person might be something that puts a real strain on another person. Everyone sees adoptions differently and the one thing that really surprised me was how my feelings changed throughout the process of two adoptions. It really was an emotional roller coaster. Handling adoption during the holidays isn't going to look the same for everyone. Looking back, the best advice I could have given back-then me was to slow down and listen to my inner voice telling me to dial it back a little bit, especially during the holidays.

You might also like: Why you should give an adoptive mom a baby shower


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