{Honestly} guest post: The wait

Guest post by Allie Brannon on one of the hardest phases of adoption: The long wait.


I was unprepared for the weight of it: the absolute, soul-crushing burden of what I felt as I waited for my child. I knew it would be hard; I imagined what I thought I would feel with a daughter on the other side of the world, but I had no idea just how heavy it would be.

We began the adoption of our daughter from Rwanda in July of 2009. At the time, the wait was estimated to be short by international adoption standards, but as so often happens in adoption, nothing went according to plan. There were major slow downs in the government, personnel changes, unexplained delays. The weeks stretched into months which stretched into years. How long we waited–it doesn’t really matter. Time, when you have a child who is apart from you, is always impossibly slow.

I developed some strategies that helped. I had a playlist for the tough days (okay, I played it pretty much every day), that turned my mind back to the big picture, the truth I needed that God is still sovereign and loving. I found solace in creativity: writing, painting, crocheting a blanket for my daughter. I intentionally made memories with my boys, and sought fun for my family whenever I could. It helped–but it didn’t make it easy.

For me, the wait was like the coming in of the tide. The pain would come in and go out, but was always steadily rising, eating up more and more of my reserves until it seemed like I had nothing left.

The first autumn of the wait, I wrestled. I read books on orphans, poverty, Rwanda, suffering, and God, asking hard questions and honestly searching for answers. That first winter, I settled into a sad longing for my daughter, missing her and wanting her home. That spring, there was still a spark of hope that perhaps the soon we were hearing would really be soon, that she might come home before too long. Summer of 2010 was a stretch of endless silence from across the world, and hope died a little more each day. By the time the leaves were turning, there was nothing left. Like the tide, the pain of waiting had risen impossibly high and there was nothing left to do but get up and face another day. And another. And another. I wasn’t really hoping much anymore, or believing much that there would ever be a referral email in our inbox. I spoke God’s Words to myself daily, preaching to myself that He was still in control and was still fighting for us. And I did believe it. But I didn’t feel it. One more day. One more day. Do this one more day. Stand up under the weight one more day.

Spring came. And with the springtime, finally, finally news. We heard that we had been matched. We waited longer to see her face, but now it was breathless waiting, hopeful waiting. It was the running at the end of the marathon when you can see the finish line. We waited. We got travel dates, and then we saw her face. We waited. Two weeks later, we held her. We waited. A month after that, we walked into the Atlanta airport and our boys ran into our arms, and the waiting was finally over.



Someone, who had not adopted, told me that the pain of waiting would melt away the first time I held my daughter. That did not happen. Nor did it happen when I was back on American soil and my family was finally together. The waiting was too heavy, and the wound too deep. It left a scar.

Was it worth it? Of course it was. A thousand times over, it was worth the pain of the wait to bring our daughter home. But it was worth it like throwing yourself in front of a bus to save someone is worth it: it hurts. And it changes you. And you might just limp for the rest of your life.

I have more perspective now, true. I am more willing to go through life with open hands, not clutching so tightly to my own plans and dreams. I trust God to ultimately win, and to defend the defenseless. But I am also more cynical now. I have less hope that things will all work out, or that the best scenario will ever come to pass. I am a different person than I was before I waited. I know what it’s like to love someone who is so far out of reach that you can’t get to them and may never touch them. I know the helplessness of having your child’s life, and your family, be at the mercy of an official on the other side of the world who doesn’t know you and doesn’t really feel any sense of urgency to help you. I know the pain of going to baby showers and family gatherings with empty arms and no answer as to when they will be filled. I know the awkwardness of nodding and smiling when the third person that day tells you to just trust God and know that it’s all for the best, or even worse, that He is allowing the wait to go on and on in order to teach you something (So when I learn the mysterious something, God will allow my daughter to come home to love, family, nutrition, medical care, etc? Better figure out what it is, since I guess it’s my fault she’s not home yet. If I could only learn that lesson! Okay, sarcastic rant over.)

There are very few people who have experienced this particular brand of pain. Not all adoptive mothers feel it (I was surprised to learn). But those of us who do are branded with it, marked by it. The wait deepened me, grew me, hurt me, and rocked me. I am not the same person I was.

To those of you who still wait: hang on. Someday, you will be on the other side. Someday weekends will be something you look forward to again, instead of wanting to get back to business days. You will think about other things again. You won’t always have to blink back tears when someone in the gas station asks how you are. When you hold your child, you will know that it was worth it, and when you limp home with your little one, the world will seem new again.


Today’s {Honestly} series guest post was by Allie Brannon, who adopted a daughter, Laina, from Rwanda last year. And she just announced they’re adopting again, this time from Uganda! I love Allie’s blog, called Notes in the Margins, and how she often records her sons’ conversations, which are hilarious and sometimes involve headcheese and basil.

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9 comments on “{Honestly} guest post: The wait

  1. Kelleigh Black says:

    Wow….your words on waiting are right on. We are a little over a yr into our wait to bring home 2 boys from Haiti. I can feel that I have changed in this wait. You described it so perfectly. Thank you for the encouragement….I would love to believe that one day this part will end.

  2. Jen Chase says:

    Heavy. This is my mantra this week. A word that describes this part of the wait perfectly. Into our fifteenth week of waiting for a court date, this is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you for posting it.

  3. Kelleigh–it WILL end someday. I don’t know when, but someday you WILL be on the other side. This is hard. Hang in there.

    Jen–here’s hoping you hear about the court date soon. That’s a long time to wait. Sometimes it feels too heavy to bear, I know.

  4. Christina says:

    A friend posted the link to this blog on her blog. You said it perfectly. I am about to hit 12 months of our paperwork being in Ethiopia waiting for a referral. It was supposed to be a 4-6 month wait. I thought there were no words to how I feel, but you pretty much nailed it.
    Thank you.

  5. Anna says:

    I posted and hyperlinked your post on PAD. This post today really is gut wrenching. I wont ever minimize anyone’s pain, or try to say mine is worse than yours. I can say that I completely understand. We chose our daughter and were told 3 months. Scrambled to get our finances etc in order to only wait for a year and a half. Two years before we were home with her. We were blessed to get quarterly updates. A few pics and a little briefing of milestones etc. But the pain of watching YOUR daughter grow up from thousands of miles away. Then when you finally meet to not “feel” it. It took 8 months home to feel human again, then add more time a little more healing. I love this post. I am forever changed. I miss the old me sometimes, I look in the mirror and miss her. But I do know that Grace was the carrot God dangled before my nose to take me on a journey with Him- He knew all along. Keep up the beautiful work.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for putting into words what ‘the wait’ was/is like. My wait ended just under 9 years ago but some days it is still there; the scar becomes sensitive. Our wait was different as we adopted from our country, albeit a different local authority.

    I love the photo of you with your beautiful daughter. May God Bless you and your family.

  7. Christina–it’s so hard when you think it’ll be a short wait and then it just goes on forever. Like thinking you’re going to be running around the block only to find out you’ve signed up for a marathon. You didn’t see it coming.

    Anna–thank you for sharing your story. Your honesty is brave.

    Elizabeth–it really does change you, doesn’t it? Even after you’re holding them in your arms…. Thank you for your kind words! I think Laina’s beautiful too. 🙂

  8. Jamie Ivey says:

    Great thoughts. I sometimes like to think that I have forgotten the pain, but then the thoughts flood back and my eyes can swell up with tears in an instant. I sometimes think that the wait was forgotten when we arrived home, but then I see the years we missed with our kids and the anger sets in again.

    You are right. It changes you. I’m still dealing with the wait in my own ways. I have a lot of unsettled feelings towards a country (isn’t that weird!!) that in my eyes kept my kids from their family for so long.

    I’m dealing with it.

    I hope.


  9. Jamie–I don’t think it’s weird! Adoption brings up so may “weird” issues to work through, doesn’t it?