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WAITING FOR BABY: Telling big sister

By Ann Tatko-Peterson
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008 at 6:03 am in Adoption.

danaandemily(“Waiting for Baby” is a closer look at adoption and my family’s personal experience as we go through the process. It will appear every Wednesday in the aPARENTly Speaking blog.)

She’s ready. Watching my step-daughter, Dana, with her baby cousin, I was immediately certain Dana would make a fabulous big sister. About a decade in age separates Dana and my niece Emily, but together they have this unspoken language that we adults simply don’t get. They look at each other as if the world around them ceases to exist. Their smiles reach right up to there eyes. Seeing that almost broke my heart.

That’s because we had come up short in three years of trying to have a baby. Adoption was the next step, but hardly one completed overnight. For that matter, it often takes a lot longer than nine months, too. And so the real question for us: when do we tell Dana?

The answer is a personal choice for any parent adopting. My husband and I chose to wait until the last minute. We weren’t trying to keep secrets from Dana. We were just trying to stall the inevitable. You see, Dana is like most 11 year olds — impatient. She’s infamous for the “Are we there yet?” when heading somewhere by car. She itches to open Christmas presents from the moment she pops open the Advent calendar. And as soon as we told her about our decision to adopt, she started the litany of “Have we matched yet?”

Gary and I attended all the pre-adoption workshops and information sessions. We filled out most of the initial paperwork. We scheduled our home visit with our case worker. Then, we had a chat with Dana. Often, she needs some time to process “big news.” We simply present the facts, ask if she has any questions and give her some space. Usually, within an hour, she’s back asking questions. Before day’s end, she is always on board.

This time, it was different. Gary had a one-on-one. As soon as he laid everything out, he said she could ask any questions when she was ready. Immediately she fired back with one: “Are we getting a boy or a girl?” Considering her baby experience begins and ends with Emily, it was pretty obvious which one she hoped would one day come home. In the months since telling her, she’s come around nicely about the idea of having a baby brother.

She’s also surprised us in the impatience department. She still asks once a week if we’ve matched yet. She’s read the baby name book cover to cover. She’s already talking about how to decorate the nursery. But she’s also learning, as have we, that sometimes the best things in life take time. And so, we wait — together.

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