What Next Syndrome and the Fear Factor

September 1, 2009 | By:

My August put me upside down. I don’t know about you but most of my friends had a lousy month too. My right arm in the office, Danielle, took a position at a law school that means she won’t be working in the office on a regular basis, my mother-in-law passed away, my vacation wasn’t a vacation, and I am way behind on several projects for the office including the first of my E-Books which is so close to being finished I might be able to give up my addiction to Oreos. As a result of the events of this summer and primarily August, my husband and I have landed in a place where we have decided to reinvent our lives. Whatever we have been doing hasn’t been making us very happy (except of course for my work) and so we need to change things. And so we look at each other and say “what next?” But for the first time as we discuss what next, I understand that I need to look at the the what’s after part too and just roll with it. I need to let the roller coaster just take me . . . What the heck does this have to do with family building you ask? Well it has everything to do with it. Because I’ve never looked at the what’s after part because just like every other infertile person, I spent my life working on obtaining the “next” part.

And I saw this in action this week and last week with two sets of clients, each of whom has adopted babies within the last week or so. Each couple is stuck in a hotel right now waiting for ICPC approval to go home and each couple wants to go home so badly (as we all do, there isn’t a lot of fun stuff about living in a hotel with a newborn), but what is really going on is that they are (and I mean this in the MOST loving way possible) freaking out that they are finally parents and they don’t know what to do next. Home is the logical next step, and they have been so focused on steps and process that they are missing the beauty of their honeymoon in a hotel with a newborn. Once they get home, they can never get this time back. They will have family helping with the baby, they will be fighting to hold their own baby, and they will hit the wall of sleep deprivation. But once they are home, there are no more “what’s nexts?” It is just the now. And that is the other thing that is freaking them all out and putting them square in the middle of a parenting version of Fear Factor (I hate reality tv).

Parenting is the ultimate act of Zen living. Your baby gets sick and you have to call in sick to work or find emergency child care. Your baby has colic and you are up all night with a screaming newborn. Your baby doesn’t have colic but has his days and nights reversed and you have 3-6 weeks (or something like that) of living with only re-runs of I Love Lucy to watch instead of Grey’s Anatomy. Or maybe you just can’t plain watch tv because the baby needs to be changed and burped and cuddled. There is no more schedule, forget what’s next or what’s after . . . it’s all about THE NOW.

And after years of waiting and waiting and trying and trying and answering calls from birth mothers or having blood tests and ultrasounds, going from WHAT’S NEXT to THE NOW, well that is one mind bending trip. I don’t blame them for freaking out or being upset. This is the most amazing ride of their life, they just didn’t realize it was coming. Being alone in a hotel with a new baby, of course you want to go home where it’s safe and familiar. But from today forward nothing, not even going home, is going to go as expected or fear familiar (at least not at first). The what’s next, the what’s after, the Now are going to be constantly changing. Lord knows the minute you think you have a schedule, the schedule changes.

So as I sit here and mull over my own “what’s Next” and “What’s After”, I have to remember that it doesn’t really matter. I need to just roll with it. I’ve been blessed to spend the last 7 years learning to roll with it. I am far, far, far from perfect at it . . . but I am much better at it than I was when I was stuck in a hotel waiting for my own ICPC clearance.

To all of you sitting in hotels waiting for ICPC clearance, or those of you about to be sitting in hotels. Relax, breathe and remember that this is going to be the adventure of your life and now is the time to let go of what your next step or plan is, and now is the time to just enjoy. This is your honeymoon with your baby. Enjoy it, and learn to roll with it. It will serve you well in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

I miss my own stays in hotels waiting for ICPC clearance just like my clients. I know this is all hard, and those of you who are still waiting probably want me to step the hell off my soap box now . . . but I am not going to . . . this is all a part of the journey, let go, surrender and roll with it. This is an important parenting skill and I truly think infertility treatment and adoption planning is the BEST boot camp for parenting there is.

Forget what’s next, forget fear factor. Rejoice on the rollercoaster.

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