Waiting to Adopt and Holiday Depression

Feelings of anxiety and depression as the holidays approach are quite common among people waiting to adopt. Think about it: You greeted the new year last December with a wish or prayer that you would become a mother or a father. Then another year passes, and parenthood remains elusive. You are still waiting.

Perhaps you have amassed more Polaroid pictures of waiting children. Maybe you have a photograph or a video of a child who sleeps thousands of miles from the room you long ago decorated in your mind's eye. The annual calendar, with twelve months to achieve one of life's most basic expectations, was instead marked by yet another unsuccessful treatment cycle, attorney consultations, paperwork checklists and home-study visits.

Dawn Smith-Pliner, founder and director of Friends In Adoption, sees a pattern every winter: "I know when the holidays are approaching by the nature of the phone calls in our office. Like clockwork — every year for almost two decades — I've watched folks who are hoping to adopt shut down through the holidays." But come January, Smith-Pliner reports, "the telephones start ringing nonstop."

Coping with the holidays Here are some tried-and-true activities that waiting adoptive parents have used to reduce their anxiety and depression during the winter holiday season:


  • Treat yourself and, if you're married, your spouse to an afternoon at a spa or a weekend at a charming country inn.

  • Do something special for your family, so you contribute and feel appreciated. If you're creative, consider making personalized gifts (you may not have the time once you are a parent!).
  • Limit time with pregnant women.

  • Summon the courage and resilience to withdraw, albeit temporarily, from any family gatherings and traditions that could be painful. There's no need to listen — yet again — to your aunt's questions about your seemingly static parental status.

  • Join a waiting-parent support group via your adoptive-parent group. Find one near you.

  • Focus on school or work.

  • Take care of yourself — exercise, get enough sleep and eat well.

  • Keep a journal.

  • Donate time or goods to a charitable organization.


The decision to adopt is often accompanied by a sense of peace and certainty, so don't let it escape during the difficult wait. "We made the decision to move on," writes a woman on the threshold of adoption, "and we had a great holiday season as a result."

Amy Rackear is a social worker, freelance writer and parent through adoption, both domestic and international. She lives with her husband and two children in New York.

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