Adoption and The Nursery: How preparing our nursery helped me be hopeful, be expectant and be ready

Updated November 1, 2021

If you ask any prospective adoptive parent what the hardest part of the adoption journey is for them, many times you’ll hear the same answer: the wait. By the time a family has decided to pursue adoption, they’ve often already been waiting for years to build their family. Once they begin the adoption process, they are faced with another potentially long wait to bring home their much-hoped-for child, with no definitive timeline or light at the end of the tunnel. This was very much the case for my husband and me; the wait for our domestic infant adoption was brutal and felt endless.

One question I received early during our wait was: “Will you put together a nursery?” It was a hard question to answer. Part of me wanted to respond with confidence, and maybe a little indignation, “Of course I’ll set up a nursery! We’re having a baby! Isn’t that what expectant parents do?” Another part of me wanted to retreat and sob. How could I set up a nursery when we were facing that unknown, potentially unending wait? What if the child we were hoping for never arrived? Could I look at a room every day that reminded me that we didn’t have the family we wanted?

The decision to prepare a nursery is a very personal, emotional thing for adoptive parents. There is no right answer about the best time in the adoption process to start the nursery. Some parents feel the need to wait until some of the adoption’s first steps are complete. I actually felt like it was one of the most important things to complete early. I had been dreaming about what my baby’s nursery would look like for years, and I was ready to start making that dream a reality.

I hope that by sharing how preparing our nursery – without a birth mother match or any concrete timeline – helped us move through our wait, you’ll be encouraged to find the best way to move through yours.

Adoption and the Nursery: How preparing our nursery helped me be hopeful

First, preparing our nursery allowed me to be hopeful. There’s something about taking a concrete, visible step toward something you’re hoping will happen that instills optimism and confidence that maybe, just maybe, it will happen.

Setting up the nursery for your future adopted child does not require a grand plan to be completed all at once. Just like every step of your adoption home study checklist, take it slow and give yourself time to think. Start with a list, write down your ideas for what to put in a baby’s nursery, and then start brainstorming about themes, colors, and organization.

I decided to start small. My first purchase for our nursery was a whimsical painting of a llama. Seeing that painting in the space that would become our nursery made me smile almost every day. It was a reminder that I could hope. Each addition to our nursery, whether it was a crib, a rug, or a lamp, was an opportunity for us to “put our money where our mouth is” and believe that we would be parents. By building our nursery slowly, I had an ongoing project to keep me busy in the wait, and I had renewed hope as I arranged every thoughtful detail.

Adoption and the Nursery: How preparing our nursery helped me be expectant

Second, preparing our nursery allowed me to be expectant. Prospective adoptive mothers miss out on most of the natural cues of expectation that come with a biological pregnancy, the biggest being that growing midsection as a daily reminder that a baby is coming.  It was important for me to allow myself to feel like an expectant mother, and the nursery was a great place for that. I would sit in the rocker, often with my dog or a stuffed animal on my lap, and dream about what it would be like to rock our little one in it. I would touch the gender-neutral baby clothes hung carefully and wonder if we’d have a little boy or little girl to wear them.

Having a space to dream about and anticipate our little one helped remind me that he or she was coming, even when the wait felt long.

While preparing the nursery helped me feel hopeful and expectant, like all things in adoption, there were a lot of mixed emotions. There are no certainties when it comes to the adoption process, and having a nursery ready before the baby is known can feel like a big risk.

Some days, I’d close the door so that I wouldn’t need to see the reminder that we were still waiting. There were a few times when I felt so discouraged and hopeless that I wanted to pack up the nursery altogether (and even tried to, though my loving and patient husband gently stopped me). Other times, I felt foolish and wondered if I looked like a crazy person with a fully stocked nursery, but no baby.

I shed many tears in that nursery. But having these feelings mixed with hope and expectation are the story of adoption. In some ways, these feelings are common to all expectant parents. Whether biological or adoptive, we are all wrestling with fears and insecurity about the precious baby who will live in this room we’ve lovingly prepared.

If you’re having mixed feelings about the nursery awaiting your adopted baby, it’s okay to feel that way! In the end, I’m glad we chose to set up our nursery in hope and expectation because…

Adoption and the Nursery: How preparing our nursery helped me be ready

Finally, preparing our nursery allowed me to be ready. Our wonderful adoption agency, Haven Adoptions, prepared us well for the adoption process in PA. They explained early on that adoption placements can happen very quickly and without notice. After seeing this happen for another adoptive family early in our wait, we decided that we wanted to be ready should that be our case. If you haven’t discussed timing yet, add this to your questions to ask your adoption agency.

It gave both of us peace of mind to know that our nursery was well stocked and ready for a little one at any moment. I’m so grateful we did this, because we matched with our daughter and had her placed with us two days after she was born. As overwhelmed new parents, it was hard to imagine needing to scramble for a car seat, a bassinet, or clothing on such short notice!

While preparing a baby’s nursery is a way to bide time, its readiness was very reassuring when that wait came to such a sudden end. Now as I rock our daughter in the nursery where I had spent hours dreaming and battling those uncertainties, I can say it was definitely worth it.

Take the first steps on your adoption journey by exploring the resources throughout this site. Then contact us to learn more about Haven Adoption’s unique approach to matching families and how we can help you navigate the process from start to finish.