Having spent so much effort on paperwork and waiting, on preparing for travel and court dates and medical plans, it’s hard to think ahead to the practicalities of coming home. Yet I know that we will do better if we have some basic things in place. It does no one any good to come home to a house void of food and not enough toilet paper. We’ve found that lots of people want to help, but they don’t know what to do unless we ask them. All these people are instrumental not only in preparing for the trip, but preparing for a successful homecoming. If you are adopting and people ask you what they can do to help, give them some of your homecoming tasks. This will free up your hands and your brain space to prepare for things that only you can do.
First on the list is something you can’t delegate except to ask someone to translate, and that is preparing your new child for what the trip will be like and what your new home will be like. Babies wil obviously have little sense of what is going on, but if you are adopting an older child, telling them what will happen each step of the way is crucial. When we brought Zinashi home, the transition home staff had done an excellent job of explaining to her that she would go on an airplane and where she was going, and with whom. We still had a pretty rough flight, but it would have been worse if she’d had no clue what was happening. When we arrived in our house, she knew it from photos we’d shown her and was clearly happy to examine her new room, quickly laying claim to new clothing and accessories.
Second, making sure your house is stocked with everything you’ll need for the next week is incredibly helpful. There are lots of grocery delivery services, but it’s quite likely that a friend would be more than willing to do a grocery run for you just prior to your return. When people ask you what they can do to help, this is one of the things that is fantastic to get help with. When we came home with Zinashi, my parents had gone to the store and gotten everything our hearts desired. It was such a relief to come home knowing that we wouldn’t have to worry about what to cook and eat. On this list, include things like the aforementioned toilet paper and shampoo. The one things we didn’t know we needed was hair product for Zinashi, and we ended up going out the day after we arrived home to get some, when we would have been much better off just staying home and chilling out.
It’s also important to think ahead to what the practicalities of life will look like once you are home. What will your routine with your new child be like? What do you need to have in place to make your new routine easier? For Elvie’s homecoming, I have set up a bottle station, with bottles, formula, and a special kettle at the ready, and her changing table, with diapers, wipes, and fresh clothing at hand. I figure if I can feed her and change her diaper, the rest we can figure out as we go along. Because Zinashi was older, when she came home, it was important to have some play areas set up and her room fully ready. We made sure that we had everything in place in time to take some photos so she could take a look before we traveled home, and that clearly made a difference for her.
Because it can be an overwhelming experience to bring a child home, and jet lag doesn’t do any favors either, it’s a good idea to have reminders for things you must do regularly. If it works for you to put alerts into your phone, great. At my house, I leave post-it notes on the desk with reminders for bascis like, “Pay mortgage Friday” and “Garbage out on Thursday.” I had always been on top of bills and finances prior to Zinashi’s arrival, and for the first few months after we were home, I regularly spaced paying something or other and ended up with a late fee. Do yourself a favor and just make a checklist. If your brain isn’t mush when you get home, congratulations, you’re better than most of us. If it is, you’re not alone. If you follow my advice, at least you’ll have a handy checklist.
Coming home is a huge adjustment for your new child and for you, but it is also full of joy. I remember how fun it was to watch Zinashi explore the house and discover new toys and new things to do. I cannot wait to see how Elvie’s entrance into our home both changes and delights us.