By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jan 07, 2008 at 5:22 AM

Since I experienced both pregnancy and international adoption, people often ask me about the similarities and differences of raising an adopted and biological child. This is difficult to answer. In short, the relationships are equally as strong, but different. I’ll leave it at that for now.

However, I often get asked which was more difficult, pregnancy or the adoption process, and this is much easier to answer. The adoption process. Absolutely. Pregnancy’s weight gain, heart burn, hormonal hardships, mental blocks and inability to sleep soundly were feathers in comparison to the weight of waiting for the Guatemalan court system to give us the green light to pick up our son. We were gagged and bound with red tape, all the while knowing we had a son somewhere who was being raised by a person we didn’t know.

In retrospect, our wait for Kai was a very average experience, even though at the time it felt like forever. We accepted the referral when he was 3 weeks old, and he came home at almost 9 months. However, waiting, no matter how long, is unbelievably stressful and sorrowful.

The hardest part was not finalizing Kai’s adoption in time for Christmas. Around Halloween, my husband’s grandmother said she “just knew” our baby would be home for the holidays, and I believed her. Of course I don’t feel any ill will towards dear ol’ granny, but her declaration made the fact that he wasn’t home even harder.

So, we wrapped a half dozen presents for Kai even though we knew he wouldn’t be able to open them on Christmas, Hanukkah or Yule. (We’re loco for holidays and celebrate all of the above.) Since we had an artificial tree, we decided to leave it up until he came home. I’m not sure if this was a good idea or a bad one.

Seeing that tree in the living room, with my son’s unopened presents scattered beneath it in January and February and March and April was a visual reminder that we were still waiting. One particularly frustrating day, when I was told our case had been bounced out of court, I kicked one of the presents across the room. Luckily it was a stuffed duck.

(And sure enough, the very first night we got home from Guatemala with our wild-haired baby, we opened his presents. He really liked the duck.)

A few adoptive parents told me that once he was home, I would start to forget about the frustrating wait, but it’s been five years and I remember it all very vividly and know that I always will.

While waiting for Kai I lost too much weight, drank a small vineyard of wine and got stress-related shingles in my mouth. I look back on my creative work during that time and find it shallow and unfocused. I cried all the time.

I also, for the first time, used retail therapy as a form of self-soothing. It’s weird, but for some reason, buying little socks and soft books made me feel like I was a tiny bit in control of my son’s life.

Maybe I was so upset because I visited my son for 10 days when he was 8 weeks old, and then got on a plane back to the United States without him. (We sat next to a couple who was also returning to the U.S., but they had their Guatemalan daughter on their lap.) Then again, I probably would have been a basket case even if we hadn’t visited, because he was my child from the very first time I saw his picture attached to an e-mail saying, “Here is a baby boy for you to consider.”

I know I am lucky because my son came home, and there are stories floating around out there of babies who didn’t or are still caught in the process, but I will always carry the pain of waiting deep in my bones. It tested me. It aged me.

But it also taught me patience, that oh-so-important trait few of us have enough of but so desperately need as a parent.

Now, the memories of waiting and pining are practically my faith, and they get me through rough times as a parent, like when Kai dumped a can of water on my husband’s new iBook.

After weeping with frustration in the bathroom, I thought about the wait and how badly I wanted him home to coo and goo and even make messes in my house. I remembered the pain of separation and the frustration of being completely out of control of his life, and I  felt better. Well, a little bit.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.