Dealing with Post-Adoption Blues
Most people who adopt a baby have been through a lot. Whether you had miscarriages, were infertile, or decided you wanted to adopt from the beginning, you've experienced a great deal of emotions and a lengthy process. It is often strange, after the adoption, when new parents realize that they feel depressed. People assume that they should be completely happy; this is, after all, what they've been waiting for. However, post-adoption depression is very common. It's important to understand this syndrome so that you know that you aren't alone and so that you have coping mechanisms.
Studies on Depression
In 1995, an adoption advocate in North Carolina named June Bond coined the term Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome, or PADS. Adoption depression is very common, according to the Denver psychotherapist Dee Paddock. Adoptive parents often find themselves feeling left out of the regular "parenting club" and they feel guilty for finding their new situation so difficult. They are supposed to be thrilled that they've finally received a baby and be full of gratitude. Feeling overwhelmed makes them feel guilty and this then creates a vicious cycle.
Feeling Different Than Others
Women who've adopted often don't feel like they fit in with other new moms. If they join a support group for new moms, they will hear about delivery difficulties, about breastfeeding and about hormone changes. None of these issues are the ones that an adoptive mom is experiencing. Certainly, all parents experience an adjustment to the new routine and the new child, but the adoptive mom has different considerations. In addition, many moms look at adoptive moms as "lucky" because they didn't have to endure pregnancy, delivery and nursing. This can create feelings of isolation and alienation and make it difficult for them to share their feelings with other new moms.
Learning To Live Together
Many adoptive babies don't arrive at the new home as newborns. The parents receive the baby when it is already weeks, if not many months, old. While filling out all of the paperwork and dreaming about this child, most people imagine holding a lovely new baby. This image is often in stark contrast to the six month old they find before them and it can be difficult emotionally to reconcile these two ideas. Some children, in addition, will have emotional scars and may act out with tantrums, resistance to eye contact, refusals to hug and more. It is very important to understand what you are expecting as you head into an adoption and to be ready for some of these potential obstacles. Some of these obstacles can cause adoptive parents to feel depression and to worry that they may even have made the wrong decision for themselves.
Adoptive parents often shy away from saying that they have a problem or that they are depressed. They don't want to disappoint their families with their confusing feelings and they don't want to jeopardize their future chance of adopting other kids. They feel like they are supposed to be in a perpetual state of happiness; after wanting a child for so long and working for one, they should now be happy with what they have. However, depression doesn't work like this, and it doesn't respond to what you "should" be feeling. PADS may actually affect one out of every ten new adoptive moms and as many as 65% of adoptive parents feel some level of depression after adoption. What you can do is find help. Find a support group for adoptive parents. Talk to your doctor or visit a psychologist or psychiatrist. Take naps, eat well and get exercise. Try to cut down on your obligations for awhile and ask others to be sensitive to your needs and supportive. Give yourself time to bond with the child and to create a feeling of being a family. In addition, you may want to join a support group or an adoptive moms' play group.
It's very important to recognize that your feelings are normal - and that with the proper assistance and time they should pass. Give yourself that time - and the support that you need to work through this period in your life.