It comes as a huge surprise to some adoptive parents, after they are finally blessed with their dream of having a family, that they feel anything less than bliss. For those who pushed through years of infertility, or others who always hoped to adopt, when the big day comes and a little one finally comes home, it’s hard to accept any negative feelings that follow.
After all, the dream is now a reality! All the earlier disappointments and pains have been swallowed up in the ten glorious little fingers that securely grasp momma’s thumb. So why is momma so sad? When the tears of joy turn to drops of sadness and confusion, everything seems out of control. If there are no hormonal changes (like those that accompany pregnancy and birthing), then why does the new mommy get the blues?
Thankfully there are some real answers to what seems like an irrational question. Sometimes the let-down after a much-hoped-for event can trigger feelings akin to depression. Sometimes sheer exhaustion can tamper with our moods, even causing extreme mood shifts. And sometimes the sadness that comes after bringing baby home can be attributed to continued grieving over infertility or even empathy for the birth parents who are experiencing loss. There are more factors that can play into post-adoption blues, but the good news is that there are things you can do that will help.
Realize you are not alone.
Sometimes all it takes is recognizing that your situation isn’t abnormal at all. What you’re feeling has been felt by others before you and are being felt by many right now. Find a group of adoptive mothers and share your feelings. You’ll not only get support to help you through it, but you’ll be blessed with a sense of peace knowing that you’re not doing anything wrong—you’re simply reacting in a normal way to difficult things.
Get some rest and respite.
For some reason, many think that if you didn’t physically deliver your baby then you don’t really need any help. If your mother would have come to help you after a birth, ask her to come to help you when you bring your adopted baby home. If friends offer to help, invite them to come hold your baby for a couple of hours while you take a nap. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. So do it! Find a way to get yourself the rest you need and see if your moods don’t immediately improve!
Recognize that it takes time to bond.
You and your child are new to each other. Give yourself time to become acquainted and don’t push it. Let it happen naturally.
Take an inventory of your feelings.
Write it down if it helps (and it usually does). Examine your sadness: Are you disappointed to have missed out on some of your baby’s first moments? Are you finally having to accept that you will not know the joy of pregnancy? Are you feeling guilt over your gain and someone else’s loss? Take time to try to figure out why you’re feeling what you feel. And then address those issues. Some may be things that you can release by talking about them; others may take some sort of action. But when you can identify your feelings and their causes it’s helpful in the healing process
Seek medical help if necessary.
If this is deeper than “blues” and closer to extreme depression, it’s possible you may be suffering from Post Adoption Depression. The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers more information on PAD and links to articles and helps.
Realize that your situation is probably temporary and that you can have the extreme joy and bliss that you’ve dreamed of in this adventure of parenthood.