Did you know that many adoptive parents experience a form of “baby blues” post homecoming? While Post-Partem Depression (PPD) is generally a hormonal depression that comes after a mother delivers a child, Post-Adoptive Depression (PAD) is often linked with both unmet expectations and new life stresses.
Know the symptoms: according to psychcentral.com, be on the lookout for “depressed mood, decreased interest or pleasure in activities, significant weight changes, difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping, feeling agitated, fatigue, excessive guilt and shame, and indecisiveness.” Any or all of these can indicate a bout of Post-Adoptive Depression.
Know your limits—both in parenting and in reality: there is no such thing as a super parent. Just because you made ten thousand plans with your home study and agency doesn’t mean that you can pull off even one of them on a regular basis. Parenting is about the long game; remember that no one expects you to be a super mom every second of the day. Sometimes babies cry. Sometimes precious angels are smelly and disgusting. Sometimes the love of our life becomes super irritating because he took a nap and you stayed up with a colicky child. Let it roll off of your back as best you can.
Know your rights: you and your child have the right to privacy—tell people you need a break, you need no company, or you need visitors to call before-hand. You also have a right to feel sad, overwhelmed and even disappointed. While you are indeed lucky and blessed and thrilled to be a parent, adoption—like any other way we grow a family—has both sad and happy moments. Allow yourself to acknowledge that things are not going to be perfect. For example, allow yourself grief for a grieving birth family, a child who will grow up differently than expected, and for a family that may not look like what you planned when you started trying to make it work. All of these emotions are valid and real, and pretending them away will only hurt you in the long run.
Know that attachment and bonding is a long-term process and cannot be forced. Some women give birth and struggle to bond immediately (or even for weeks at a time). I actually bonded quicker with my daughter that I adopted than with one of my biological kids because my PPD was so intense with him. Despite MY bonding with her, however, she failed to bond with me and suffers with attachment disorder—and I’ve learned that this is not something for which I can blame myself. We work with what we are given and we do the best we can. Put current research and best practices, such as kangaroo-care, into your parenting arsenal, but know that sometimes bonding requires professional help and years of work. Don’t forget to give yourself and your child a break.
Know that you are not alone. When all else fails, remember to ask for help. This isn’t you—this is your brain reacting to stress and a new lifestyle. You can ask for and receive help. Talk to a doctor, therapist or trusted friend, and be honest about what you are going through. You can make it out of this!
Have you experienced PAD? What were some coping strategies that you used? Let me know in the comments!