When I decided to place my birth son for adoption, just two weeks before my due date, I had not considered the aftermath of that decision. I assumed it would be hard but, I had no idea how it would affect my life. I knew that I would grieve and healing would need to take place. What I was unaware of was the depression that would follow. Shortly after the birth of my birth son, I struggled with postpartum depression.
My Dark Cloud
My extreme hurt and grief in no way has made me regret my decision. The pain and hurt that followed was not something I expected, but I handled it because I knew my decision was right for my birth son.
Four days after my birth son was born, I woke up in my bed at my parents’ home. It was the first night without my birth son. I remember as my eyes slowly opened on that fourth day, something happened. My heart physically hurt. I had heard of a broken heart but I had not experienced actually feeling physical pain in my heart. I walked out to the kitchen and sat down. My parents asked me how I was doing. I simply responded, “I feel like I died.”
I literally felt like I had died. I physically hurt all over. My heart was broken. The next six weeks are literally a blur. I honestly cannot tell you much about that time. I do know that I saw my birth son a few days later and again when he was two weeks, but other than that, I know I cleaned a lot! The only thing I remember is cleaning. Cleaning until I could not clean anymore. I do not know why cleaning was so therapeutic but it was. While I do not remember much about the six weeks after his birth, I do remember feeling like a dark cloud was looming over me. A week or so before my six-week check up with my doctor, I was walking in Costco with my mom. I turned to her and said, “I want to die.”
Asking for Help
Those are hard words to say but I knew I needed to say it. I had several counseling sessions with my social worker. She was amazing and so supportive and loving. I explained to her how I was feeling and she was afraid I had postpartum depression. She informed me that she was not a doctor, but she had seen it with other birth moms. She encouraged me to reach out to my parents and my doctor. She reminded me that my body was reacting as though I lost a baby. Since I physically gave birth to a child and did not have that child with me, my motherly instincts were reacting as though I had lost a child. She also reminded me that there was no shame in asking for help.
After encouragement from my social worker, I told my mom what I was feeling that day at Costco. I wanted to die, and it physically hurt to live. I could not get this dark cloud to leave.
The following week, I went for my six-week checkup. My doctor knew about the adoption. She was loving and supportive of my decision. After I told her how I was feeling, she determined that I did in fact have postpartum depression. She was positive I would have had it even if I chose to parent, but she felt it was also fueled by the adoption. She prescribed me a low dose of anti-depressants. I immediately started the anti-depressants the next day and continued counseling with my social worker.
Something happened shortly after I started the anti-depressants. I started to feel like me again! I started reaching out to friends, dating, and stopped mindlessly cleaning. I can now remember what happened during the days that followed my doctor’s appointment because the dark cloud began to disappear. I started truly enjoying the pictures and letters I received from my birth son’s parents.
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Getting Rid of the Dark Cloud
Postpartum depression is real. Some mothers who parent their children experience postpartum depression, and if postpartum depression is a real issue among mothers who choose to parent, it most definitely has the potential to be an issue with birth mothers. Postpartum depression does not make you any less of a person. It does not mean that you regret your decision. As my dear social worker told me, seek help if you are not feeling like yourself. Grief is bound to come, but there is a certain point that feeling “blue” is more than just grief. It is actual depression.
I was on a low dose of anti-depressant for a year. I had no issues coming off and still felt like myself when I went off the prescription. I am so grateful for my knowledgeable social worker, who noticed the signs of postpartum depression. I think that because I was not raising my birth son, I somehow thought I was not in the same “realm” as other mothers and I could not possibly have postpartum depression. This is not the case. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Do not mindlessly clean like I did. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner you can get back to feeling like yourself and the sooner the dark cloud will disappear.