Conflicting emotions confront many a new, or not-so-new adoptive parent, and can easily spiral into depression. It’s not often talked about, but Post-Adoption Depression (PAD) is very real and affects more than half of all adoptive parents, unofficial studies say.
Why would that be, you ask? Well, there are so many dreams, hopes, and expectations wrapped up in adoption. The child may be shell-shocked by his/her new family and routine. For both parent and child there is constant change, frequent misunderstandings, and occasional outright grief and disappointment.
The child may dislike or detest one of the parents, a purely arbitrary response in many cases, yet it can cause one of the parents to feel that he/she can do no wrong, whereas the other parent is constantly being rejected and resisted. Not exactly the thing dreams are made of.
The parent may react to the fact that the new son or daughter is not bonding as quickly as possible, or perhaps not shedding unacceptable orphanage behaviors such as lying, stealing, hoarding food, or inappropriate self-soothing behaviors. These things take time. Unfortunately, with family and friends watching and adding their two cents, plus a mom or dad’s own expectations, the pressure is on.
You start feeling very, very tired. Of course you’re tired, you’re jet-lagged and have been existing on pure adrenaline for weeks. The first month passes with doctor’s appointments, registration at the Embassy, U.S. Passport application, Social Security, and meeting family.
A whirlwind. Explaining rules of the house, or trying to find a food that the child will eat, and words to explain what’s happening. Brain drain. Constant hypervigilance when they climb out of their seatbelt, or decide to explore outside… in the middle of the night.
More exhaustion. An inability to sleep even when you’re bonetired ensues, or the desire to sleep round the clock.
You might want to eat round the clock, too… or not at all.
It’s called depression, Post-Adoption Depression, and it’s really not remarkable at all. You’ve spent months, or years, prepping for the little one (or big one) to come home. Paperwork, appointments, money, multiple trips, an actual child attached to an actual face and personality. All is well until you arrive home and the real work of becoming a family begins.
It will get better! There are some children with severe emotional or mental problems, but the vast majority are pretty average, with some good days, and some not-so-good. You’ll all grow together, and learn what makes each other laugh and smile.
See a doctor if need be, otherwise, treat yourself well. Even if it’s a babysitter to come and stay with the child while you take a nap (yes, in the beginning, it’s hard to leave the child at all if they have separation anxiety). You’re doing the best you can. The crying jags will go, the positive outlook will return. Get some exercise and fresh air. Take a bath and soak away the stress.
You can do this. Depression happens often when expectations and reality don’t mesh. They will.
—————Tags: adoption parenting blog, adoptive families blog, depression over adoption, did you make a mistake by adopting?, post-adoption depression (PAD), post-adoption health issues, symptoms of post-adoption depression, taking care of yourself after adoption, the exhaustion of adoption