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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Post-Adoption Depression

Look up the term PAD and you’re likely to land on Peripheral Arterial Disease, or Post-Adoption Depression, depending on in which circles you’re moving.  Actually, for the latter it’s “PADS”, with the word Syndrome tacked onto the end.  While it’s not yet a distinct illness recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, this type of post-adoption regret or sadness can be likened to post-partum depression in biological mothers.

It’s not that your body has been through the battle of childbirth, but for an internationally-adoptive parent, it’s more like your wallet has taken a beating, not to mention your time required for multiple trips abroad.  You prepare, you gather 101 documents from your own birth and marriage certificates, to passports, to extensive physical and psychological exams that would put the Mayo Clinic to shame, along with taking time off from work to be hunkered down for weeks at a time in a foreign land.  You’ve studied the language, decorated the child’s room, been told to hurry up, or slow down, depending on the region.  Your bank account is practically empty, you’ve been delayed countless times, the child won’t eat anything you feed her, and you find it difficult to communicate the simplest things.

Now you take a 15-24 hour trip home, and you’re on your own.  With no money.  With a screaming child.  With looming post-placement reports, lots of relatives and friends who would love to pop by, and with jet-lag.

After about a month or so, you wonder if you made a mistake.  A big mistake.

Maybe the child is resistant to cooperating.  Maybe you need to head back to work.  Maybe your child appears not so bright when compared with other cousins, playmates, or classmates.  The world is suddenly not so rosy.

Post-adoption depression might stem from the exhaustion of jumping through hoops for a year or so, and then suddenly, it ends.  Similar to marital surprises, you’ve gone from the long, drawn-out wedding, to a quickie honeymoon, and now the socks are on the floor and the dishes are piled up in the sink.  It’s a rude awakening that can happen in adoption, too.

Give yourself time to gain your equilibrium.  Switch off with your spouse if you have one and head to the gym for an hour to get away.  Sometimes babysitters who speak foreign languages are hard to come by, and you definitely don’t want to leave your new child repeatedly in the beginning.  See if a friend could help a couple times a month, so you can take a bath and just veg-out for an hour.  People want to assist, but they’re not sure how this works, either, so give them some cues or suggestions.

It’s nice if folks band together and make you a week’s worth of meals, offer to take your child for a couple of hours once a week (or every other hour, for that matter-!), pick up some medicine if everyone is down and out, or arrange to pay for a Mommy’s Morning Out.  With older kids, introduce them to other teens, or a new sport, or go on an outing that could not possibly cause damage to life or limb (umm…. White-water rafting, anyone?  What were you thinking-?!), or take them out for lunch, understanding that new American foods can be very stressful, and not as happy-go-lucky as it would be for a home-grown child getting to go out.  Ice cream always works, too.  How about a walk in the park, a stroll around the block, or kicking around the soccer ball?

Depression is tricky.  I’m not a medicate-everthing type of gal, but if you need it, and it helps, get something.  Otherwise, deal with the sadness, or the disappointment, or the overwhelming feelings.  This, too, shall pass.

Try to focus on the here and now, rather than extrapolate what your life may be like for the next 10 or 20 years with this alien-child.  All will be well.  But it takes time.

The rest of us are here for you, to talk you off the ledge and coach you off the cliff.  You can do this, really, you can.



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6 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Greg says:

    Great blog today. I was warned by other husbands about this. I didn’t think it could happen to us, but it did. You are right, it takes time and things will return to normal. A new and different normal, but a good normal regardless.

    • avatar admin says:

      Thanks, Greg, it helps to have a guy’s viewpoint. I don’t think PAD “has” to happen, but just to know that adoption is a huge deal with lots of adjustments for everyone, is an encouraging word. Depression takes so many forms, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish if this is just exhaustion or what…. I read about one study that estimated it at about 60% of adoptive moms (and hey, what about the dads-?!), but who knows? Nobody ever contacted me. 🙂

  2. avatar Ivanka says:

    Do you have an acronym for mid adoption depression, or frustration? MAD! Like the cow. Whatever it is, I look forward to post-adoption anything. Ok, so guess who is mid-adoption?

  3. avatar Kathleen says:

    I definitely had this with both my adoptions. I am so glad another mom warned me so I knew it was normal. Never went the meds route, although maybe I should have, but sure would have been glad to have some of the kinds of help you wrote about. I felt like “I created this mess so I have to handle it,” which probably was not the most helpful response to the problem. Of course, I still feel that way as we deal with behaviors and other issues with our kiddos. Why is it so hard to ask for help?

    • avatar admin says:

      I know, Kathleen, I know. If we ask for help, we feel that we, or our children will be “labeled” for life. And I know of a number of families in touch with me who have severe problems and unless you have an unlimited cash supply, the agencies and SWs don’t want to hear from you. *Sigh*. There are a lot of pre-adoption support groups depending on where you live. The post-adoption groups are mostly for oohing and aahing for new little ones. I went to one of these groups and nobody wanted to talk about my new older son, so that was helpful to feel the ritual shunning, lol…. After you’re home, you’re pretty much on your own.

      I believe that Skype support groups, or small meetings online, will provide the support of the future. Not everyone lives near the people they need for post-adoption support. Our oldest son will be starting one-on-one free peer support in the near future via Skype. But being a parent, I think they’re the ones that need the real support-!

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