Aug 11, 2009

Adoption Adjustment: Depression and Mourning Change

My mother had some difficult Post-Adoption Depression those first weeks after coming home. She was really feeling it. Luckily, we have both read a lot of articles on the subject and knew it was "normal" or at least, not unexpected. But it really hit home when my mom went through it. I realized I really need to prepare myself for the same thing. Some of the feelings described by those going through Post-Adoption Depression are:

* a "what have I done!" feeling... completely unrelated to how the children are adjusting.
* overwhelmed by simple tasks
* a feeling of intense desire to be alone/away from the adopted children
* a feeling of alienation, odd, intense moments of "these aren't my children"
* intense mourning of "how things were."

These are all normal. And like post-partum depression, they can be accompanied by feelings of intense guilt if you aren't aware that they are, or can be a normal part of adjusting to an adoption. Hormones are sooooo big in mothering, even with Adoption. And the difficulty of Adoption (IMO) is that you don't have all the biological compensations: those lovely endorphins and the breastfeeding and all that which helps to make life feel rosy and, though unreal and overwhemling, a happy thing.

I have had some of these things from time to time. I'll say I think I've got a pretty mild case of it. For me, the biggest symptom has been the last one I mentioned. I have had a couple of sessions of intense sadness, missing my family "as it was" even though I love our family the way it is now. It is a little weird. It feels like something outside of me, completely related to any events that are occuring. The girls can have an amazing day ajdusting and it might be my night of crying it out for a half-hour or so.

I have had some frightening, short periods of feeling some resentment toward the girls. Luckily I can think myself out of it. But it has given me some idea as to how it must feel to have severe PAD or PPD.

If you are feeling these things and feel like you're not handling it well or like things are getting too intense for you to handle on your own, seeking outside help is extremely important, and a wise decision. Think of it as loving your new kids in a way; you're beating the depression by finding interventions, so you can be emotionally available to them.

And taking some alone time, I have found, is paramount in importance. I find that the biggest difference to me emotionally is making sure I get that hour-or-two in the middle of the day to myself. I put all my kids down for "nap" or "Quiet time" and take time to read a well-loved novel, perhaps take a nap, or watch some silly sitcom online. And it makes all the difference; I'm ready to parent again when they wake up.

I have noticed, also that the feelings have lessened in intensity and frequency as the days have gone by. It really does get better. And as your kids adjust and feel more secure in their new environment, you'll feel more secure with the new situation as well. Sometimes waiting it out is the best, too, depending on your situation.

I'm so glad I prepared myself emotionally for the possibility of PAD so that when I felt it, I could sideline it in my mind and know it had nothing to do with my kids, or myself as a parent... it was all about change, and mourning change, and hormonal loveliness, and the culmination of a long, drawn-out process and getting used to the feeling of two strangers (awesome, adorable strangers, but strangers nonetheless) in my family circle. And it has been amazing, for the most part. I wouldn't change a thing. In my heart I know I'm very happy we have done this, and it does my heart so much good so watch the upward climb we are going through together as a family.


Jordan said...

FWIW, from a total stranger who has been following along with you from FMH for a while, you are making my wife and I want to adopt. You paint a very complete picture of the joy and the challenges- thanks so much! And, hang in there!

Haws Family said...

My mom stumbled onto your blog and mentioned it to me! My husband and I are also adopting from Ethiopia. We spent some time there when we were first married and fell in love with a boy in an orphanage. The adoption process is not going very smoothly for us. My husband has been offered a job as a project manager over a farm in Ethiopia. We will be moving over there this fall. Thanks for your heartfelt and honest blog.

Allison said...

This, from the MOM...I affirm that it does get better. And, for me, the PAD or PA...weird feelings (PAWF?) were pretty mild, I think. They come and go, and each day is a bit better.
Just feeling overwhelmed, another parallel to having a new baby, seemed to be the biggest thing. Adjusting to anything big and new in life is tough. And becuase our new daughter is 11 years old, the huggy, cuddly payoffs aren't there. I get a smile, an occasional hug, a kiss goodnight (sometimes!) and an "I love you mama" (which means what? after knowing me only a month an a half?) But it's all good and it's getting better and better.

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