Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Post Adoption Depression: I've Adopted a Baby, So Why Am I So Sad?

Post Adoption Depression.

It's one of the topics rarely discussed in the adoption community, yet it is more common than you might think.  

Why the silence?  The expectation that new parents and those congratulating new parents holds is this:  that the parents should be completely overjoyed to FINALLY be mom and dad that the typical issues that come with parenthood should be a non-issue for for those who adopt.

Sleepless nights?


Baby who refuses to eat?  


Fussy baby?  


But the truth is, "adoptive" parents are really JUST parents.  With real parental struggles and challenges.  You need to be free to struggle.  (Did you hear that?)  Your baby isn't magical.  You aren't magical.  Parenting is messy.  It's exhausting.  It's hard. It's faith-shaking.  For ALL parents.  

However, there are additional pressures put upon those who adopt.  Pressure to be perfect, thankful, fulfilled parents who enjoy every moment (no matter what) with their beautiful baby.   

So here I am to drop some Post Adoption Depression truth bombs:  

You may not have had the pregnancy hormones and the strain of giving birth, but your struggles were/are no less legitimate and authentic.  Whatever they were and are.  

Post Adoption Depression can set in days, weeks, months, or even years (yes, years) after an adoption takes place.  

Post Adoption Depression can happen for a myriad of reasons, but one that is common is struggling to attach to the baby.  The struggle to attach may be fear (what if the baby ends up going home to his or her biological parents?  what if I'm not good enough to mother this child?), obligation (feeling the need to cling to the relationship formed to the biological parents over forming a bond with the baby), guilt (for becoming a parent to another person's child), sadness (for past losses), or change (adding a child to a family can create emotional, financial, spiritual, marital strain).  You might even be feeling guilty for feeling guilty!  

Pretending NOT to be depressed doesn't make the reality go away.  Post Adoption Depression is legit.   Acknowledge the pain, the struggle.  Call it out for what it is.  That's half the battle.  

If you have Post Adoption Depression, you need help.  You need support (think an adoption support group, an adoption-competent counselor, a spiritual leader, and of course, family and friends).  You need people to tell you your feelings are valid, but who offer you the encouragement to take steps forward.  

You need space:  space to feel the feelings.  It's OK to feel what you are feeling, to acknowledge that feeling, and to deal with that feeling.  In fact, that's healthy!  Because you are going to have that feeling whether you call it out for what it is or not:  so why not just keep it real?  

You need education.  What is it you need to learn more about in order to break free?  To emerge from the fog?   Who can provide those resources for you?  Learning more about a specific topic can empower you, melting away the ignorance (fear), the misconceptions.  Is it the struggles you face in an open adoption?  Special needs adoption? Transracial adoption?  Is it attachment?  Is it past trauma?  

You need action-steps.  What, based on your education, do you know that you need in order to move forward?  Perhaps it's attachment parenting techniques.  Perhaps it's more your time (self care).  Perhaps it's counseling.   Perhaps it's a combination of things.  Whatever is right for you, is right for you.

You need faith.  If you're a person of faith like I am, but you're in the rut of Post Adoption Depression, you've perhaps either turned away from God in this season or turned on God (blaming Him).  Either way, can I tell you I believe God is strong and mighty, and He's waiting for you with open arms despite your feelings toward Him in this moment?  

You need grace.  You will not move forward from any struggle in a matter of seconds.  There's no quick schemes here.  Time.  Space.  Good days and bad.  But the key is to see the issue for what it is, know that you aren't alone, and give yourself grace to stumble. 

You will get back up.  You will press on.  You will be the mommy your child needs.  Because that fire in you?  That's your mommy instinct, burning bright and fierce, and Post Adoption Depression will not have enough water to put it out.  

Maybe right now, your fire feels more like a fragile spark.  That's OK.  You've got something there.  It just needs to be fanned and fed.  Take the steps.  A better day is coming.  

Have you or someone you know faced Post Adoption Depression?  How did you emerge from the fog? 

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