After years of anticipation, excitement, and preparation, you finally have your baby home with you! All of your family and friends are ready to rejoice with you, and share in this special time. But, you are jet-lagged, tired, sick, and she is not bonding. As she is not sleeping well, your other children are regressing, and you are completely overwhelmed, you find yourself feeling moments of “What have I (we) done!?!?!?!?” With those feelings come feelings of guilt – how can I possibly regret this after so many years, so much money, the grueling paperwork, etc.?! These feelings are completely normal, and it is important that you give yourself permission to have these feelings.
As a parent myself, I can honestly say that nothing can prepare you for the challenge of parenting! Oh how I understand parents on a very different level since becoming one myself! Of course, reading, training, and education is important, and can begin to help you decide on the parent that you want to be for your new child. But until you are home with that child, and all of the excitement around you has died down, and it is just you and this new person, is when the reality of this monumental life change will hit you. Like a brick. You have this new person who cannot tell you what is wrong. This new person who is relying completely on you for their survival. This new person who you have been dreaming about forever. This new person who might not like you. This new person that did not come with a manual!
Most of us have heard of Post-Partum Depression, and the more common ‘Baby Blues,’ which is a mild form of the diagnosis. Up to 80% of biological mothers experience the baby blues, and within the past few decades these issues have been more recognized and expected as a part of the process of delivering a baby. A much smaller amount of mothers experience the more severe Post-Partum Depression. Pamphlets are given out at the hospital, and family members and friends typically understand that the new mother may be experiencing some of these feelings due to fluctuating hormones. Not many people are aware that adoptive parents can suffer from similar ‘Baby Blues,’ or the more severe form, Post-Adoption Depression.
Oftentimes, ‘Baby Blues’ can ‘hit’ adoptive parents much harder than biological parents, and can last longer as well. Adoptive parents spend years pursuing their dream of a child, sometimes beginning with years of fertility treatments followed by years of paperwork and waiting. Society expects adoptive parents to be more ‘grateful’ for their children because they went through so much to be united with them. When an adoptive parent experiences baby blues, it is accompanied by feelings of guilt and inadequacy. In addition, adoptive parents are scrutinized more closely than biological parents by social workers, therapists, and other professionals in the adoption community. Many adoptive parents feel as though they cannot reveal their struggles or challenges with these professionals, as these were the same professionals that approved them as parents. This can leave adoptive parents struggling with ‘baby blues,’ or Post-Adoption Depression, feeling isolated and alone.
The most important thing adoptive parents can do to combat the ‘baby blues’ (or, ‘kid blues,’ as international adoption rarely involves newborns) is to first acknowledge that it is a very good possibility that they will experience them. Whether you are a first time parent, or this is your fifth child, the addition of a child will overturn your universe and subsequently take time to get used to. Give yourself permission to put your life on hold for a while as you adjust to this new person in your home. Before your trip, freeze dinners, stock up on necessities, and explain to friends and family members that you will need time to adjust when you return home before attending events or hosting visitors. Also, accept the fact that certain things that you usually do, will not get done during the first few weeks (or months) home – the laundry will pile up, the dishes will sit in the sink longer than usual, and the sheets will not get changed. IT’S OK. Let yourself give these things up in exchange for getting to know your new child. She will not care if she has macaroni and cheese three nights in a row. Lastly, adding a new child into a family always has an effect on current relationships. Be sure to set time aside to nurture your existing relationships, whether it be with a spouse, close friend, or other children.
Preparation for your adoptive parenting journey is key to surviving any form of PAD that you are going to experience. Expect struggles and setbacks, astonishment and aggravation, as you begin your role as this child’s parent. And, be sure to rejoice if you have none! Understand that bringing your child home is not the end of your adoption journey, but only the beginning. Continue to read and educate yourself about parenting adopted children. Seek out other adoptive parents for support. Also, reach out to your adoption professionals – we are here to help, and we expect you to experience a wide range of emotions as you transition to being this child’s parent! Most importantly, know that your feelings are a normal response to a major life change, and it will get better with time.
Living Hope Adoption is a Christian adoption agency, granted full Hague Accreditation, located in Pennsylvania. We are staffed by an enthusiastic and caring team of professionals committed to providing you with all of the international adoption services you need. Adopting a child is a big step for anyone to take, and our staff takes pleasure in providing future parents support and guidance to make the transition of becoming a family as smooth as possible. Living Hope offers home study and post placement services to families within our direct service area who have adopted internationally. Our purpose is simple: to provide homes for children who need a future, and do it with a level of care and compassion that goes well beyond one's expectations.