By an Adopt4Life Member
In 2014, I had the most amazing thing happen to me—I became a mother through adoption. We had waited almost 2 years for a match. Now, I had two adorable children. I felt so low and alone I wasn’t sleeping. I over ate and didn’t feel like myself anymore. I had lost interest in all the activities I had once enjoyed. I felt like I was trapped in my house with two 2.5-foot-tall dictators. I had no adult conversation other than on social media. I would go to play groups and feel awkward because I didn’t have a birth story to share and didn’t have an infant. My husband would work all day and come home to me in tears. I felt like no one understood me.
I kept hearing: you must be so happy—or—what do you mean you are sad, you asked for this! Yes – apparently, I wanted two children with unidentified needs including an attachment disorder, FASD and developmental trauma. Yes, I asked not to be able to leave the house ever because it triggered them. I asked to be pushed into walls because my child did not understand what a mom was or what they could help you with.
With the support of a good friend, I visited my family doctor and talked to her about my symptoms. She diagnosed me with Post Adoption Depression (PAD). I started a short term anti-depressant and started talk therapy. It took some time for me to process the feelings I was having and to find a stable support network of family and friends before I started to feel like myself again.
I feel it is so important to know about PAD as we go through the adoption process.
Some symptoms of PAD are:
· Feeling depressed or irritable most of the day
· Decreased interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
· Weight loss or gain, change in appetite
· Changes in sleep patterns
· A general feeling of fatigue or low energy
· Feeling worthless or excessively guilty on a regular basis
· Indecisiveness, or an impaired ability to think of concentrate
· Suicidal thoughts
There are many factors involved in PAD:
· Can affect both men and women
· Hormonal changes
· Sleep deprivation
· Unresolved issues from the past (i.e. infertility)
· Lack of support network
· Change of structure in the day
· Separation from work
· A difficult child or baby
· A feeling of loss of identity or self esteem
· Loss of freedom
· Low energy levels
· Adopting an older child
· Adopting multiple children
Post adoption depression is real and it is something we need to share with all families. Not to scare anyone but to share that these feelings are real and can happen in adoption. We need to be aware that social communities like Adopt4Life exist and can be there to normalize the journey and provide meaningful social interactions.
We need to see Post Adoption Depression added to the PRIDE curriculum in Ontario. If you completed PRIDE privately, most practitioners do discuss it. However, the Children’s Aid Societies need to change the PRIDE curriculum to discuss this and provide strategies for new families. Families dealing with complex needs should be supported and surrounded with social supports such as Adopt4Life. CAS workers should be talking/screening for PAD during follow ups after adoption probation and ongoing until finalization.
If you are in the process of adopting, please take the time to be aware of post adoption depression and how to secure a support system around yourself.
If you are struggling with post adoption depression, please know that you are not alone. Reach out to your family doctor and try to use social connections (both in person and online) to reduce the loneliness. Never be afraid to ask for help.