So there you are, you’ve just got a referral or have just been matched with a baby due any minute, and you’re over the moon. You pad through the Shrine To Baby (aka the nursery) late at night, when the spouse is asleep, and you daydream about the future. You sit on the glider and snuggle with one of the stuffed animals that various friends and family have presented you, and pretend it’s your baby, and you sit and croon lullabies.
Your daydreams about motherhood (or fatherhood) are portrayed in your mind’s eye with a roseate glow, a soft-focus medallion of Madonna-esque Precious Moments type joy.
Friends are excited, relatives are excited, your spouse is excited, you are excited.
If you’re traveling to meet your baby, the excitement builds. You’re in a different place–Russia or China or Cincinnati or some other place you have never been before. You’re sightseeing, you’re dealing with officials, you’re meeting and bonding with your baby, it’s all new and different and vivid.
And then you get home.
Your baby, who slept like…well, a baby…while you were elsewhere, suddenly is adjusting to a new time zone. New smells. New sights. New sounds. He or she wakes up every three hours, and nothing you can do, short of carrying baby around for hours, will put baby back to sleep.
You are in a haze of sleep deprivation, and find yourself questioning your ability to do the most mundane of things (parallel parking? How do I do parallel parking again? I know I’ve done it before!).
The house becomes messy.
Your spouse returns to work, leaving you alone.
And this baby…this precious, darling child who you have longed for for years…is a stranger. You are suddenly a stranger to yourself. And this baby…precious, darling child…is a leech.
Yes. A leech.
Hanging on you.
Demanding all your time and attention.
Screaming if you leave the room.
Desperate for love. Hungry all the time. An endless source of wet and poopy diapers.
And you are the object of this small, self-centered person’s obsession. You realize you can’t do anything without this child hanging off you. You realize you can’t sleep, because your ear is suddenly attuned to the tiniest of grunts from the crib (or another room). Vacuuming the house is ditched entirely (even us lousy housekeepers do vacuum once in a while), because (a) you can’t do it with baby hanging off you, and (b) the noise terrifies baby.
You realize that you are Everything In the World to this small, self-centered creature. And your soft-focus daydreams of gently crooning baby to sleep in the glider have gone into the trashcan, because baby hates your singing, or baby is (like mine) a wiggler who couldn’t settle down to a nice crooning session to save her life.
You feel like your life is spiraling out of control.
You don’t like yourself anymore.
You resent your spouse (the light of your life) because s/he just Doesn’t Get It, and, besides, the bastard gets to leave the house and interact with other adults.
Your house is a shambles.
You feel like your life is a shambles.
You wonder if you’ve made the worst mistake in your life. You know there is No End In Sight, because you’ve signed an oath to take care of this small creature forever.
Does this describe your response in the first six months to a year after you adopted?
Don’t beat yourself up.
You’re not sick. You’re not insane. You’re not an Evil Person. They’re not going to come take your baby away (even at your most down moment, you are terrified that They are going to take her away).
Most of all, you are not alone.
There’s a thing called “Post-Adoption Depression”. It’s similar to Post-Partum Depression. PPD has the advantage of being explained away by waving hands at hormones, but y’know, OmegaMom has very big suspicions that the majority of it is what Jean MacLeod calls Baby Shock.
If you’re a new parent who has spent a long time with spouse, getting settled into spousal and life routines, tossing a baby into the mix just throws the whole gyroscope off balance. What was once a two-body problem (a very familiar term to physicists) has become infinitely more complex by adding a third body to the mix. And this holds true for adding another child after the first. (Please remind me of this when DotterSecunda shows up.) It’s a severe shock to the system.
I would say that it took OmegaDotter about six months to really, truly believe she “belonged” with us. I look back at pics of her first six months with us, and see, over and over, that what we considered “thoughtful” expressions were just plain “scared” expressions.
Further, I would say that it took me and Mr. OmegaMom a year to fully re-arrange our lives and become comfortable again.
As a person who is prone to depression, the disconnect between my daydreams and our reality after adopting did a number on me. (It didn’t help that I got laid off six months after we came home, what a blow to the ol’ ego.) The one thing that helped me immensely was realizing it was normal to feel this way, that many other adopting parents felt the same. I had read up on the various lists about returning home and having the child not sleep for the first three weeks. I had read up about Post-Adoption Depression, and was pretty much expecting it to hit me, due to the depression proneness. While I didn’t have a great real-life support system, I did have lots of friends on the internets who had BTDT, which helped.
For those who are about to adopt, and want info to be prepared, and for those who have just adopted and might be facing the same thing, I submit the following links:
- Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome - from Adopting.Org
- Post-Adoption Depression - It’s Real - from Rainbow Kids
- Adoption and Depression - from Bella Online
There’s more. Just do a search on “PADS” or on “Post-Adoption Depression”.
An addendum: OmegaDotter is a joy and a delight. We love her with all our hearts. Those first few months are more than counteracted by the years that have followed, filled with new discoveries and delighting in learning her personality.
P.S. This was prompted by some posts on email lists and some blog entries I’ve encountered lately, and is in no way to be considered “aimed” at any one person in particular. Just a BTDT, and a helping hand.