Friday, April 2, 2010

Understanding Post-Adoption Depression

The New York Times explores post-adoption depression in an article published March 31, presenting new research conducted by Dr. Karen J. Foli, author of The Post-Adoption Blues: Overcoming the Unforseen Challenges of Adoption:

It’s not uncommon for new mothers to experience depression, which is usually attributed to hormonal fluctuations and lack of sleep after childbirth. But new research shows that depression after the arrival of a child isn’t limited to birth parents: adoptive parents are also at risk for depression after bringing a child home.

Depression appears to be common among the two million couples in the United States who adopt children annually.

* * *

[New] research, published in this month’s Western Journal of Nursing Research, found that the depression experienced by adoptive parents often stemmed from unmet or unrealistic expectations of the parenting experience.
How about you? Did you experience the post-adoption blues? I certainly was stressed and exhausted and busy being superparent after bringing Zoe home, but managed to avoid depression. I think being a more experienced parent helped with bringing Maya home. Despite having to deal with two instead of one child, it was a much easier experience.


Von said...

In the case of adopters it is often unacknowledged grief if they are infertile, playing a part too.
In the case of relinquishing parents, grief and loss of a child are a trauma which has no easy resolution as there is not a funeral for a dead baby or any rite of passage, as there is for parents bereaved by death.
The suggestions here are simplistic and ignoring much of the story.
You might like to get hold of Evelyn Burns Robinson's books for a deeper look at the issues and perhaps some preparation work.They're available online at around $20 each.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've heard that--unrealistic feelings on the part of PAPs. Mostly, though, I've heard of PAD in relation to the adoption of children institutionalized for some period of time. There's an a-mom who adopted from Russia who wrote about this extensively.

No, I wasn't depressed. It was one of the most beautiful times of my life. I was either stupid or lucky, probably both.

Anonymous said...

Found it--she posted a few times on my blog. It's Michelle and it's here:

Look for "Coping after adoption: my experience with post-adoption depression (PADS)".

Dawn said...

Yup, I was depressed and perhaps because of unrealistic expectations. I didn't expect how much Pennie's loss would color my feelings about our adoption. That's essentially what my Salon essay was about -- it took me a long time to allow myself to be Madison's mother.

Anonymous said...

I had PAD, and I don't think it was grief over infertility or unrealistic expectations. It was a combination of going from a very busy, active, independent life and career to staying home with an infant; along with the health problems she was experiencing because she was so frail. I was afraid she wouldn't survive. It took about a year, but as I got used to staying home and she got healthier, the dark clouds went away. We have since adopted two more, with no return of the blues. The second adoption was a breeze. The third was quite a bit more challenging because we adopted a 10 year old. Incorporating an older child into the family was stressful, but she's amazing and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that specific link on PAD in Michelle's Adoption Resources isn't working.

Wendy said...

Depressed? Hmmm, well a definite haze for a year and a half. M had severe PTSD attacks daily (actually approx.
10x per day/night each that lasted an hour and a half). I was searching for help from ANYONE/ANYWHERE. Our adoption health specialist. pediatrician, and our social worker were in the search and it still took over a year to find someone who would see her--they kept telling us to wait until she turned four (she was two at the time of adoption and approx 27 months when the attacks began).

I don't remember much from that time other than being sleep deprived and just trying to help her with her grief. I have to say I expected grief, I expected trauma, I expected attachment issues--we were fortunate in that was not the case, but no book/worker/doctor prepared me for the intensity of the trauma and lack of sleep that would come from round the clock "attacks" of intense grief and reliving of the most traumatic day of her life--adoption day. It took time to figure out what the event was but once it was determined it was so obvious--the reaction/trauma/timeframe in which she was given to us and removed from the only family she remembered--her foster family. Helping to identify triggers and helping her to understand how to cope with those triggers has been an ongoing process.

Was I depressed? Yes, but not for me. Never for me. The predominant feeling was guilt. It took me a long time to come to terms with that guilt and my responsibility in her pain. Actually it was only with our return to China this summer and finding out first hand that she would have been returned to the orphanage last year for schooling (she has visible differences and would not allowed to attend school in China) and only allowed to visit her foster family at the New Year did the guilt finally pass. Meeting her birth family and listening to their situation helped the guilt to pass.

As a person who is "infertile", I agree that anyone who adopts for this reason MUST deal with those issues first. I am so glad I did, I cannot imagine bringing those expectations to the mix. I also believe parents of bio children must do the same--lose your expectations at the door. Instead, watch and learn who your children are and who they will become.