Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Precursors to Post Adoption Depression

I'm sick right now, so I'm posting something I already wrote and was saving. I'll get back to you on the "sticking out tongue" debacle later....

I’ve been doing a little Internet research on PAD, along with reading one of the only books available out there “The Post-Adoption Blues” by Foli and Johnson. Here’s what I’ve found so far regarding precursors to Post Adoption Depression. If you have any of these, you may be at risk. Note the ‘may’ be at risk… there has been very little research on the topic that I can find.


“When a family decides to adopt a child, considerable energy is put forth during the pre-placement time. Seemingly endless and intrusive paperwork, government agency requirements, advertisements to birth parents, and so forth, drain adoptive parents’ financial and emotional resources. There isn’t much left when the child actually arrives. Instead of understanding that the journey has only begun, some adoptive parents feel that the goal has been accomplished. Because the pre-adoption process can be all consuming, the precious time that needs to be used to prepare for parenting is stolen because so much energy has been put into the process itself." --Foli and Thompson

I’d like to add international travel and jet lag to that list. Preparing for travel across the world, packing, bringing donations, more paperwork in the form of visas and passports, waiting for court and the powerlessness feelings that brings up, traveling somewhere foreign and the culture shock… it all adds up to depleted reserves of strength for once the child arrives.

Personally, I remember blogging about feeling “in denial” that a child was arriving, questioning how some parents could “fall in love with a picture” before ever meeting the child, etc. Looking back, I was immersed in the preparation and not able to concentrate on the reality of what having a child in my daily life would look like.


Nobody told me about PAD before the adoption. Luckily, I read a LOT on adoption and learned about it through blogs. I was in denial that it would affect me though.

Not much research has been done on the problem. But in a 1999 survey sent out by Harriet McCarthy to subscribers to an online list serve for parents in the Eastern European Adoption Coalition, 77 percent of those who reported post-adoption depression said their symptoms lasted from two months to more than a year. Seventy percent felt that the depression had interfered with the transition and bonding with their new children. Only 8 of the 94 people who reported post-adoption depression said they had been advised by their agencies that the syndrome even existed.



According to psychologists who work with adoptive parents, the stress of being a new parent, sleep deprivation and a lack of support may put women at risk. And some adoptive mothers may be saddened if they do not "feel love at first sight" or immediately bond with a child.



If you lack support in your family or community, you are at a higher risk for PAD. This is true of any mental illness, really.


If infertility or
miscarriages preceded the adoption, a woman may still dwell on her lost pregnancy or inability to have a biological child. And some parents endure a long process to adopt a child, filled with anxiety, delays and other obstacles.


Four more precursors
coming up include being a "Career Woman". Tune in....


D.K. said...

I do recall after coming home thinking, 'what now?' So much of your time is poured into all the pre-cursers to actually getting the child, that you don't really look much past the actual act of bringing them home. All of the agency support and what-not that you get before hand is suddenly gone, as is the 'big moment'. This connection that you once had with all these people who were in the same shoes, has changed and you are no longer in anticipation. Obviously others don't have any of these feelings, but I certainly did, and am still working through them.

Shelby said...

The hideousness I felt for months after I adopted my son still haunts me. There's no question now what it was. But at the time I was so overwhelmed I could not have identified it as depression. Only now, when I read posts like this, do I really allow myself to believe it was anything other than my being ill prepared for parenthood. Very helpful post, thank you.