We worked long and hard to become parents. Years of infertility filled with tests, needles, examinations, surgeries and the loss of dignity. We moved on to adoption and were again met with questions and the need to prove ourselves. But finally the day came and we welcomed a wonderful 3-year-old boy to our family. We were so proud and excited to start our new life together.
I was new to my job so my husband took a few weeks of parental leave while I finished up my probationary period. From all accounts, they had a great time each day just hanging out and playing and setting up a pool for our son. I was so excited to be a stay at home mom, which is what I had always seen myself as doing.
From day one it was hard. Harder than I ever imagined it would be. He didn’t listen to me and I was on the go with him the entire day. I had been so excited to take him places like swimming and playgroups and they all ended up with him screaming and crying and my face flushed red in embarrassment. I knew I was nearing the end of my rope when I found myself crying over socks in the department store. I knew it wasn’t about the fact that I didn’t know what size socks my boy took. It was much more. I tried to talk to friends but they chalked it up to being a new mom and told me I was doing great.
Great. I might have been doing great but I didn’t feel great.
Any spare moment I had I reduced to tears. I made sure my son didn’t see me and I didn’t open up to my husband. I felt like if I admitted that I felt sad and depressed during a time that was supposed to be joyous it would make me seem ungrateful and an unfit mom. What I didn’t know is that adoptive parents can have post-adoption depression. The internet wasn’t like it is today back in 2002 and I had no idea that opening up to my doctor might have led to a conversation about possibly needing depression medication, maybe just for a little while. Instead I soldiered on, oblivious to the help I might have had.
Eventually I went to therapy and that helped. I was able to explore how I had been parented and what kind of child I had been and reconcile that with the knowledge that my son not only wasn’t me but that he wasn’t some dream child I had created along the way in my mind. Instead he was a very troubled little boy who would eventually have multiple diagnoses. By then I was much more prepared to parent him and the depression surrounding his adoption had lifted.
I write this hoping that other adoptive parents might see this and realize that there is no shame in admitting you are struggling and that post-adoption depression is a very real thing.