After a long journey to adopt, some mothers are surprised that they feel depressed when they finally get the child home. A new study suggests that tens of thousands of adoptive mothers may be suffering from a depression similar to postpartum depression.
“A March study of 300 mothers by Purdue University researchers found that post-adoption depression syndrome, or PAD, afflicts between 18 and 26 percent of adoptive mothers in the first year after an infant or child is placed with them. With approximately 120,000 children being adopted annually in the United States, the Purdue report suggests that tens of thousands of adoptive mothers may be suffering from depression.”
“When an adoptive parent struggles in adjusting to the new role of parenthood, she or he may hear ‘But this was your life goal! You got what you wanted!’ ” says Karen J. Foli, an assistant professor at Purdue’s School of Nursing and a co-author of the study along with Purdue’s Susan South and Eunjung Lim.
“Foli, who also co-authored the book “The Post-Adoption Blues: Overcoming the Unforeseen Challenges of Adoption,” says that adoptive parents’ unrealistic expectations, often sky-high after a long period of waiting to become a parent, can clash with the day-to-day demands of child care.”
“In fact, says Lisa Catapano, an assistant professor of psychiatry at George Washington University Medical Center, all new parents, biological or adoptive, contend with the same challenges that contribute to depression: “Sleep deprivation, a change in your relationship with your partner, a greater need for help from others, the stress of caring for a new baby, the change in your identity” and, for biological mothers, “hormonal shifts.” While adoptive parents “may not have the hormonal changes,” the other stressors are there, says Catapano, who treats both adoptive and biological mothers for depression….”
“Adoptive parents often have this sense that they are going to be a ‘super parent,’ ” says Anne Pearce, director of adoption services with Baltimore’s Board of Child Care, a private adoption agency. “But sometimes people are surprised or disappointed by some aspects of parenting: the exhaustion, or missing being in the workplace after looking forward for so long to being with a baby. I tell my clients, ‘Whatever you are surprised by is no surprise.’ ”
I can absolutely see how even without a hormone shift, adoptive mothers could feel depressed – maybe even more so. Motherhood is such a huge adjustment and sometimes with adoption you spend all this time waiting but then don’t get much notice before bringing a baby/child home.
I think especially with older babies and toddlers, it can be pretty overwhelming to jump into that stage. While newborns are scary at least they sleep a lot. Toddlers are running and you better be ready to go.
I had postpartum depression with my first, and I didn’t put it all together. How could I be sad? We had tried for a year to get pregnant with our first. She was beautiful and healthy but she never seemed to sleep. And every time she nursed it hurt unbelievably, which turned out to be infections in my breasts. The lactation consultant was the one who spotted it – not the OB and not the pediatrician. She said every time I talk to you, you are crying. You should feel better every day out and if you’re not we’ve got a problem. Just having it named helped, and I think that would be true for adoptive mothers too.
Did you adopt? Did you have post-adoption depression? Did you recognize it? How did you handle it?