You've probably heard of post-partum depression, which is fairly common for new mothers. Post-partum depression is a hormone imbalance issue that can cause new mothers to become depressed, listless, and unsure about the new child and motherhood in general. A similar occurrence happens to adoptive parents post-placement, too. However, it's not from an imbalance of hormones. It's called post-adoption depression syndrome, and it is becoming more and more common with each passing day.
Post-adoption depression can occur because a parent is experiencing a lack of sleep, a shifted schedule from what they're used to, or because the demands of caring for a new child are overwhelming. When a parent immediately becomes overwhelmed, it can be all-encompassing. Depression usually sets in and so does the feeling of wanting to give back the child and have everything return to the way it was before. Some parents may have thought adopting and raising a child would be different, and that disillusionment can be difficult to accept and to overcome.
If you think you are experiencing post-adoption depression, the first thing you should know is that it happens to many adoptive parents. There is nothing to be ashamed of. However, it's also important to understand that it is an issue, especially because post-placement bonding is so crucial and post-adoption depression doesn't allow that bonding to happen naturally. The next step is to ask for help, which can be difficult to do. There are support groups and professional counselors that can help; you just have to find the right ones for your specific needs and situation.
Working through your post-adoption depression will not be easy. For some, it goes away on its own after a few weeks or months. For others, it stays around until they decide to work through that depression and those negative feelings. But no matter how long it takes you and how tedious the journey is, it is almost always worth it in the end. You may not feel connected or bonded to your new child right now, but it will happen eventually. Post-adoption depression can also bring back negative feelings if you experienced infertility.
Another aspect of post-adoption depression that you may have to experience is judgment from others. Some people just don't understand what it's like and that it's becoming commonplace. When you try to explain to others--even your loved ones--what it's like to have post-adoption depression, you may get weird looks and rude, insensitive comments. You can't change how others think of you, but you can make sure you have the right information and self-perspective. Experiencing post-adoption depression does not make you a bad parent. It doesn't mean that your child is unloved. It simply means that bonding may take a little more work and that every parent experiences setbacks. It's a part of life.
Post-adoption depression is still relatively new when it comes to research completed. Some say it's like post-partum depression was ten years ago with not much known about it. However, each day researchers are getting closer to understanding it and finding ways to help. If you suffer from post-adoption depression, just take it one day at a time.
To see local Adoption resources, please select a location (U.S. only):
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.