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"Do I Love Him Yet?"

Award-winning author Melissa Fay Greene vividly describes post-adoption depression—and AF readers share the complex emotions of the first days home.



When I found myself weeping in the laundry room over being forced to put my children’s sheets on the interloper’s bed (because, at age four and a half, he was wetting the bed), I knew I was in trouble.

Refusing to take photos of him during his first weeks in America (because it might mean he was staying, because the photos might be used as evidence that he’d been here) also might have been a clue. Refusing to let anyone else take a picture of the whole family (because his presence in the family portrait, among our four kids by birth, would mar the effect) similarly could have sounded a warning note.

And there was the day, in the grocery store checkout line, when a cashier brightly asked, “Would you like to contribute a dollar for Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless?” and I snarled, with murderous anger, “I…HAVE…GIVEN…ENOUGH.”

Lying awake at night considering, “If I drive all night and check into a motel in Indiana, will anyone ever find me?” also might have signaled that I was having some issues with our son, Jesse, whom we had adopted from Bulgaria three weeks ago.

My husband knew. I couldn’t stop myself from shaking him awake at night to sob and complain. I insisted, in the small hours of the morning, that we’d spoiled our lives and the lives of our children, then ages seven, 11, 14, and 17. “It just doesn’t feel like when we brought the other kids home from the hospital,” I said, weeping.

Don answered softly, with some surprise, “To me it does.” I turned away from him and let the ridiculous man go back to sleep. All night long I thrashed and pummeled my pillow, in the grip of panic and grief and regret.



Melissa Fay Green (above)
and Jesse (top), with his
shaggy haircut and sparkly
eyes, full of his mom's
unwavering love.

One morning, I pulled a telephone as far as it would reach from one room to the privacy of another, dialed the number of the adoption agency, and whispered, “I don’t think I can do this. Is it possible to disrupt an adoption?”

“Well, gosh,” chirruped a friendly voice on the other end. “Nobody’s ever asked me that before! Let me find somebody who might know.”

Undone to learn that I was the first, the very first, adoptive mother to even ask such a question, I was incapable of gathering enough voice to reply. I hung up on the woman and doubled over in agony.

“Can you believe I’ve done this to myself?” I cried to a visiting friend, gesturing wildly at the child. Jesse, with his neat brown bangs and dark eyes, was sitting at that moment on the screened porch, trying to learn how to play with blocks. So far that morning, he’d confirmed that the wood blocks were not edible, but he was unsure what he was supposed to do next. I was in too foul a mood to show him.

“Can you remember why you wanted to adopt?” asked my friend, at a loss as to how to help me. The child looked fine to her, cute, even.

“No!” I sobbed. “I can’t. It wasn’t me. I can’t even remember that person. What was she thinking?”

I knew what she had been thinking; “Our children are so wonderful, our house is so full of love, we’re good parents. Let’s bring in another little kid from somewhere and prolong the fun.”



Want more by Melissa?
Read her past articles and
interview with AF at adoptive
families.com/greene
.

Ha ha. What a mistake. Instead of prolonging the fun with our four children, I now grasped, I’d never see them again. Every time I tried to spend a moment alone with one of them, Jesse came barreling into the room and threw himself onto my body. He was thrilled to have been given a mother, even a rumpled, disconsolate one like myself. He pulled me into the bathroom with him. He wanted me to watch him eat. He couldn’t fall asleep unless I was sitting on his bed. Whenever I disappeared from his line of vision, he went berserk, falling to the floor in a fit, screaming and thrashing.

The landscape flattened. I drove slowly through my neighborhood, heartsick at how the houses and yards had become two-dimensional, like comic-strip sketches, almost colorless. I recognized everything, but I could no longer insert myself into the scene.

Post-adoption depression” never crossed my mind. I didn’t know that it was quite common among adoptive mothers of older children. The reasons vary. But surely it is, in part, because adults are hard-wired to attach to wide-eyed, helpless babies; a fit-throwing, non-English-speaking, snarling Bulgarian four-year-old does not, at first glimpse, invite adoration. The crucial period of mother-infant courtship is missed as sorely by adult women as it is by the kids who suddenly parachute into their lives with their boots on.


Recognizing PAD
Are you just adjusting to parenthood or experiencing post-adoption depression?
If you are experiencing the symptoms below, consider seeing a professional.

  • Loss of interest in being around other people
  • Always on the verge of tears
  • General fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or an increased need for sleep
  • Significant weight gain or loss
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Feelings of worthlessness or powerlessness
  • Loss of enjoyment in life
  • Irritability
  • Recurring thoughts about death or suicide (Seek help immediately)

  • In the orphanage in rural Bulgaria, the director had taken the little boy by the shoulders, turned him to face me, and said, “Mama.” That was it for Jesse—a light went on in his mind, an archetypal image was personified: “Mama.” He felt instantly devoted to me, instantly cared for.

    Jesse was not having “bonding” or “attachment” issues, but I was. I couldn’t figure out how on earth I would survive the coming years. I was reeling with the tremendous and terrible revelation that all the daily subservient tasks I’d done thousands of times for my older children were impossible to perform for a child I didn’t love. He was like the sleepover friend who overstays his welcome. “When is that family going to pick this child up?” one felt.

    It wasn’t until the afternoon in the laundry room, awash in a feeling of pity for our old sheets, that I first thought: “You’re crying over sheets. You’re losing it.”

    Followed by: “You’d better get help.”

    “You’re completely exhausted,” the physician said the next afternoon. “Are you sleeping?”

    “No.”

    “Are you eating?”

    “No.”

    “Have you caught up on your sleep since the jet lag of flying back from Bulgaria?”

    Though I’d been back three weeks now, I still hadn’t.

    “I’m going to give you something to help you sleep,” she said.

    I burst into tears. “I need something stronger! I’m crying over sheets.”

    “OK, OK,” she said. The doctor, who had known me for 15 years, had never seen me like this. She brought me some sort of pharmaceutical sample. I grabbed it. In my car, I snapped open the package and swallowed the tablet whole, dry, without water. Instantly I began to feel better. I didn’t care that the instructions said to allow six weeks for the medication to take effect; the placebo pulled me back from the brink.

    There were other things I did right: I told my friends I was in bad shape. I’d never reached out for help from such a scared and vulnerable place before, and my good friends flew to my side. They sat with me. They helped me watch Jesse.

    My friends also gave me good advice. “You don’t have to love him,” one said, consolingly, over coffee. “You can just pretend to love him. He won’t know. Jesse’s never been mothered in his life. Jesse’s in heaven. Just fake it. Your faking it is the greatest, sweetest thing that’s ever happened to him.”

    While faking it, while pretending to love him, I discovered that my body was OK with mothering him—my lips knew how to kiss him, my hands enjoyed stroking his hair, even as my heart was in total rebellion, my brain frozen with regret.

    “Do you love him yet?”

    Such an awful thing we adoptive parents do to ourselves and our newly adopted children, asking ourselves this question. We don’t pursue this line of questioning about the children to whom we give birth. Yet here sat this little guy at the table, painstakingly peeling a hot dog before eating it, looking up, with his shaggy haircut and sparkly eyes, and all I could think was, “Do I love him yet?”

    Well, he loved me, and that little, steady, unwavering beacon of love began to lure me.

    One night, within the first month of Jesse’s arrival, sleepless again, I strayed from my bedroom and ended up resting on the daybed in my downstairs office. In the middle of the night, Jesse, also a night wanderer, found me and climbed in the bed. “Damn! He found me! Damn!” I felt trapped and angry. Yet I was not insensitive to the sensation of the little boy curling and purring beside me. At first light, I sprang out of bed to put distance between us. When he got up, he found me in the kitchen and drew me by the hand to the office. He pointed to the bed and said, in baby-Bulgarian-English, “Mama speesh, Cha-chee speesh.” (“Mama sleep, Jesse sleep.”) All day long he reminded me, laughing, pointing to himself to help me remember our great encounter, our wonderful secret. That night I stayed in my bedroom, with the door locked, and I heard him looking for me downstairs.

    He was intoxicated with everything I did. One night, as I dressed to go out somewhere, he sat high on my bed, swinging his legs, watching me. On went the stockings, on went the slip, on went the low heels; before I could finish buttoning the satin blouse, Jesse flew off the bed and into the closet to hug me. “Oh, Mama!” he cried, utterly starstruck.

    Under such an onslaught of tenderness, I began to soften. I no longer assumed he was leaving, and he began to trust that I was staying. He began to let me out of his sight for minutes on end. I was able to walk seven-year-old Lily to school in the morning, savoring every step, every breath of the fall air, like heaven had been restored to me. I was able to listen to my older daughter practice her upright bass, and to my older son play his trombone, seated on the beds in their rooms, without a small Bulgarian draped across me.

    One afternoon, feeling irascible and weary, I gave in to his pleas of “Bagel, Mama? Bagel?” and hacked so hard at a stale bagel that the knife glanced off the roll and slashed my finger. Jesse followed me upstairs in a panic, his eyes huge and filled with tears. He stood beside me as I sat on the closed toilet trying to stanch the bleeding; he patted and patted my shoulder. “Mama!” he announced. “Mama, nay bagel; Mama, nay bagel.” He was trying to help, after the fact, by unrequesting the bagel.

    Later, he stood on his tiptoes, reached into the kitchen drawer, extracted the big, guilty knife, and said, “Nay Mama this. Daddy. Nay Mama. Daddy.” Meaning you should not use the knife anymore; let Daddy use it.

    Still later, he had an updated announcement to make, pointing at the knife: “Nay Mama, nay Franny” (our rat terrier, whom he already adored). I don’t know if the policy statement was meant to protect the two individuals he most loved from the bad knife, or if he now put me in the competence department with the dog.

    Finally, toward the end of the day, he came to me with a plastic picnic knife he’d found somewhere. He put it in my bandaged hand and said, firmly, “Mama.”

    What was it I felt at that moment, as I laughed and wept and accepted the picnic knife and hugged him? Was it, actually…could it be…? Well, by then I was trying hard to stop grilling myself a dozen times daily. I had learned about post-adoption depression and realized such interrogation was getting me nowhere.

    I had an appointment with a psychologist scheduled for a few days after the bagel mishap. But after Jesse handed me the plastic knife, I canceled it and scheduled a haircut, instead.

    I took Jesse with me. If he thought I was beautiful before the haircut, he really thought I was beautiful after the haircut. He thought the whole haircut experience was a glamorous and magnificent thing, full of the scents of perfumes and hairsprays and peppermints in a dish. As we drove home, I glanced back at him in the backseat, his cheek big with a peppermint. He gave me a huge, sticky smile. Did I love him? I didn’t ask. 

    “Post-adoption Panic” by Melissa Fay Greene, reprinted from A Love Like No Other (See AF's review of this book), edited by Pamela Kruger and Jill Smolowe, by arrangement with Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright © 2005 by Melissa Fay Greene.


    Learn More about Post-adoption Depression

    Baby Shock: 7 steps to coping; special tips for international adopters, and more.

    After the Bliss: One mother shares her painful ordeal, and how she learned to feel better.

    More Than Just the Blues: How to take care of you—and baby.

    Your Baby, Yourself: Tips to smooth the transition in the first few weeks.

    Is This Really Parenthood? Your new baby is home, and things are just great... right?



    It happened to me...
    (Share your story below!)

    When our daughter was about one year old, the euphoria of being a mother began to wear off, and I understood, for the first time, how difficult the loss was for our daughter’s birthmother. I felt very guilty and sad when I thought about breaking her heart. Our continuing contact has helped enormously. She has been unswerving in her conviction that she made the right decision; hearing her voice as she heals has been so helpful. I am a better parent, I believe, because I can convey both the sadness and the joy of adoption to my daughter. My advice? Recognize your sadness. Talk to others or keep a journal. Seek treatment if your depression interferes with life.
    —Amy W., via e-mail

    Oh boy, did I ever have post-adoption depression. I was a brand-new mom, irritable and restless. I had no idea what I was doing. I cried a lot and slept poorly. I muddled through and finally started exercising more. Being able to talk to our daughter’s childcare provider, the mother of a child the same age as mine, gave me some sanity. With child number two, the depression was even worse. Everything set me off. Ultimately, I went on antidepressants. I’m a much better mother, wife, and friend now. I wouldn’t change any of what I experienced—it brought me here and I like where I am.
    —Janiece P., via e-mail

    I had sudden onsets of sorrow, panic, and anxiety, and I was afraid I’d never attach to my child. We had waited so long for this, so why was I sad? My supportive husband reminded me, gently, that we had spent eight years in infertility and two in the adoption process, and now, it was over. We had a beautiful daughter! We were parents! I was fortunate—the depression lasted only a few weeks, and I formed a strong attachment to my daughter very quickly.
    —Lisa S., Wisconsin

    I found myself crying over my newborn son, wondering if his birthmother missed him, and feeling sad because I, and not she, was holding this beautiful little boy. My husband was patient but didn’t understand. I finally got used to the idea of a new baby, and now feel our son’s place is with our family.
    —Kris V., via e-mail

    It was a mixture of sleep deprivation, grief for the birth
    family, and the unreality of motherhood, after years of desperate longing for it. Bringing home a baby didn’t erase the feeling of being an infertility patient. I became obsessively focused on the baby. I didn’t eat, I didn’t clean, I didn’t do the laundry, I didn’t leave the house. Finally, my mom came to help, and I began to sleep. The baby also began to sleep more and was easier to care for. She started smiling and responding to me. News came from our adoption agency that the birthmother did not regret her decision and was grateful for the pictures and letters. Gradually the depression passed. Support from family and friends was critical.
    —Tracey C., Georgia

    Our first son’s arrival, just before the holidays, along with jet lag and illness, set me up for depression. Fortunately, our adoption medical specialist recognized what I was going through immediately, and helped me through it. When our second son came home, I should have been ecstatic, but we had lost two referrals, as well as my dad, only months earlier. So, instead, I felt overwhelmed and unfit. Making matters worse, our son’s foster family in Guatemala would have adopted him had they been able to afford it. Seeing their pain made it impossible for me to rejoice. This time, I sought counseling. I hired a helper. I made time to write, shop, and relax. My counselor said that adoptive moms seem to feel so lucky to be parents that we put our children’s wellbeing before our own. It’s not good for us—or our kids.
    —Shelli G., Ohio


    We thank the readers of AF
    for generously sharing these
    intensely personal stories of the days
    after adoption.


     

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    Comments

    My story is probably a bit different than the ones I have seen posted, in that I adopted a much older child. If there was one thing I could change about this magazine, it would be to have more articles for families of kids adopted in their teen age years. The few articles I have read have brought me serenity. The comfort that "I am not the only one" has been invaluable as I survive though parenting such a child. I can't say that I had post adoption depression immediately...it took some time to hit. I was immediately attached to my daughter and head over heels in love...even before I actually met her. For months I turned a love struck blind eye away from the problems my new family now faced. After 6 months, things had gotten so bad, I could no longer ignore them and my happiness dissappeared. Theft, lying, sexually acting out, smoking, foul language, lack of respect to authority, failing grades, PTSD, emotional outbursts ALL NIGHT LONG are just a few of the behaviors I had to survive. Unfortuanately, I didn't fully understand (or maybe I just refused to accept) that many older adtoped children (mine was 14) do not WANT to be loved, and in fact will do ANYTHING to sabotage your love for them. She will be 18 in a few months, and the last 3.5 years have been the hardest years of my life. Did I do the right thing? I don't know, I faked loving her as much as I could...and at moments felt real love. There are now times when I feel like we connect and that is very powerful. If only it would last. I ended up working with Dr. Brian Post with the Post Institute. What I learned through him was invaluable to my ability to parent this child. In the end, for a child that was incapable of returning love, my home was more than likely better for her than aging out of the system and growing up in a residential treatment center. For her, yes, I did the right thing...for me, I don't know. It is still too painful to contemplate.

    Posted by: Tania at 11:32am Sep 6

    In the year since we met our daughter in China, I have had several bouts of doubt/denial/depression. Even though I was familiar with Post-Adoption depression and suspected it in myself, it took many months before I was able to reach out. In fact, I think it took feeling more secure in my new role as mom and in my relationship with my daughter before I could admit to some of the negativity I was experiencing. I was determined not to "fail" at this, and equally terrified of jeopardizing things or casting our family in a negative light. The trip to China, staying in a nice hotel and mostly eating out, was like living in a bubble. We were in travel mode. Everything felt surreal and temporary, including having a toddler placed in our care. It didn't seem to have much to do with us and our regular lives. There was no tangible evidence that we would leave together to come home forever, even though I knew that was the plan. In retrospect I am sure that denial was an early sign of depression. Meanwhile, we took pleasure in introducing this little girl to her birth country. She had spent most of her short life indoors. Now we took her on long walks along the Pearl River, showed her the busy school yards, pointed out the old ladies exercising in the park. It was difficult to imagine that she would not grow up with all of this. We flew out of Guangzhou on a rainy day. That morning, our guide remarked that the skies weep when a Guangdong baby leaves. I felt his love for our baby, wondered if it was greater than mine, and questioned what we were doing taking this girl so far away from her relatives and birthplace. As the plane took off, I cried. In retrospect, I think the pain for everyone involved in infant abandonment and the placement of orphans was an underlying factor in my depression. When we arrived back home, I experienced a growing sense of dread about this permanent "intrusion" into our lives. Becoming parents had changed everything, and adjusting to this was a struggle. I continued to go through the motions, followed the advice on fostering a good attachment, and generally "played mommy." Sometimes it felt good, but generally it felt more like playing a role than playing for keeps. I wondered when it would be over. Things occasionally "clicked," but there were triggers that brought on doubt and despair. One of those was seeing my daughter together with my nieces and nephews. I felt so much more connected to these children who resemble us and each other, and whom I had known longer, even witnessed being born. I questioned every decision leading up to our adoption. Why hadn't we at least tried to get pregnant? The answer, I well knew, was that it would have been very costly -- more than adopting a child whose life had already begun. The choice had seemed obvious, much more sensible and humane. We had always felt positively about adoption. Heck, at our most irreverent, some of my college friends and I had even made fun of people who felt the "need to breed." But now I felt I understood those people better than ever. Now, when it was too late, and the adoption was a done deal, my convictions and my emotions were partly at odds, and would stray further apart at times of high stress. Being a new mom now thrust me into situations I had previously avoided, and into direct contact with those "breeding" parents. No longer the "child-free by choice" professional woman watching gleefully from the sidelines, I found myself making comparisons and envying the biological connection those families had that we didn't. In play groups, at the library, everywhere we went, I was a new mom among other new moms, but I felt only the differences. Lacking a strong social support system where we live did not help. We got almost no practical assistance from friends. On the other hand, we did not get many insensitive remarks, either. In fact, my mother and one or two of our friends continue to remind me this is sill a new situation, even as the months go by (from "It's only been 2 months!" ... and "It's only been half a year!" to ... "It hasn't even been a year yet!"). I told myself the same. I found things to do together with my daughter -- a playgroup, gym class, swimming. For a while I struggled because it was impossible to get anything else done. I had a classic "velcro child" on my hands, or rather, in my arms. I was usually able to respond in a loving way, but sometimes I felt resentful and sarcastic and desperate for escape. Who did this kid think she was?? (My daughter or something??) In retrospect, I suspect my daughter's insecure attachment was another symptom of my depression. Maybe seeking help sooner would have sped up the bonding process or made that time easier. I think there is a lot of pressure on adoptive parents to say the right things and hide the negatives. I was certainly afraid of jeopardizing the adoption (or a subsequent one, since my "goal" once I decided to raise children was to have two). Things do keep improving. Around the eight month mark, I realized we had begun to hit our stride as a family. I expect that once my daughter is a little older and really talking, I will feel at least as close to her as I do to her cousins -- who have the advantage of being older and better able to express themselves. Apart from the lack of a physical resemblance, there is more and more connecting me to my daughter.

    Posted by: anonymous at 2:41pm Sep 6

    I had suffered with postpartum depression after the birth of my first child. When it was time to add to our family, we chose adoption for many reasons, although a big one was to avoid going through the debilitating symptoms of postpartum depression. The month we got our referrals I began having many symptoms of pregnancy to the point where I was seeing my doctor to rule out possible early menopause, cysts, or something that would be the cause of these symptoms. It never dawned on me that my body was reacting to our child being added to our family! Several months went by and the day came that we brought our beautiful daughter home. By the next day, I began feeling overwhelming hopelessness, anxiety, sadness and regret. My feelings were identical to what I felt after I had given birth and it was such a shock! Luckily, my family and friends were extremely supportive and I knew to get help from my doctor. I began taking an anti-depressant, just as I had after my first child was born. The doctor I had seen after the birth of my first child explained that your body goes through another hormonal shift about 8 months postpartum, so to continue on the antidepressants until that time. I was able to stop taking them after 8 months and felt totally normal. Strangely enough, that was the exact same situation after the adoption of my second child. I could actually feel the change in my hormones and mood, and felt back to normal again. I just wanted to post this so reader's could realize that whether it is through birth or adoption, adding to your family can cause extreme hormonal shifts in some women, but help is available. My life is wonderful now, I have a very close bond with both my children, and could not be happier!

    Posted by: Mom in Illinois at 10:10pm Sep 9

    I am so happy that this is condition is finally getting recognition and that mothers everywhere can get the help that they deserve and desperately need!! When we adopted our gorgeous daughter from China in 2003, I not only became a mother for the first time but, one month before our travel - my mother died from lung cancer. My mother was my best friend so while I was mourning her death, I was welcoming this "strange little bundle" into our family. Well of course, our daughter didn't take to me - she only wanted her Baba (Daddy) and would scream at the top of her lungs if I tried to pick her up. I guess she really sense the internal battle I was going through. Once home - I had no idea what the heck I was doing. I had relied on the fact that my mother was going to help me in raising our child. Although my husband was helpful and supportive, I was home alone with this baby that I could not connect to while still mourning the absense of my mother. I consulted doctors, friends, and family about the way I was feeling - depressed, anxious, restless, sad. I even talked to a friend who is a nurse. I told her that I thought I was experiencing something like post-partum depression. She laughed and said that I had adopted... not "given birth"! That there was no way my hormones could be "outta wack" like a woman who had given birth. It was about this time that Brooke Shields published her book "And Down Came The Rain". I read it and said "Oh my goodness! This is exactly how I feel!!" I took it to my NEW family doctor and he smiled and said "Honey - you have post-adoption depression. And we can help you." He changed the anti-depressant I had been on since loosing my mother and POOF! Life was great! I loved being a mother.... and my daughter began to relax and enjoy being with me. I think the most important thing to remember when you adopt is - everyone says "Oh how wonderful - you are so kind..wonderful...super.. to give this child a better chance at life." Ok - yes, we are special that we have adopted but so are the birthparents that were willing to give their child a chance at a better start and for allowing us the opportunity to have the family we have always dreamed of. We are super parents but we don't have to be "Super Parents". We just need to love and care for our children. I encourage any woman who is having these feelings to seek medical/professional help. We don't have to suffer any longer!!

    Posted by: A Cooper at 4:57pm Sep 28

    I am very comforted to see this topic being brought up. I thought I was crazy when I started experiencing these attachment issues with my adopted daughter. My husband and I have 4 biological children (ages 4, 6, 8 and 10). We had always talked about adoption, so finally took the plunge and did it. About 10 months ago we adopted a 2 1/2 yr old girl from China. She is adorable, healthy, well attached and seemingly perfect. She had attachment issues with us the first week in China, as expected, but soon after she quickly bonded, especially to me. All was fine in China and even the first few months at home...it was a very harmonious beginning. But, her differences, besides looks, compared to my other bio kids soon became apparent. Why, at almost 3 yrs old, was she having so many potty accidents...and still not potty trained at night? Why could she not do simple wooden puzzles (my bio kids are puzzle geniuses and could do 24 piece puzzles by age 2)...was she retarded? Why was she so insistent on following me everywhere around the house? Why is it taking her so long to form her language skills? Why does she cry so easily when her siblings don't give in to her constant demands? Why does she have no attention span? More and more questions kept creeping in my mind and adding to the whole negativity of it all. Did I love this child? I certainly felt not. I looked at my 4 bio kids and felt such a deep love that I did not feel with her. I felt guilty, I felt awful, I did not know what to do. Everything that she did wrong or different from my other kids made me love her and want her even less. Reading these articles have helped me and I am still struggling and trying to love her. I do have to force myself to love her still right now. There are good days and bad days. I have found that making time to take her out alone on a special trip...even if just to the grocery store, helps. Spending alone, quality time with her, without the other kids distracting us, is helping to create a better bond. As far as my adopted daughter is concerned...she is bonded 100% to us...it is not her, it is me. So, I am the one who needs the work on attaching to her better. Never once have I considered "disruption", because things have not been horrible with her...just kind of annoying. It's hard when you try to compare your bio kids, who have been with you their whole lives to bringing in an older toddler, who has certain habits and issues that are unfamiliar. So, I am still trying to understand her and working out my issues. It is nice to know I am not alone, as I have been feeling that way. Melissa Fay Greene's article had me laughing and crying...I completely understood it.

    Posted by: Elizabeth at 4:59am Oct 17

    Thank you all for sharing.  I went through PPD after our first adoption.  I was 41, jetlagged to a point where my brain did not retain for more than 20 seconds and I kept finding myself turning in search of something--what was it that I was just attempting to do, looking for, thinking about?  I never had a baby or a toddler in my home. I was single until I was almost 37. Our son was an  absolutely beautiful 26-month-old, but his watchful, judgmental demeanor scared me.  I didn't feel I was measuring up. And he was like velcro.  I could not sit; I had to stand and carry him everywhere, at all times.  I found myself intermingling swear words with my prayers--out loud. My husband was not an acceptable subsitute for our son and tantrums lasted close to two hours.  Was that 2 hours of screaming worth walking outside for a 5 minute break? No, it wasn't, but I was FRIED.  I was smitten with him on the one hand, but not very nice to him or anyone else, except on my terms, which were very limited. I finally visited my doctor and was treated for anxiety--which did the trick. Our son is a 5 year old angel!  One of the easiest, happiest kids on the face of this earth. Ask anyone; it's not my bias. We're in process for our second adoption, which we all desperately want...but I've dragged my feet every step of the way.  I'm afraid.  Afraid it will change everything--which it will.  I'm guilty because I'm dragging my feet while he grows older every day. After reading all your comments, I realize it is my anxiety that has increased again--pre-adoption, this time; probably because I know what I'm in for and because this time it affects my son too.  But it's going to be all right, isn't it?  Thank you for reminding me.

    Posted by: Caroline at 3:28pm Feb 1

    My heart breaks reading these comments. Yet, I'm in some way comforted that I've not been alone in my feelings toward my little Alex. We adopted Alex at 2 and 1/2 from China. He'd been living with a foster mother, whom he adored. She'd nursed him after he'd had open heart surgery at 1 year. They had a happy life together. She'd been indulgent with him--she proudly showed us the drawings on her WALLS that he'd done in her apartment. When we adopted Alex, our daughter, Arielle was six. We had adopted her at 10 months and she'd also had a foster mother. She'd rejected me at first, and had grieved. But, she quickly grew to become our loving, perfect little girl. At first we thought Arielle would be an only child, because we were older. But, then I realized that I wanted Arielle to have a sibling, and I wanted another child. But, Alex has been tough from the start. He was angry with us for taking him from his foster mother. He acted out, he had tantrums, he kicked and bit, and pinched and hit. When we brought him home, I thought he would bond right away with little Arielle. No Way. He hit her, he threw things at her, he bit her!! A lot!! He's strong and she's tiny and it was really hard for her. I realized that I had come to resent Alex for what he was doing to my little Arielle, and for how difficult he was to manage, day after day. And, I don't think I was able to really love him for a long time. By the time he was in kindergarten he had stopped biting, but he was still having tantrums and very hyperactive. We have since learned that he has ADHD, which explains a lot of his behavior. Now he is eight, and on medication (which we put off as long as we could, until we were getting notes home from teachers). He is maturing and loves us. And we love him, but each day has its struggles. And, I feel guilty about Arielle, who may love him, but has become an unhappy young lady who has a brother who has changed her world in negative ways. She does NOT like him and feels victimized by his behavior. I've taken them to a child psychologist, but even with health insurance, the cost is incredible.

    Posted by: Pamela at 1:39pm Jan 9

    Hi, I have adopted 2 girls through foster care. We got the youngest when she was 6 weeks her sister was 18 months. Her sister returned back to mom 3 times. The baby always stayed with us. I had baby H. for 9 months without her sister. It was beautiful!!! The time her sister J. was placed with us, she was difficult, I did not know if I could live through it!! I said to my worker when J had to come back to us on a permanent placement, do I have to take her, they said yes, if you want the baby she has to stay with you. Well needless to say there was no way I would give up baby H. we had her for 9 months and we were all bonded. I have 3 bio- kids then 17,13,10. So J. reentered our lives. I thought, well she is young maybe things will change. Nobody could have told me then that even if the child is young you can change that easy. She has made great progress since she was 18 months, now 8. I have never bonded with her from the start, we provide and advocate for her, she has problems in school,etc. I always said to teachers and SS worker, she does not seem right to me, oh yes she is fine she will grow out of it!! I had raised 3 kids I know when there is something not right. The girls are now 6 and 8. My daughter is a regular kid, a little hyper at times, but no issues. The girls fight from when they wake till they go to bed, it is relentless!!! I would say on a scale from 1-10 they play together 1%of the time. I'd mention that to people oh they are just siblings. We have had them almost 6 years, you would thing things would be easier but they are not. I struggle everyday with J. I am so depressed, this is terrible to say but there are times I want to pack up H. and leave just so I can not have to deal with J. My bio kids are not living at home they are now 25, 22, 19. They know I struggle with j. they say to me you took her you have to deal with her, the problem is I did not want her, and know I am dying inside with having to deal with all the problems with a child I do not love. There are some days I do not want to get out of bed to face the day!! If someone was saying the things I was, back before I adopted, I would say Oh my god what a terrible person to feel that way!!! Well no one can judge if they have not lived it!! My husband is the saving grace with her, he has to deal with her, because I can't and don't want to. Please help me i am dying of guilt and pain, it is destroying my life!!! I feel alone and terrible for the way I feel. I have never felt os negative towards anyone like this, I am usually the most caring, loving, giving person there is, and now I have turned into this terrible person. If you could give me direction please do. Tammy

    Posted by: Tammy at 8:40am Jan 15

    I am reading these comments about PDD and can fully relate. I adopted an 8 month old 3 years ago and it was truly love at first sight. After almost 3 years, I decided that I would like for my daughter to have a sibling and it would be nice to provide for another child. So after prayer, another child from foster care was presented to me. The department of children and family services failed me from the start from telling me I needed to take the child in 10 days to not showing up for 2 presentations. I never felt happy about the whole thing even from the day she moved into my home and I was hoping the foster parents would change their minds and decide to keep her. I just felt it would all get better. Well it hasn't. She's three and I resent her, have lots of anger toward both children and have been suffering mild depression. I did not want to get on antidepressants because I feel it is situational and will mask what the problem is. I have tried to spend time with both girls separately.It has now been nearly 5 months that the new child has been in my home and I am not bonding and don't feel that I ever will. I feel I have not been able to be a good mother to either child although both love me. I feel my old self come back when I am alone with my first child.Both girls are 3 and fight and bicker incessantly. My counselor and priest counseled me that if I did not feel this was right,not bond, and could not handle the 2 children, then I should disrupt the adoption. I am a single mom and feel quite overwhelmed at not having a spouse. After painful consideration, I made the decision that I will disrupt. I feel peaceful with the decision but feel incredibly guilty and like a failure that this has not worked out.(the second child really is a good child, liked by all, and does not have many problems). All I want to do is get this chapter behind me and truly do wish the best for number 2 and am advocating for her with social services that she end up in a good home with a parent/s who love her. Has this happened to anyone else? I'm feeling all alone.

    Posted by: Lynn at 12:42am Mar 22

    Reading these experiences has freed me from my confusion! I did not realize until now that I had suffered from depression with the adoption of my second child. Our oldest child was five when we adopted our second infant son. The state in which he was born gives the birthparents 14 days after placement to change their mind. For fourteen days I fed and cared for the little guy in a hotel room alone (my husband returned home with the kindergartener) forcing myself not to bond in case things fell through. The baby screamed most of the time, was covered in a rash, and we were both terribly sleep deprived. We had been chosen by surprise for adoption and had nothing ready for a baby. Once the papers were signed we came home to chaos -- a jealous sibling, a household without a mom for two weeks, and an unprepared nursery. The baby continued to scream, my five year old began to have anxiety, and I tried to smile at everyone saying how very happy and blessed we were. I tried to get the house back in order, maintain our previously well scheduled days, continue to smile, and deal with a continually crying baby, depression, and a suffering older son. Our little baby was allergic to everything and ended up on specialized formulas, lotions, etc. With no family help, and not wanting to look ungrateful for this amazing blessing, I kept smiling and crawling forward. Inside I was angry at this screaming little person, angry at my husband for going to work, angry at my five year old for not leaving me alone, and angry at the case worker for all the things he didn't tell us that added on thousands of dollars in fees and stress. Outside my home I smiled and tried to look thrilled with motherhood. At home I shoved donuts in my mouth, spent nights on the internet and days in my pajamas. I wanted everyone to just go away and leave me alone. I prayed to know what was wrong with me - I had been so very blessed and trusted with these precious children and I was falling apart. Adding to my duress, Our new sons birthfamily was educated, successful, and established but knew that their pregnant daughter was not ready to parent and adoption was the right course for her, and here I was wondering if I could parent this demanding little person. Fast forward seven years to now, and my guilt is even greater -- the birth mother is married to a very successful man. We will never afford to do and have the things he would have with her. I know many of you have adopted children from difficult circumstances and have the comfort of knowing the child's life is better in being with you. I do not have that comfort and continually feel guilty that I was blessed with this beautiful, loving son I don't deserve.

    Posted by: Pamela at 2:54am Mar 25

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