Guest Author - Karen Ledbetter
After experiencing the infertility roller-coaster and surviving a disrupted placement through the state welfare system, the most beautiful newborn in the world was placed in our arms just weeks before our sixteenth wedding anniversary. We were both fast approaching 40. I fell deeply in love with my new baby almost immediately, and she bonded with us just as fast. In spite of this, in the days following her birth and adoption, I caught myself grieving. I grieved the loss of my fertility. I grieved for the child in the disrupted placement. And I grieved for the pain my precious baby’s birth mom and her family must certainly be experiencing. Thankfully, this grief was short-lived and went away on its own, almost as mysteriously as it had arrived.
After spending almost two weeks in the state of our baby’s birth, we began settling into family life in our home. All our friends and co-workers had been awaiting our baby’s arrival as anxiously as we had, and each and every one was dying to see our new bundle. This meant people dropping by the house, without calling ahead, at odd times such as in the middle of a meal, when our baby (who rarely slept) was napping peacefully, and even late at night. This may not sound like a big deal, but we had other things going on in our lives.
You see, our baby only slept in short intervals of an hour or less. Also, she cried a lot. At the time it was diagnosed as colic (we later learned she was allergic to her formula and cried because her tummy hurt). She also required smaller, frequent bottles, which meant she never slept through the night either. In addition to caring for my baby, I continued trying to run my small business. I never got a full night’s sleep but somehow managed to barely function. Add to this laundry, cooking, and cleaning, plus my own high expectations of myself, and before too long I was an exhausted, yet functioning, mess.
Of course my husband tried his best to help after work and on weekends. However, his idea of helping wasn’t necessarily what really needed to be done. Bless his heart. He tried, and I love him dearly. While the laundry piled up, the house became cluttered, and the vacuum needed running, each afternoon he was a busy little beaver in the kitchen, sterilizing (we had well water and no dishwasher) all the bottles, even if he had just sterilized them the day before! Sometimes on weekends, he would volunteer his mechanical experience to help a friend fix a tractor or other farm equipment. Generally, I would not have a problem with this. But, by Saturdays I desperately needed some sleep.
I finally had a meltdown. Through tears, I explained to him that I needed him home on weekends so I could get some rest. I explained that the clean bottles in the cupboard or on the kitchen counter did not need to be re-sterilized every afternoon, and I explained how much I would appreciate his throwing in a load of laundry, starting dinner, washing the day’s dishes, picking up clutter, or running the vacuum. Once he knew exactly the best way to help, even though our baby remained colicky, and I was still exhausted, I did start feeling less stressed and better able to completely enjoy my new role as a mother.
Hopefully, your post-adoption stress was or will be resolved as easily. If not, then do not be afraid to seek professional help from your family doctor or a counselor. In the meantime, ask for help from family and close friends when you need it. If someone you trust volunteers to watch Baby for an hour or two, take them up on it and do something for yourself, even if it is only a nap. If someone offers to help with housework, be specific in what chores would help you out the most. Above all, rest assured that this time, too, will pass; but you may need some help getting through it.
My biggest regret in not being aware of the possibility of post-adoption depression was that the lack of knowledge left my unprepared for the experience. That lack of knowledge left me to figure out on my own how to deal with the situation and caused me to go through several weeks of my baby’s life in an exhausted blur.