Saturday, 27 February 2016
When Adoption Meets Postpartum Depression
It was two days after we brought our daughter home from her two week stay in the NICU. She was crying. No amount of consoling or making her comfortable was helping her. She continued to cry into the next day, and the next, and the next. She only stopped when she was sleeping, when we were out in public, or at my parents house. I was confused. I began feeling inadequate to mother her. I felt feelings of dislike toward her. It wasn't long before the sound of her cry made me cringe and an overwhelming urge to harm her would come over me. I started to think up scenarios, awful scenarios, to hurt her when she cried. Yikes! It breaks my heart to even admit that.
This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life. Instead, it was the opposite. The little baby I prayed for was finally here after 11 long years of infertility and rigorous in-your-face adoption home studies and profiles. I should have been gleaming with joy and happiness that my prayers were answered.
During this time we were also fostering the sweetest 8-month-old baby boy. He was a dream! The complete opposite personality of his new foster sister. Being a foster parent came with multiple meetings, court dates, weekly birth family visits, social workers, parent aides, license workers, and more, all coming into our home 2-3 times a week. Add in the adoption home study where we were poked and prodded with extremely personal questions, one after another, and expectations of "you must be perfect or else" breathing down our necks. What I hadn't realized was that I had my own expectations of being the perfect mom. The fantasy in my head was a smiling, happy baby (much like our foster son) who would coo and giggle and snuggle up in my arms to fall asleep as I sung sweet lullabies. It was nothing of the sort. I soon realized that I was anything but a perfect mom. In fact, I couldn't even soothe her at all. She didn't want me. She rejected my cuddles, screamed louder when I tried to comfort her, arched her back and squirmed to escape my grasp, and seemingly pushed me further away each day. That realization sent me into a downward spiral that seemed impossible to stop. It's like a secret burden that nobody can possibly understand. I mean, we got what we wanted, right? How could I be so unhappy when I had everything I ever prayed for? The pressure was more than I could bear. I hit rock bottom hard and knew I could no longer do this on my own.
I remember the day I reached out, the day I knew I needed help before I REALLY hurt my tiny precious daughter. When I heard the words "postpartum depression" I was quick to deny it. I did not birth this child, how could that be possible? I am a christian woman, christians can't be depressed! I was appalled at the idea. Boy, was I wrong. Once I accepted that I was struggling with postadoption depression I was able to find my slow, yet progressive, journey to healing. Not long after, I learned that I was not alone. This was not a new issue. But it was, and still is, an issue that is not talked about. Thousands upon thousands of women were facing some kind of depression right along with me, whether they birthed their child or adopted them.
My daughter's constant crying would last four grueling months. My dislike for her, even though I knew I loved her, would last a year and a half. It took two whole years to finally bond as mother and daughter. The day she crawled up into my lap and snuggled with me of her own accord is a day I will never forget. She wanted me. She loved me and I was her mommy. She's been attached to my hip ever since!
I would have never imagined that such a happy-go-lucky person such as myself could be faced with depression of any kind. It is real and no one is immune.
I learned a lot about myself through that time. I learned that I am a survivor, I am strong, and I am perfectly IMPERFECT...and that's perfectly okay. I also learned that God never ever stops holding us, never stops loving us, never stops offering grace. Even after all the ways I let Him down, as the parent He trusted to this sweet girl, He never once turned His back on me. He was there when I lost some friendships during that time and He was there as I gained some stronger friendships in the midst of my deepest need. I learned that my family is absolutely reliable, my husband is my rock, and that I AM capable. Becoming a mother was nothing like I expected or dreamed it would be, but, five years later, it has become everything I could have possibly hoped for and more. I love my daughter with every fiber of my being and I would give my life for hers in an instant. She is the blessing of all blessings and I'm so thankful she's mine.