Sunday, June 27, 2010

Unexpected Growing Pains

Well I debated whether to write this post, but after much thought I decided it would be cathartic for me and perhaps help others who have, are or will go through what I am going through. I ask that people please refrain from sending judgmental and negative comments (I will be moderating all comments from now on). Comments that begin with "I know how you feel..." or "I was there myself...." are more than welcome!!

I think I have post adoption depression. There, I said it. It started coming on in Vietnam and has grown worse since being back in Canada. I think Samantha posted this link but here it is and I suggest friends and family members that read my blog, read this article It will allow those who care about us understand what we, mainly me, is going through. Apparently up to 70% of adoptive parents feel some form of PAD (I know, it an unfortunate acronym).

It can be brought on by many factors. The adoption itself is a roller coaster of emotions that come to a head at the point of the adoption and then suddenly fall. Kind of like an anti-climax as it were. You've waited for this moment for years. You and all your family members have expectations that are sometimes to the point of being pure fantasy. Very few little tykes can live up to the fantasy. Another reason is that you go from having a settled and happy life to suddenly being thrown into a situation of chaos. If you happen to have been matched to a little one that has higher needs than average or a more high maintenance personality the problems can be compounded. You are essentially thrown into parenthood with, in many cases, little knowledge of what to expect. It can be very overwhelming even though you have been planning for it for years. On top of all that you feel this incredible, overwhelming guilt that you are not the "happiest person alive" as everyone expects you to be. I can't tell you how many people say to me "You must be so gloriously happy!!" and I smile and say 'Uh huh" even though inside I am not happy. Not at all. I feel so guilty about this. Because I think "Yes, I should be happy! All my dreams have come true. I finally have what I have yearned for, for so long. What is wrong with me!!".

The truth is I am struggling right now. I wonder if I will ever like this little person never mind love and attach to him. He is not to blame here at all. However, his personality has assuredly made this process more difficult and perhaps has aggravated the PAD that I may or may not have developed even if he had an easy transition. But unfortunately this process has not been easy for him either. He is unhappy about 80% of the time. His unhappiness manifests itself in almost constant whining. He'll whine to be picked up than squirm and whine until you put him down and the whole cycle starts again. I have to believe that this would be hard on any parent to deal with day in and day out but perhaps it is just us that finds this behaviour so challenging and difficult. We have found solace in out of home play dates that seem to make him happy. On Saturday we had a full day of general happiness. We were thrilled. Then today was the worse he has been. Other than about 40 minutes when our friends came over with their little girl, he whined the entire time. Our bliss of the day before crashed as we struggled to understand his behaviour. He's been to the doctor and is completely healthy. We have little explanation other than the tried and true adoption fall back of he's still adjusting. Which very well could be likely. However it does not make it any easier to deal with, on a daily almost constant basis. Especially as we know he has the capability of being happy for a full day.

Having said all this I only bring up his behaviour in the context of why perhaps PAD has hit me so hard. I am not blaming him at all for his behaviour or my reaction to it. He is after all just a wee child. Having no history of depression I am not even sure how to deal with this or how to make things better. I have made an appointment for Wednesday to speak with a professional in the hopes that they can help me find the tools to get through this and whatever the future holds for us. I am so very grateful for my amazing, rock solid husband who, although struggling a bit himself, has been a stabilizing force in our little family.

As I said at the beginning of this post, it took me a long time to get up the courage to admit all of this in a public forum. However I felt that it may help people we know appreciate what is happening and hopefully help others who will, are or have gone through this. I really think a support group would be fantastic. If anybody is interested let me know in a comment.

I will fight hard to become the mother that Van deserves!


  1. Hi Meg, The only advice I can give is to talk to Van from the heart. Look into his eyes, tell him how you feel, that you want to be his mother, that you want him to be happy and that you want him to adopt you as you adopted him.
    Good luck,
    PS If you are free, we can have a play date this week-end here (I'm unfortunately allergic to cats).

  2. Also, bonding isn't automatic. My friend told me that it took her a while to bond with her bio daughter. Love at first sight only happens in fairy tales. What I learned with M. is to keep trying and to be there. M. was content when we had him but was waking up every 2-3 hours. After a month with him, I got a smile. Another, mohth, I got gigles. It took about 4 months to get a good laugh. By then, he was still waking up 2-3 times a night.

  3. Hi Meg, Sorry to hear about your situation.

    Having your first child is a HUGE adjustment. Even though I didn't have depression per se with my first child I recall lamenting the loss of freedom (and "me" time) during the first few months. I had totally underestimated the amount of time required to care for an infant (especially one with several health issues). It was hard for me to see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak - that some day he wouldn't need so much care.

    Likewise losing a lot of sleep can cause one to become depressed as well and make it harder to deal with kids if they are whiney.

    I think a lot of people also have the fantasy that they will fall madly in love with their child at first sight. We have found that our love for our children has developed over time.

    Lastly, we have found with Maya that there was at least a 1-2 month adjustment period upon return home. And I think this may have been a fast adjustment too.

    So while I think you are wise to seek professional help and support, I think some of this will resolve itself with time - time for you to adjust to the new lifestyle, time for you to catch up on your sleep, and time for your son to get used to his new parents and surroundings.

    Take Care, Carol

  4. Hi Meg, Thanks for posting this! I know it is VERY important...I worry about this, especially as the travel time between referral and picking up our children is getting longer and longer, therefore picking up our children when they are older is much more traumatic on them and on us, not to mention all the emotional turmoil we go through with the rollercoaster ride...and of course you and your child are strangers really?? don't be hard on yourself and it sounds like you are recognizing there's a problem so that is the first step.....and yes you're not alone in the PAD......just sorry that you have to get this after everything......sounds like Van is happiest with other children so a play group I imagine would help him and you both....I know Samantha speaks highly of the cambridge hope that might help with van's emotional state...and I know you're getting help for definitely any resources and yes a support group would probably help us too......anyhow not sure there was anything else I wanted to say other than Thankyou for posting and sharing.

  5. Meg,

    While you are probably experiencing some PAD, I think you are being way too hard on yourself!

    Your journey to becoming an adoptive parent was more tumultuous than most have experienced (and I don't know about your journey prior to that)! It takes time to adjust... for some, the time still in Vietnam was easy. It was relatively so for us, although I felt this was in large part to Molly being in shock at the time... easy to follow along with Danny, my mother and I because she was simply terrified. And I think this continued even when she came home.

    You came home and had to go straight back to work, with little time to even cope with jet lag! You're dealing with a lot! Van will get more used to you with time and you will get more used to him.

    I have had many days when I've thought that attachment was not coming along easily, or even as it should. I've doubted it from my side and from Molly's! We came home just before Christmas and while we did a few parties and things, we tried very hard to keep a low profile so that Molly could figure us out and we could figure her out. We probably went a couple of months at that speed. My husband went back to work two days after coming home (similar to you) and his attachment is taking longer, which is often quite frustrating for him.

    I was and am very jealous ( and a wee bit suspicious) of people who spoke of falling in love with a picture and feeling an instant bond when they first held their child. That wasn't reality for me. Sometimes I am still amazed to look down at the baby in my arms (who is such a little girl now) and think that she is actually ours! I can't imagine being without her now, but I still sometimes think it is all a dream. Perhaps that is because of the bumps in our journey to parenthood.

    So don't be so hard on yourself. Give yourself time, give Van time and don't feel bad about counselling or support groups. Know that there are people out there that have been there and are willing to listen and offer support!

    Contact me any time you need an ear!


  6. Meg,
    You don't know who I am but I occasionally visit your blog (got address form the yahoo group). Like all adoptive parents I love to follow peoples adoptive journeys. Anyway, I just read your latest post and wanted to let you know that you are not alone. I hated my son. And I know that "hate" is a pretty stong word but that is honestly how I felt. I had two bio kids before we adopted so I thought I had the whole parent thing down pat. Boy was I wrong. My son screamed for ten solid months. There was absolutely nothing I could do to help him. The doctors all said he was fine and he was "adjusting" but you know that excuse only lasts for so long before you just want to say to the kid "get and f***ing grip". I would put him in his crib and let him scream while I would sit beside the washing machine so I couldnt hear him. I would have dreams that the agency would call to tell us there was a mistake in the adoption and they had to take him back, I felt relieved in those dreams. I would cry myself to sleep every night. My marriage almost collapsed. My husband was feeling the same way. Many times I said the adopting was a mistake and my biggest regret. My other children began to act out because they were having to take the back seat all the time. It was horrible and lasted about eighteen months. And the worst part was that absolutely nobody understood. And when I tried to talk about it I felt like I was being judged. And the "you should be so happy" comments made me want to scream. In the end we all pulled together and stayed strong. We didnt have a choice. I had made a commitment to this little guy to love and take care of him (and it wasnt like I could send him back lol). He has been with us for two and a half years now and its only been in the last eighteen months that I have actually liked him and the last twelve that I can honestly say that I love him and he feels like he is mine (before it felt like I was babysitting a kid from hell and the parents werent coming to get him). I dont have any advice for you except to stay strong and maybe lower your expectations (the ones you have for him and you). I does get better bit by bit. I didnt have anyone to vent to that understood and I want you to know that you are not alone. I know exactly how you feel. I know I am a complete stanger to you but if you would like to chat email me at

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. I will link to it so my readers can benefit!

  8. Hi Meg,
    I don't even know where to start except to say I TOTALLY understand what you are experiencing and it is 100% genuine! Having gone through some of the same difficulties I always try to warn parents-to-be that they will not suddenly find nirvana with baby in their arms. I heard people say they fell in love with their child's referral photo and thinking that was daft -- though perhaps they did. It took me ages to feel like a mother to each of my boys. With Nic I felt immediately responsible for him, and the love developed from there. For many months I just felt like I was on an endless babysitting gig! And Nic was a pretty easy little guy to care for (though I didn't realize that until we got Eli and I learned what a strong-willed little one is really like!) Do focus on yourself and feeling grounded. Try to keep up your sports and such -- that really helps. Also you could divide your time with Van into manageable chunks. For example, if I thought I had to play with one of my guys for an entire morning I would go mad, but playing for 15 minutes then letting the child have another diversion (a.k.a. TV) gives you focused time together and some to yourself. Would you guys like a playdate over here this weekend or next?