Your new son or daughter is finally home! The stress of the adoption process is over. You’re a parent! Time to celebrate. Show off the newest member of your family. Have an adoption baby shower. Bask in the support, well wishes and presents. At least, that was the original plan. But, for some reason, you feel as though you’re weighed down by an invisible darkness. Tears cascade down your face without warning, and you feel overwhelmed with sadness. These may be warning signs of Postpartum Depression.
How is that possible, you ask? You didn’t give birth. While this is true, it doesn’t eliminate your risk of developing symptoms, better known as the “baby blues.” If left untreated, these can then escalate into Postpartum Depression (PPD). However, for adoptive parents, PPD can manifest stronger in the emotional department, rather than physical. To better explain, Adoption Choices of New York has put together eight signs of Postpartum Depression in adoptive parents.
8. Negative Emotions
In June 2019, new research surfaced, revealing that adoptive parents can experience a dip in their emotional well-being after adoption. Especially after the child has been placed in the home with them. Parents self-reported altered moods when they realized expectations they’d had during the adoption process were unmet, causing them to spiral into disappointment or feelings of irritability. For other parents, it was feeling let down by friends, family or society because of stigmas or existing myths about adoption. Still others reported being frustrated that bonding with their baby was harder than they had first anticipated. All of these negative emotions can be signs of Postpartum Depression in adoptive parents.
7. Weight Changes
When you are feeling stressed, frustrated or not like your usual self — what is something you do to soothe those emotions? Do you reach for the pint of ice cream in the freezer? Indulge in more junk food? Or, do you do the opposite and skip meals? Weight changes are something to be mindful of anyway, as our body naturally fluctuates depending on our diet. A few pounds here and there aren’t typically cause for any concern. However, if you notice that you are gaining or losing a significant amount, it would be good to make an appointment with your doctor.
Insomnia and sleep-deprivation post adoption often catch adoptive parents off guard. Particularly for first-time parents. Without the nine months of prep work, there were no interruptions to your nightly sleep routine. Having a newborn can offer a steep learning curve and difficult adjustment period. Yet, when it comes to Postpartum Depression, the thing to watch out for is the level of severity. If you are experiencing a noticeable loss of energy and exhaustion every day that doesn’t change with rest, or are sleeping too much and can’t wake up fully, then that’s not good.
5. Doubting Validity as a Parent
Self-doubt or feeling worthless can also be signs of Postpartum Depression, especially when it comes to questioning your validity as a parent. In some ways, doubting your abilities and wondering if you’ll be a successful parent is normal. But when these thoughts cause guilt or shame, there’s more likely an aspect of PPD involved. Doubting your validity as a parent should never make you feel guilty, ashamed or worthless.
4. Anxiety / Panic Attacks
Chest pain. Rapid heartbeat and breathing. Sweating, nausea, shortness of breath. Shaking, clammy hands. These sneaky signs of Postpartum Depression sound like a heart attack, and can be very frightening to experience — especially if you aren’t an anxious person. In more extreme cases, anxiety and panic attacks can cause fainting spells. Whether you are a new parent or not, feeling anxious and overwhelmed is to be expected. It’s something that all parents go through. But, when your symptoms are to the point where you’re not able to healthfully function, it’s time to get help.
As aforementioned, encountering negative emotions post adoption is pretty typical. Your body is coming off the high levels of stress, adrenaline and excitement it sustained throughout the whole process. For a birth mother, this would be when her “baby blues” tend to set in. So having a down day here and there isn’t anything to be concerned about. However, feeling as though you have a heavy cloud hanging over your head is. If you’re not able to shake this, or having an ongoing sense of sadness, within the first two weeks, you may be experiencing some of the classic signs of Postpartum Depression.
2. Thoughts of Harming Yourself or Your Baby
A good way to tell the difference between the “baby blues” and PPD is if you have any desire to either cause harm to yourself or your baby. These emotions are not normal, and can be very dangerous if not kept in check. In rare cases, thoughts about harming yourself or your baby can develop into something called “Postpartum Psychosis,” which includes, but is not limited to, the following symptoms: confusion, disorientation, obsessive thoughts about your baby, hallucinations, paranoia or excessive agitation. If you have even a fleeting thought of self-harm, or causing any harm to your baby, reach out to your primary care physician immediately and ask for an immediate appointment. Then call a friend or family member to come over and help you.
1. Suicidal Ideation
The most concerning signs of Postpartum Depression are recurring thoughts of death or suicide. It doesn’t matter if it only happens once. If your brain only entertains the thought for a millisecond. Any thought of death, foreboding sense of doom or idea about suicide needs to be addressed immediately. It is dangerous and can have life-threatening consequences. Thinking that you’re better off dead or wanting to end your life is not normal. The second it occurs, stop what you’re doing and seek assistance. Do not shrug it off and say that it doesn’t matter. It does. You matter. Talk to your partner or spouse about it, so they will know you need extra support. Confide in a friend for accountability purposes. Schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you aren’t able to get in touch with anyone, and don’t feel strong enough to hold on until your next appointment, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
Even if you didn’t give birth to your son or daughter, you can still experience signs of Postpartum Depression. It’s important to acknowledge what you are going through and admit that you are struggling so that you can get the love, help and support you need. Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to a friend or family member. Make an appointment with your doctor. Research counselors or support groups in your area. Being an adoptive parent can feel difficult or overwhelming, and you aren’t the first one to struggle through it. Far from it. But you’ll never know until you talk about it.
Adoption Choices of New York
For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of New York.
Support Adoption Choices
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.
However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2011, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.
“Identifying the Signs of Postpartum Depression.” ActiveBeat, www.activebeat.com/health-news/identifying-the-signs-of-postpartum-depression/?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=AB_GGL_US_MOBI-SearchMarketing_TR&utm_content=g_c_303652417195&cus_widget=&utm_term=postpartum%2Bdepression%2Bcauses&cus_teaser=kwd-1853194580&utm_acid=3040947159&utm_caid=1599827680&utm_agid=55987512410&utm_os=&gclid=Cj0KCQjw_absBRD1ARIsAO4_D3uj-W5Ngct8iPs-ttL9cmdWKsnMHYrsQAD7HHXmQJFPsqK6DK8XTZ0aAhILEALw_wcB.
“Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents – Post-Adoption Depression.” PostpartumDepression.org, www.postpartumdepression.org/postpartum-depression/adoption/.
“Postpartum Depression.” March of Dimes, www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/postpartum-depression.aspx.