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"None of my normal adult coping mechanisms worked with a crying infant. I couldn't say, 'What's wrong? Let's go have a drink and talk about it.'"
I didn't know adoptive moms could get PPD
We always knew we would adopt a baby – but we were totally unprepared for how freakishly fast it all happened. We had one meeting with an adoption attorney to discuss private domestic adoption. And then just a couple of months later, she called to say she had an expectant mother who was putting her child up for adoption and that the couple she'd originally picked had fallen through. Were we interested?
Seven weeks later, my husband and I were on a plane to pick up our newborn daughter. We returned to New York, where we lived with my in-laws because our new apartment wasn't ready for us yet.
I stopped working. My husband had just started a business and couldn't take much time off. It was winter and freezing. Trapped in the house with a crying baby, I felt isolated and very, very lonely.
I was used to feeling competent and connecting with people. Learning to care for a small person who couldn't engage with me was tough. None of my normal adult coping mechanisms worked with a crying infant. I couldn't talk to my daughter, as I might with a friend, and say, "What's wrong? Let's go have a drink and talk about it."
One bleak afternoon I felt a swell of rage at my daughter when nothing I did could soothe her. You can't walk away or reason. You have to be there and handle your feelings.
My mind was noisy – full of circuitous, dark thoughts that I couldn't turn off. I had a grim outlook about the future. I was waking up at night, not able to get back to sleep. I also started to realize that maybe I needed some support.
I recognized that what I was feeling was depression, but I felt guilty about it. I was so lucky; we had this beautiful little girl. And I hadn't even been pregnant, so there were no hormones raging around. Why wasn't I happier?
What helped me when I was depressed
I talked to my therapist about how I was feeling, but it took months for me to really hear what he was saying – that I was doing a good job, that there's no such thing as a perfect mom. I also told my husband that I was depressed, and he was sympathetic. But I didn't want to lean on him too much.
After a few months, though, things got better. The weather got warmer and I didn't feel so trapped. I started doing a little work from home. And I started searching online for supportive people going through similar things. The sense of shared experience with other people out there ended up being super important in helping me feel like I what I was going through was normal, even for adoptive moms.
What I wish other moms knew
Adoptive parents can experience depression too. If you suffer from post-adoption depression, you're not a bad parent. You're just struggling and need support.
Community – whether family, friends, or support groups online – is everything. Get your community in place. Find those few people who make you feel better emotionally and check in with them every day.
Read more moms' stories about depression.
Because the stresses of becoming a new parent – not just the hormonal changes – can lead to depression, dads and adoptive moms can also suffer from it. Many don't get help because they're ashamed of how they feel.
If you have symptoms of depression, tell your doctor and ask for a referral to a mental health professional. Or contact Postpartum Support International at (800) 944-4773 for free, confidential advice and help finding a therapist or support group in your area.