Posted in Adoption

I’m not happy? Did I have post adoption depression?

I’m not happy? Did I have post adoption depression? Posted on May 11, 201763 Comments

I’ve only recently started to think about those early days of the adoption of our two kids. Five years on I have the brain space to revisit the initial days, months, even year. Looking back I am wondering if, maybe, I had post adoption depression.

Did I have post adoption depression?

Like postnatal depression, the transition to motherhood can elicit a range of emotional and physical responses. Shock, a lack of interest in the things you like doing, constant exhaustion, sleep issues, feeling worthless, helpless, burdened by guilt…not feeling happy.

The first few days

Bringing home our adopted children I experienced the joy of walking through the door with our kids. But that joy turned to shock.

  • I was raw. Becoming a mum overnight to two older kids is tough. But I wasn’t prepared for my own reaction
  • The bonding was a struggle, I had to work at it
  • I had to deal with the feelings of rejection because my children did not, at first, want to bond with me. They always sat on Daddy’s lap, fought to hold Daddy’s hand
  • I remember each time King of the Mountains tried to help, make a suggestion, give advice I felt inadequate, a failure
  • I snapped, shouted, occasionally roared
  • My life had no control
  • I discovered a new level of exhaustion I never knew existed
  • Parenting seemed to be a grind, unrelenting
  • On top of that, we had to deal with kids who had experienced loss, trauma and abuse
  • Where was the fun? Why wasn’t I walking through fields of buttercups and daisies?
  • And, I didn’t get the weekends off!

I saw life through a different lens because my husband’s experience seemed so different. The kids loved him, he got the fun and the laughter. After six months, I remember saying to King of the Mountains, I have had one good day, one day with no tantrums, screaming, hitting, punching, scratching.

Everyone kept saying: “Just try and relax, you might enjoy it.” Not what I wanted to hear.

I don’t know if I did, nothing was formally diagnosed but it is possible I may have had post adoption depression.

The symptoms of post adoption depression

According to Adoption Together signs that you might be experiencing post adoption depression include:·
·         Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities you used to enjoy
·         Difficulty with concentrating or making decisions
·         Fatigue or loss of energy
·         Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
·         Significant weight change
·         Excessive guilt
·         Feeling powerless
·         Feeling worthless
·         Sense of hopelessness
·         Irritability
·         Suicidal thoughts

How did things start to change?

It took time.

For me, over the course of a year, life started to get better as I grew more confident, and I started to realise I could cope.

What helped

  • Patience.  I couldn’t rush this, building a family takes time
  • The children and I were caught in our own emotional maelstrom.  Through my GP I got a referral to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services)
  • My adoption agency TACT ran the Adoption Changes course 
  • Place2Be offered in-school art therapy for my kids and one-to-one support for me
  • Self-care for the first few months, I bookended my week with a yoga class and a massage
  • I carried on running. Running is my Prozac
  • Date nights. Essential. Booking a babysitter, having a night out (we still do this)
  • Making friends with other mums who had adopted
  • Finding other mummy friends.  I joined the school PTA and threw myself into summer and Christmas fairs, school discos, reception tea parties (I’m a mean face-painter). This helped nurture a new set of mummy friends

What would I do differently?

  • Ask for help sooner
  • Take ownership of my feelings
  • Don’t wait for others to validate how I feel

If you think you have post adoption depression what should you do?

  • That transition to motherhood is tough
  • It’s tough parenting children who have experienced trauma and abuse
  • Adopting kids will churn up a whole lot of feelings, and throw your world upside down and inside out

Don’t suffer in silence thinking you have to cope ask for support.

Post adoption support resources


Adoption UK forums – there are a lot of threads about Post Adoption Depression

It’s Good to Talk – The BACUP website where you can a qualified counsellors or psychotherapists (UK only)

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63 thoughts on “I’m not happy? Did I have post adoption depression?

      1. I absolutely agree, but when you adopt, no one really talks about this at all. Time to stop being silent!

  1. I cant believe that something like this would have never crossed my mind before reading your post. Adoption, reading your posts has opened my eyes to a whole new world and now I have a new found awareness and respect for parents that adopt. It can’t be any easier a journey than birthing and raising a child and that is something I have learned thanks to the posts you’ve shared. Another really interesting and helpful post, thanks for sharing it with us on #MarvMondays. Emily

    1. I think parenting it is tough, and adoption just layers on top added complications. I knew it would be tough, but wasn’t prepared for the emotional toll of it all. But we have got through it, and five years later, it’s still tough at times, but we are a family and adore our kids. Adoption is definitely the best thing we have done!

  2. I’ve never heard of this but it seems perfectly logical when you think about it – physiologically you’re thrown upside down (plus we humans over think how we ‘should’ be feeling) Great post for awareness. #KCACOLS

    1. I agree, with the complete change to our lives, thrown into motherhood, then the complex issues our kids have, as you say only seems logical. Just wish someone had talked about this during the early days of our adoption.

    1. You are right, often it’s explained away as you’re just a bit down, it will bet better, but actually, what we need is supported. Thanks for dropping by/

  3. How marvelous that you shed light on this very important topic. Even though I have had several friends adopt, I was not familiar with this, but it makes sense that there are so many similarities to postpartum depression. Life changes so dramatically for new moms.

    Great article full of insight.


    1. Thank you. I think becoming a mum, through birth or adoption is a hard transition. No one really prepares you for the gamut of emotions we feel.

  4. Such an important read for anyone who has adopted. It must be such a shock to suddenly be presented with two children with complex needs. Having a newborn kind of eases you in, obviously not gently bit you know what I mean! Some great tips on how to cope #sharingthebloglove
    Andrea @ Topsy Turvy Tribe recently posted…Rugs of the AlpujarrasMy Profile

  5. I think that it is totally understandable that you would go through this – like any new mum might. It is all encompassing and overwhelming and a big change. You have handled it so well and highlighted an issue that others might find silly is so important. #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. You are so right. My kids were fully formed, both with strong personalities. At times that was difficult to handle. I hope your friends are doing well.

  6. Great post. I’ve sent it on it’s way in the hope that it’ll find it’s way to those who need it. Going from no children to two is quite a process! No wonder you took time adjusting.

  7. Great post. I’d never really thought about post adoption depression before but of course becoming a mother is a huge life’s changing event! Date night sounds like a good idea, I’ve recently had my second baby and we haven’t been on a date night yet but really need to!

  8. Beautiful post, hopefully it will help others in the same situation. You have done an amazing job, raising children with emotional issues is a constant rollercoaster that other parents can’t imagine. Keep being fabulous! Jx

    1. Thank you my lovely. You keep being awesome too. Looking forward to seeing you when I am back in the UK.

  9. I cannot imagine what the shock of adoption must’ve been-I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a high prevalence of post adoption depression. Motherhood is tough on all levels, but dealing with your children’s trauma from past situations, must be incredibly hard. I’m glad that you were able to recognise the symptoms, and find support. The fab list of support services you’ve listed here, will be so valuable to others experiencing the same xx
    This Mum’s Life recently posted…The Big Pink Link Week 61!My Profile

    1. Thank you so much. There isn’t a whole lot of awareness about the condition so I suspect many people just suffer in silence hoping it will get better. But there is help – you just have to know where to find it.

  10. It must have been so tough dealing with older kids over night as well and I can only sympathize with my foster mum who took me on when I was 10. Before me she worked with kids under 5 so I really tested her in as many ways possible but like you said it takes time to bond and I was hurting. I really admire people like you who adopt, I know its not easy but you are doing a good thing x
    Ana De- Jesus recently posted…Degustabox: Take FourMy Profile

    1. Well Ana I’d say you had an amazing foster mum you are doing so well. I’m in awe of what foster parents do.

  11. Becoming a parent is no walk. In the park bit there are so many other things to consider when you adopt children as you’ve pointed out. Even when the child is your own biological child it can be a rough ride. These are a great set of helpful tips to anyone who might think they’re suffering x
    Cath – BattleMum recently posted…Living Arrows 20/52My Profile

    1. Thank you. I do hope if others are finding it tough they can reach out and get help. The condition is not well known. It’s horrible thinking you are in the only one in this situation.

  12. Wow. I really love this post. I’ve often wandered how it must be to adopt older children. It can’t be easy at all. The fact that they seemed to bond with your husband before you must have also come as a bit of a shock. I definitely did not take to motherhood the way I thought I would. I’m definitely not the maternal mothering goddess I (and everyone else) imagined I would be. I’m also a step-mother who was never allowed to bond with my step-daughter and then by the time I’d proven myself it was too late. I can feel your emotions through this post.

    1. I was told that the children might bond to my husband first. I thought I was prepared but didn’t bank on my own feeling about this. And then I realised I wasn’t totally the motherhood and apple pie kinda mum.

      I’m sorry to hear you didn’t bond with your step-daughter. Just be there for her. That’s all you can do.

    1. Thank you. It’s not well known at all, even within adoption, but adopting kids with hugely complex issues, becoming a mum then managing your own emotions – it’s completely understandable.

    1. Thank you so much. I guess nothing really prepares you for when the kids finally burst into your life!

  13. I can see how easily post adoption depression could set in – you’re thrown into parenthood head first, often to older children who have had their lives upturned – it’s definitely a really difficult thing to go through. I remember feeling the same resentment towards my husband once he went back to work – he got to enjoy all the fun parts while I got the relentlessness of the day to day. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t want to voice – in fact, dissatisfaction with being a parent in general is rarely voiced, and I think it’s so important that we do share the downsides as well as the ups. I love my son, and wouldn’t be without him for the world, but the early days of adjusting to being a mum were really really hard, and it took me a long time to feel happy about things again. When you look around you and it looks like everyone else is having a wonderful motherhood experience, it’s easy to feel bad about yourself, and then it all becomes a vicious cycle. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Thank for your comment.

      I think we are too afraid to put our hands up and say yes parenting is tough, it’s hard, it’s unrelenting. I remember seeing all around me happy parents, magazines filled with parents all making it look so easy. I hated that toddler music class. I felt such a pratt!

      But we have to be brave and make our voices heard and then ask for help.

    1. Thank you. I knew it was going to be hard, a big challenge, but once you’re in it, I just didn’t account for all the feelings it would raise. But time and patience and lots of love – it was slow, but we got there!

  14. I love reading this kind of honest post, as even though it’s not something I’ve been through I can see how helpful the openness and honesty about these issues will help others in the same situation. It’s always brave to admit to depression, and it’s hard to be open about issues like this – I can imagine when you’re going through a tough adoption process, you expect your troubles to be over once your children live with you. It’s so important that you talk about your feelings post-adoption to help others going through the process themselves not to feel so alone. #SharingTheBlogLove

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment. Getting through the adoption process is hard enough. The kids arrive and you breathe a sigh of relief thinking this is it, only to realise the really hard work has only just begun!

  15. This makes sense, the complete change and going from not having kids to having them is completely unsettling and exhausting physically and emotionally. Thank you for helping others to see this and thank you for your simply amazing blog, it’s one of my favourites. You write from the heart and so well and it’s truly unmissable so I hope you know that. Love, V x
    Honest Mum recently posted…Buy Phenomenal Women Tees to Support 7 Women’s Rights CharitiesMy Profile

    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment. It means a lot to me.

      It’s taken a long time to start writing about the early days of the adoption our kids. I hope it does help someone who might be struggling.

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