Has something ever disappointed you? Left you feeling like it didn’t meet your expectations? This is a common emotion for new adoptive parents to feel post placement. However, a sense of guilt often accompanies it, for somewhere in history we humans decided that we needed to be eternally happy. That we weren’t allowed to express anything other than pure elation. It has, somehow, since become the unspoken secret of adoption.
But, is this expectation to be happy all the time even possible? To assume that because you didn’t biologically have your child, you’ll escape all the hormones and mental health issues that result afterwards? No. Of course not. While not every adoptive parent experiences these, those who do are often caught off guard and left in a state of confusion.
Rest assured, at Adoption Choices of Colorado, this isn’t a new concept to us. Our well-trained and compassionate staff will be with you every step of the way. You won’t walk through your journey of parenthood — whether it’s your first time or tenth — alone.
Happiness Isn’t 24/7
Your new son or daughter is finally home. Sleeping peacefully in their crib. The stress of the adoption process is over, and you can start building the life you always wanted. But, as you watch your child slumbering, you can’t shake the feeling of sadness. The tinge of emptiness. Tears glisten in your eyes unexpectedly. Isn’t this supposed to be a joyous moment? Is there something wrong with you?
Not at all. When it comes to adoption as an adoptive parent, the unspoken secret is that you should be happy all the time. Grateful for the addition to your family. But, in all honesty, that’s just not realistic. Happiness can’t sustain itself forever. Just like with anything else in life, you will experience good days and bad days. What’s most important is that you recognize what you’re feeling, allow yourself to process and learn how to handle it healthfully.
There’s Nothing Wrong with You
Tell yourself this. Out loud. Write it on a sticky-note on your bathroom mirror. Say it every time you feel guilty or ashamed for feeling anything other than happiness. There is nothing wrong with you. What you are feeling is natural.
Encountering issues with mental health, like depression or anxiety, post adoption is extremely common, and is to be expected. Even though you didn’t physically develop or deliver your son or daughter, you are still able to experience hormonal imbalances that can cause complications like Postpartum Depression. Becoming easily fatigued and fighting emotions of irritability are also common, as you didn’t have the nine months of preparation time.
It’s OK Not to be OK
You’ve heard the phrases: Just get over it. Cheer up — focus on your blessings and all the positives. You need to put this behind you and move on. These, among others, are very unhelpful in times of sadness and hardship. Whether you realize it or not, you are experiencing grief. This may strike you as confusing or surprising, but it is also very understandable and natural. Because you are a mother, and have a nurturing and loving heart, you can experience grief for your son or daughter’s birth mother. For the amazing choice she made. You can share in her pain, as you empathize in the agony of her decision to place her child into your arms.
You may also feel grief for the children you couldn’t birth yourself. For the biological family you always dreamed you’d have. Be gentle with yourself. Process. Grieve. Do what you need to, so that you don’t grow to resent the new child before you. Give yourself some slack, and soothe yourself with positive self-talk. Because guess what? It’s really ok not to be ok.
Unspoken Secret of Adoption
The unspoken secret of adoption is that you don’t have to hide. You can talk about it. There’s no shame in admitting you struggle with anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, one in every five American adults experience some type of mental health issue, and one in six children aged 6-17 also struggle with it each year. That’s a pretty significant percentage of the population. So, despite the stigmas and judgments swirling around that say a mental health issue is a big thing — it’s not.
There are resources available. Support groups with others who are experiencing similar. Trained professionals to talk to. Loving friends and family to cheer you on, and be there on your good days and bad.
Remember — You don’t have to be happy all the time. It’s ok not to be ok. You are not alone.
Adoption Choices of Colorado
For more information on adoption please contact Adoption Choices of Colorado. We can be reached via our website or phone 303-670-4401.
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.
Heitger-Ewing, Christy. “8 Things Not To Say To Someone Who Is Grieving.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 25 Nov. 2014, www.huffpost.com/entry/the-eight-worst-things-yo_b_5868492.
Nauert, Rick. “Postpartum Depression in Adoptive Parents.” Psych Central, 17 June 2019, psychcentral.com/news/2018/04/01/postpartum-depression-in-adoptive-parents/12519.html.
“Plot Twist: You Don’t Have To Be Happy All The Time.” Thought Catalog, 18 June 2015, thoughtcatalog.com/heidi-priebe/2015/06/plot-twist-you-dont-have-to-be-happy-all-the-time/