For months, maybe even years, you have supported your friend through her adoption process. You have watched as she has filled out countless forms, taken pictures of her home, been interviewed by social workers and agencies. Perhaps you sympathized when a match fell through or rejoiced when a match was finally made. Maybe the adopted child is a newborn, or a toddler, or even a school-aged child. Maybe your friend flew across the country or halfway around the world to be united with this child. What matters is that after such a long journey, such an epic marathon, she has finally reached the finish line. Now is the time to rejoice!
Except maybe your friend seems withdrawn. Maybe she cries easily. Maybe she is completely overwhelmed like all new mothers, except this seems a little different. While adoptive parents don’t experience the same hormone fluctuations that biological mothers do, a 2012 Purdue University study estimates 18-26% of adoptive mothers suffer from depression. Other adoptive parent websites estimate that number closer to 65%. Watching someone struggle with depression can leave you feeling hopeless. But there are things you can do to help:
- Tell Her It’s Okay
This may seem like a no-brainer, but hearing that it’s okay to feel sad, that it’s okay to be overwhelmed, and that it’s okay to not be “over the moon with joy at this momentous event” goes a long way. Too often adoptive parents hear, “Well it took you 2 years to get here, you should be excited.” Be the voice that says “It’s okay.”
- Take Care of Her
This can be hard as, unlike biological children, you can’t offer to babysit for an afternoon while she gets a massage or goes for a long run. But you can bring those things to her. Offer to go for walks together while the child sleeps in the stroller. Bring a meal or offer to wash the dishes or do laundry so she can rest while the child naps. Anything that lets her focus more on herself and her newest family member will be a great help.
- Encourage Her to Find Other Adoptive Families
There is something very powerful in the words “You are not alone.” Help her look for online groups of adoptive parents who have shared her experience. Feeling like you have not bonded (or do not want to bond) with your child is hard and can leave the newly adoptive parent feeling ashamed. Maybe she doesn’t feel like a mother yet. Maybe she’s questioning if she can handle being an adoptive parent. Trust me, she is not alone.
- Help Her Seek Help
Though it can be hard to seek professional help, sometimes that is the best course of action. A good place to begin is with her adoption agency. Her social worker will be checking in at monthly intervals (per state social work guidelines) so encourage your friend to use her social worker as a resource.
Have you struggled from post-adoption depression? What helped you? What advice would you give to family and friends who want to help?
Jennifer S. Jones is a writer, performer, storyteller and arts educator. She holds an MFA (Playwriting) from NYU Tisch. She has written numerous plays including the internationally renowned, award-winning Appearance of Life. Her amazing transracial transcultural family was created through adoption from China and India. She is passionate about the adoption community and talks about the ins and outs, ups and downs, joys and “is this really us?!” whenever she can. She writes about her experiences at <a href=”http://www.letterstojack.com/” rel=”nofollow”>www.letterstojack.com</a>.