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Adoption Blog: My Paperwork Pregnancies

Not a Happy New Mother
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I thought that after adopting our first child I'd be thrilled. I'd fall madly in love with the baby. I'd bond instantly because this baby was all mine. Did this happen? Not exactly. Did I know that I may not feel happy? Not at all. Did I feel like an awful person that I didn't feel a connection with this baby I'd wanted so badly? Absolutely.

For our first adoption we pursued a domestic newborn program with a private agency. Amazingly we were selected by potential Birthparents within three weeks of completing the paperwork. We then had two months before the birth to get to know the potential Birthparents. We all got along wonderfully.

The time at the hospital for the scheduled C-Section was emotionally draining. I was in the Operation Room for the delivery and we hung out in the Birthmother's suite with the Birthparents and the baby for three days. This was an amazing and nervous time for everyone involved. I could tell the Birthparents were enjoying their time with the baby but also were saying good-bye to him at the same time.

Why Am I Sad?
After the Birthmother's discharge, Paul and I took the baby back to our hotel room as the Birthparents went to sign their parental relinquishment papers. Paul was excited to finally be a Father. But I didn't feel like a Mother. The Mother was the one who an hour before placed this baby in my arms while weeping from her soul and saying, "Please take good care of my little boy." Even though I knew the Birthparents at that exact time were signing papers so we could adopt this beautiful boy, I couldn't stop feeling like I had just stolen this baby from the Birthparents.

After we officially signed our paperwork to adopt our new son, we spent just over a week in a hotel before were allowed to travel home. Paul loved having our baby all to ourselves. I was going through the motions that I thought a Mother should. I was oohing and aahing. Yet, when I looked at the baby I would hear the Birthmother's crying and imagined the sadness she was feeling. I was overcome with guilt that I could be happy when someone that I had come to care for was in so much emotional pain.

Never had I expected to feel this way. I had some friends who after giving birth to a child said that they felt like a babysitter at first because they couldn't believe that they had a baby. But I didn't feel like a babysitter. I felt like a thief. What gave me the right to take this baby away from a loving couple? How dare I be celebrating when across town a woman was recovering from birth but has no baby to show for it?

At the hotel, I began to withdraw. I spent lots of time in the bathroom crying to myself. I didn't want to express my feelings to others because I didn't want anyone to think I didn't want to adopt this baby. I was worried they wouldn't think I was a fit parent. I had no clue why my emotions were all over the place when I was not the one who had just given birth. Physically, I was normal so why was I feeling like a mess?

I did open up to Paul eventually and he kept reassuring me that we did not "steal" this baby. The Birthparents willingly chose adoption. They chose us. They signed the paperwork without being forced. Logically, I knew all of that was true. But my heart wasn't listening to my brain.

Paul didn't feel as much emotional pain as I did for the Birthparents, especially for the Birthmother. I think my sympathy for her was connected to residual feelings from our years of infertility struggles. A baby was the thing I wanted most in this world so I could only imagine the hurt the Birthmother had felt by placing her baby in another woman's arms.

Keeping Quiet
Once the three of us did arrive home, I put on a happy face as we heard "Congratulations" from friends and family. Having some physical distance from the Birthparents seemed to give me some clarity on the situation and things seemed slightly better. Still I did not speak about these depressed feelings to anyone but Paul. I was still worried about being judged by others. So when I felt like I was unable to care for the baby because the sadness was overwhelming, I just made sure someone could take a baby shift and I'd go stay in my bedroom.


I felt like this for the first two months of my son's life. The outside world would have just seen a tired and overwhelmed new mom. Only I knew that internally I was struggling with looking at my at and thinking that if I gave him back to his Birthparents they wouldn't be in pain anymore. I did talk to the Birthparents a few times a week to let them know how he was doing. I could tell it was hard for them to ask questions but they were happy to hear the answers.

Able to Move On
At one point, I recall asking the Birthmother how she was feeling. She said that she was definitely depressed. But thanks to the counseling from our adoption agency prior and post birth she knew that what she was feeling was normal for Birthmothers. She knew it was going to get better with time and counseling. Hearing her say that made me feel as if I was given the O.K. from her to stop feeling sad for her.

Very soon after that phone call I had a dream I'll never forget. In the dream, I was in a Doctor's office with my son in my arms. Then I looked down and he was gone. I raced around the Doctor's building looking for him and screaming his name. I could not find him. I woke up from the dream and sat up with my heart racing. I had tightness in my chest and heart that I was unfamiliar with. I could barely catch my breath but could say out loud, "I am a Mom. I am a Mom." That feeling I had was Maternal instinct. Not being to find my son in my dream had finally brought it out in me. For prior two months I admired my baby but never felt like I had the right to love him. That dream seemed to have snapped me out of all of my sadness and finally brought me into embracing Motherhood.

Labeling My Feelings
It was well over a year later that I ran across some adoption literature on Post Adoption Depression (PAD). I read the symptoms and was shocked to learn that I had experienced it. I was disappointed that I was unaware of it before our adoption. Plus, I was mad at myself for not opening up about those feelings when I had them so I could have received help. It was refreshing to learn that I wasn't alone with my thoughts. At that point I wanted to make sure to let couples who were adopting know about PAD so unlike me, they could reach out for help in their time of need.

I feel it's important to learn about PAD and also to let your loved ones know about it before you adopt. Your friends and family may not think it's possible for you to have something that resembles Postpartum Depression when you didn't deliver a baby. They may not think that you can have something like PAD when you came home with a two year-old child. Let them know that PAD does exist and encourage them to look for signs of it. They may not understand what the new Mother is thinking but are able to rally her to speak openly to her adoption social worker. She will not be judged by her PAD, but will receive the help that any new Mother should receive.


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3 Comments

That dream seemed to have snapped me out of all of my sadness and finally brought me into embracing Motherhood.

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By jared1 on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 3:42 am.

It is tough for the parents to get adjusted with an adopted child, especially if they lack the experience of parenthood. Therefore, the couple should get mentally prepared to become a bit flexible and try seeking guidance from the elderly people.
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By Limsi on Sunday, June 07, 2015 at 3:08 pm.

Well having a baby in our life will bring several kinds of cheerful and happiness. Therefore especially women are expecting their babies soon; but in case of any adoption we have found parents are already loss their emotions and feelings to become a father and mother; here also we can get some related stuff regarding an unhappy mother. When a woman becomes a mother for the first time it will definitely bring great changes both physically and mentally and also increases the level of responsibility.
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By jeffwarne on Friday, April 08, 2016 at 5:46 am.

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Meet the Author

Danielle Pennel

Danielle Pennel

Missouri

I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Newborn

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