I struggle to write this post, as it feels so terribly personal and we are just getting out of the woods. However, other people’s stories helped me a great deal in the past months and I feel I can give back with my experience. If I can help one adoptive parent with these negative feelings, I am happy to share.
Our son joined our family of three last February, after a three year process and a six month wait after the match. When we met him in India, he was a 20 month old precious toddler, full of energy, and all smiles. After years of frustration and a feeling of emptiness nothing else could fill, we were so ready for this. Few months after that, I found myself struggling with a lot of negative feelings and a deep sadness. It took quite a long time to even acknowledge these feelings inside me, and when I did I was more than confused and didn’t know where to begin to face them. How could I feel sad, when I wanted all this so much?
I turned to the main resource for a mother’s worry: the internet. Turns out the net is full with adoption stories and the joys of adoption, but there’s very little about the daily struggles, post-adoption depression, any form of negative emotions parents may have, and such. I felt so lonely and even more confused.
I didn’t surrender and turned to books, and I was incredibly lucky to find the right book right away. I just needed that one voice to feel I was not crazy. I started digging more and found podcasts and more books, even a very useful post buried in a blog. Suddenly I even wondered if all adoptive parents were going through similar frustrations and why few had the courage to speak out.
You wanted it so much, why are you complaining now?
This is something I bet every adoptive parent tell themselves when they are feeling overwhelmed. I surely did tell myself that. Apparently, some are even told by other people. This thought may seem natural, but now that I can see things clearly, let me tell you it doesn’t make any sense. Struggling with daily life doesn’t mean you regret your choices. Raising an adopted child is no piece of cake. Many adoptive parents are even first-time parents – bless them, they’re my heroes – and I can only start to imagine how shocking the change must be for them. Overall it took me two years to fully accept my new life when I had my biological daughter. Adopting a child, even if you had years to prepare, is a staggering change. If you adopt a child older than an infant, you’ll probably find yourself with a traumatised child who basically considers you her abductors. Try to imagine how a child behaves in that situation. So no, wanting your child with all your heart doesn’t mean you don’t deserve support.
This child has suffered so much, I don’t feel entitled to feel pain myself
Here’s another thought which prevented me from admitting my feelings. I later learned I can deal with my son’s issues and mine at the same time, and our healing process can overlap. Denying my emotions has been the most damaging choice. There is no ranking when it comes to pain and negative feelings. And what better example for our children to show how we ourselves deal with our struggles? I started feeling better when I began naming out my emotions: frustration, anxiety, fear for the future, sadness. It was a huge change. Changes have always been stressful for me. Everyone is entitled to their feelings.
Years of fighting to bring your child home: now what?
My husband and I spent years fighting to adopt a child and months waiting specifically for our son. It was a painful time, with one goal in mind: to bring our child home. If you never adopted, you need to understand you kinda need to obsess about it to get to the end of it. If you are not fully determined, you won’t make it. During these years, you need to prioritise the process over anything, if you want to bring your child home soon. That’s your only way to minimise the long waiting time. It’s a really intense experience. I wonder if part of my issues came from having, in a way, reached my goal. I’ve read somewhere that this sudden shift to a new phase can be upsetting and it may be that your body and mind finally release all the stress accumulated in years. You know when you work very intensively for a long time and when you finally take a day off, you get the flu? That sort of situation.
Expectations VS reality
During the long wait, I’ve let myself dream and imagine all the beautiful things I wanted to do with my adopted child. Even though I was no first-time mother and I knew the harshness of daily life with a small child, I couldn’t help thinking what I wanted to teach, show, and give to my child. I tried to resist building expectations and still I had some. When we picked up my son, reality set in. Even though I felt I was aware of how traumatic this life passage would be for him, I really wasn’t. I found myself struggling with a traumatised and scared toddler. Turns out the idyllic moments I was dreaming about are in a ratio of one in a hundred compared to the power fights, tantrums, inconsolable crying, worries, and so on. Again, no regrets. Fighting hard makes all progress and rewards taste amazing. But guys, some days are freaking tough.
I feel so relieved I put all these thoughts down and rationalised them. I am better now, much more aware of my own limitations and confident we can overcome any obstacle as a family. It didn’t come as an overnight epiphany, but with consistent joint work as a family and as individuals. I would love to hear if other fellow adoptive parents went through these feelings and if I helped you by sharing, please fill my heart by letting me know. If you are friend or related to an adoptive family, please be aware these negative feelings are common and they may need your support. Thanks for reading, until next time.