Welcome to our first post in a month-long series in honor of National Adoption Month. Each week, you will hear from an adoptive mom, writing on REAL adoption issues from their personal stories. I hope you’ll follow along and listen to the deep places of their hearts they are so willing to share!

To start us off, Jenni Ramsey, Lifesong Adoptive mom and active orphan advocate, gets real about post-adoption depression:

Ramsey--8

“I’ll never forget the phone call.   Our family had just traveled out of state for my mother-in-law’s memorial.   The trip allowed us some extended time with my sister-in-law and her family, who adopted their daughter in China five years before our adoption was finalized in South Korea.   During our trip my sister-in-law saw the signs.  She recognized the symptoms as she spent time with me.  I was suffering from post-adoption depression syndrome (PADS) and she was deeply concerned.  I remember exactly where I was sitting in our family room when the phone rang.  With concern in her voice, my sister-in-law encouraged me to reach out for help and empathized from her own experience.  The joy and passion that characterized me had been replaced by exhaustion.  I was emotionally shut down.  The truth of her words jolted my heart as the tears flowed down my face.   I know it sounds cliché, but the phone call was truly the wake up call that I needed to propel me on my journey of healing.   Since receiving that call I have learned about PADS, reached out for help and experienced the healing hand of God in unexpected ways. 

So here’s the crazy thing.   When we adopted our daughter I was extremely involved in orphan care and adoptions.  I led the orphan care ministry in our church and was facilitating a support group for adoptive and foster families in our community and working for an adoption agency leading orphan outreach teams to Central America.  I had attended a seminar on attachment with Karyn Purvis and my husband and I had watched the Karyn Purvis “Connected Child” DVD’s.  We felt totally prepared for the attachment issues that we would face.  But we were wrong.  I was drowning.  I was not prepared for the emotions I was wrestling with, the adjustments our family was experiencing and the challenges our older children were battling with in the transition of the adoption.   

Post-adoption depression syndrome (PADS) is real.  Joni S. Mantell, MSW, founder and director of the Infertility and Adoption Counseling Center, discusses the challenges of PADS in her article entitled “Beyond Happy” (featured in Adoptive Families).   She describes symptoms of PADS as “overwhelming despair, panic, a sense of disconnection from your child, and sometimes even frightening feelings and thoughts.”  She also discusses the challenges of the post-adoption blues:

“The post adoption blues is more subtle, and alternates with, or exists right next to, truly positive feelings about parenting. These lighter shades of blue, which are much more common than PADS, can be just as isolating. After all, your dream has come true! Any tinge of guilt, sadness, shame, or dissatisfaction during what is supposed to be a joyous time is unexpected, and makes the blues hard to talk about.”

As I began learning more about PADS, I took comfort in the fact that I was not alone.  One article even stated that 65% of adoptive moms struggle with PADS.  I began sharing my struggles with other adoptive moms, and they understood.  They struggled with the same challenges but often were afraid to verbalize it.  Expressing these emotions on social media (where busy moms tend to connect) feels dangerous.   As I reached out to adoptive moms, I was shocked by the common threads of struggle, isolation, and depression mixed with joy, growth and overwhelming faith.  I knew that God had called our family to open our hearts to adoption and I cried out to Him for hope and healing. 

Naham 1:7 says that “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him.”  This verse became a fortress for me as I began the path of healing.  As I reflected on our adoption journey, I was struck by its wondrous mixture of exuberance and sorrows.  Our six year long journey had been filled with miracles and losses.  We had suffered from a failed adoption in El Salvador, losing over $15,000 and three years of waiting.  Our daughter was beautiful and we knew that she belonged in our family, just as valued as our biological children.   She was the answer to years of prayers and we had so much to celebrate when she finally arrived home.   Because there was so much joy and marvel over our daughter’s life, I didn’t know how to express the feelings of exhaustion, disappointment and grief.   I was afraid to journal my struggles for fear that my daughter would read my journal one day.  I couldn’t express my emotions in her presence for fear of her feeling unloved.   And I definitely wasn’t ready to share this confusion on our adoption blog or on Facebook.  I cherished my daughter and I was passionate about adoption and orphan care.  I was concerned that communicating my situational depression would reflect a lack of love for my daughter and negate the urgent need for adoption and orphan care.  I needed to find a safe place where I could get real and share my feelings. 

This is where the process of healing began and the sense of drowning diminished.”

{…to be continued. Be sure to follow along tomorrow for Part 2 of Jenni’s story.}

Adoptive parents, can you relate? Please encourage Jenni with your comments of support!

NAM giveaway 3GIVEAWAY: In honor of National Adoption Month, we invite you to comment on this post to be entered in our month-long giveaway!

Gift basket includes: Thriving as an Adoptive Family book, 1lb of Gobena coffee, Lifesong mug, & Lifesong t-shirt 

Each Friday in November, hear REAL adoption testimonies from four different adoptive moms. Comment on each post for an entry for the giveaway! (maximum entries: 5)

{Winner will be announced December 1st}

  

Jenni Ramsey and her family reside in Irvine, California, where she serves as the Missions Director at The Village Church of Irvine.  She also serves as the Founding Director of His Hands His Feet, the orphan outreach ministry of All Blessings International Adoptions.  For more information visit:  www.allblessingswest.blogspot.com