...It turns out I was notam notalone. A March 2012 Purdue University study suggests that between 18 and 26 percent of adoptive mothers struggle with post-adoption depression, brought on by extreme fatigue, unrealistic expectations of parenthood or a lack of community support.
In the course of interviewing some 300 women who’d adopted one or more children in the prior two years, Karen J. Foli, an assistant professor of nursing at Purdue, says that she and her teamincluding Susan South and Eunjung Limbegan examining societal assumptions about adoptive parents. Among them: the belief that the mother who doesn’t carry a child for nine months or doesn’t go through labor does not require as much help after the child comes home, does not need respite care, or someone to unload the dishwasher, or a few casseroles in the freezer.
I had certainly assumed as much. I didn’t take maternity leave, feeling at some deep level that I neither needed it nor earned it. I kept up with my reporting and writing assignments, underestimating the importance of just rolling around on the floor with our new baby, who likely was grieving the sudden absence of his beloved foster mom. I didn’t feel that I “deserved” as much help as my friends who’d given birth had received. I found myself questioning my authenticity as Jake’s mother. I’d look at Jake and think: This child came from another woman’s body. Who am I to say I am his mother?
“No matter what, there is time when the [adopted] child has lived apart from his or her adoptive parents,” says Foli, co-author, with Dr. John R. Thompson, of The Post Adoption Blues: Overcoming the Unforeseen Challenges of Adoption. “When he comes home, it adds to society’s impression that the adoptive parents are the ‘winners,’ as compared to the birth parents, who relinquished the child, and the child himself There is this unspoken message that the adoptive parents are coming out [ahead] of all in the adoption triad, [so] there can be a stigma when you, the adoptive parent, struggle in your new role. This was your life goal, people say to adoptive parents. This was what you wanted.”