What should you expect as you return home with a newly adopted baby or child? What are the common emotions? We talk with Laura Jean Beauvais, a licensed professional counselor and mother of two adult daughters through adoption. She has conducted domestic, foster, and international adoptions for more than 25 years.
In this episode, we cover:
Adopting a Newborn
Adopting a Child Past Infancy
Post Adoption Depression
Support the show (https://creatingafamily.org/donation/)
What should you expect as you return home with a newly adopted baby or child? What are the common emotions? We talk with Laura Jean Beauvais, a licensed professional counselor and mother of two adult daughters through adoption. She has conducted domestic, foster, and international adoptions for more than 25 years.
In this episode, we cover:
Adopting a Newborn
Adopting a Child Past Infancy
Post Adoption Depression
Support the show (https://creatingafamily.org/donation/)
Please excuse the errors. This is an automatic transcription.
Welcome to Creating a Family Talk about Adoption and Foster Care. I'm Dawn Davenport, your host and the director of creating a family. You can find all of our resources at our website, creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about transitioning home as a newly adopted family. We will be talking with Laura Jean Beauvais. She is a licensed professional counselor, the mother of two adult daughters through adoption. And she has conducted domestic Foster and international adoptions for more than 25 years. She has guided many families some while in crisis, as they transition home with their newly adopted children. Welcome to creating a family. Thanks for talking with us today. Thank you, Dawn.
we're going to talk about two different types of two different ages of children because I think that does. There's some similarities. And there are some differences depending on what age child you are talking about that you're adopting. So we're going to start by talking about newborn adoption, brand new babies, domestic private adoption. And then we're going to talk about adopting transitioning home adopting an either an older child or honestly, just a child past infancy, because I think there are some similarities, regardless of whether that child past infancy is coming from foster or international, or domestic placement as well. So but let's start with newborn adoption. So what are some of the common emotions, when parents are adopting a newborn other than the oh my gosh, I cannot believe this is happening. Oh, after all this time, I am so happy. So and that's obviously just an immense relief that parents feel because often they've waited. Many of them are coming from in fertility. So they've waited a very long time. So they're just beyond excited. So that's one emotion. That's, that's just really fun. What are some of the other motions fun or not so fun? Yeah, well, Chris, there are a lot of emotions, and I adopted my children, as newborn infants. So I could really relate to some of those emotions that you have, particularly with my oldest child,
I think there could be a lot of uncertainty, depending upon the state laws, if the birth parents can change their minds and their quote, unquote, interference or anything of that nature. And there, that, of course, is always going to leave you feeling a little bit unsettled. And oftentimes people will say, I want to do an international adoption, because I know the birth parents can't come back. Now, whether those fears are real or not, is certainly something that is there. And I think I think people do experience that.
I remember having one family this is years ago, whose child actually newborn infant, in fact, they were talking to at the same time back when people
say about 20 years ago, and one of the children had medical issues. And they I remember, they're saying, Oh, my parents aren't responding the way that they would respond to my other siblings, children, if they were in the hospital or something like that. So you really, if there's anything that is going wrong, you really do want your family there as if this were a biological child. Also,
sometimes families are very stressed. And this is something that we really see a lot of, is in relation to the birth parents, primarily the birth mom, they've had a relationship often with her, and they might have actually developed a really good friendship. But now everything is changed, the birth mom was in control of a parent is in control of the relationship. And that alone creates a certain level of stress. Well, now I decide how much we're going to go ahead and communicate and so forth. And I know families sometimes contacted me and said, the birth mom keeps texting me and wanting pictures. And you know, sometimes it's like a grandma who lives out of state. And I like what you said, Dawn, sometimes think of birth family relatives as being like your own relatives, sometimes things are, you know, better than other times and whatnot. And of course, these are relationships are dynamic. And so they're going to change and there's a real instant change from the moment that birth mother gives birth and you take that child home suddenly, yeah, and
you know, okay, so let's unpack some of this because you've mentioned some really great points. One, is depending on what state you live in, an adoptive parent may have custody of the baby. While there is still the chance that they adopt the birth parents could revoke their relinquishment. Right, and that depends on the state. So at those people listening, that is, adoption is governed by state law. If you've listened to us very long, you've heard that a lot. So adopters are governed by state law, which means that there are different revocations from no revocation time to a much longer revocation time, and there is that that feeling of
Should I attach? Should I not attach as a parent, you know, as my heart going to be broken? And and that throws I mean, I think we are most of us want to immediately fall head over heels in love and and attach completely from that moment on whether or not that's a fiction or not, we all expect that. But if there's this possibility that this child is not going to be yours, that that plays with your ability to truly throw yourself in with abandoned.
Exactly. And of course, even later going to talk about foster children foster to adopt, and of course that is very present in those types of arrangements, of course.
Yeah, did you want to say anything else? Just about the stressor with the relationship with the birth mom, or birth father? Yes, I do. Yeah, I thought that I think that actually raises some really interesting points of some of the feelings that And oftentimes, they're unexpected from the adoptive parent standpoint, because as you pointed out, they have a relationship that they've established, oftentimes, not always. But it all of a sudden, we call it the shift of power. And it's dramatic, and it happens overnight from the perception of what, and this partly is perception. And honestly, this is more perception for adoptive parents, because I think that oftentimes expectant parents don't necessarily feel like they are the ones with the power. But in fact, they adopted from the adoptive parents standpoint prior to birth, and prior to the birth parents signing the relinquishment documents. It there is a feeling that that that the expectant parents and then after birth, the birth parents hold the power. But the moment those relinquishment papers are the revocation period, depending on where what their state law is that power shifts to the adoptive parents. And sometimes adoptive parents recognize a shift sometimes they don't. But the vast majority of birth parents do recognize that shift in power. And it's confusing, I think for for both sets of parents to, to navigate that and to enter to navigate that shift and and for adoptive parents, what do you recommend for them at that point to help them
understand what the birth parents are going through? And what the the new role reversals are? Right, exactly. Well, I mean, remember, this is an adoptive mom who this is years ago, before openness was so so open as, as today. And the birth mom had said, you know, not only did I lose my best friend, the adoptive mom had become her best friend, because oftentimes, adoptive parents do step into that role as a support system, and someone who is encouraging the birth mom, but she said, I also lost my baby, in this time. And now I feel like I lost my baby and my best friend. And so that's a huge burden on a on an adoptive family. And I think that to recognize that there's going to have to be a shift and maybe talking about that even ahead of time, you know, what the, what each person's expectation is this one as we have, of course, expectant moms and talk about what are they? What do they want when they get to the hospital as far as holding the baby sharing time with the adoptive family. And you know, being in the labor and delivery and of course, all that can change to in a moment, and not even when a birth mom is ready to go through with the whole adoption plan and signs of relinquishment, etc. how you're going to feel in that moment is going to be different. And I think really having someone who's a good counselor, a good agency, Pregnancy counselor, really talking to all the parties about that, that it doesn't this is these are some of the issues that may arise. And I think being really transparent with everyone and kind of bringing out those hard issues ahead of time, would really be the way to go ahead and do that. And a third person because because adoptive families are not playing the role of counselor, for sure they are the birth mom, and they're not.
Yeah, right. Exactly. They really need to be there. Not as so much as a support. But as somebody who is adopting the child who's going to be in a lifelong relationship, they're all going to be in a lifelong relationship, and that relationship will change over time.
And so I would say that, you know, maybe having a discussion saying, I know, you're going to probably want lots of pictures, and sometimes it might be just really tired. And I may not be able to always send that because I think with texting in particular, that that has that immediate response. You know, we're sitting in a restaurant or with somebody and the text comes and we interrupt that conversation, and it's kind of rude, but we all do.
And so just to say, you know what, if you could just give me a half hour to an hour. As long as we have this discussion, I think the texting one seems to be a really big
Issue, sending through email, email, we have a different kind of expectation, don't expect things instantly, we could send out an email at three in the morning. And no, we may not hear until three in the afternoon from that person. So I, again, maybe having some of those those harder talks with it with the family, but asking your agency or the counselor that's putting this adoption, you know, helping you with your adoption, answering some of those kind of questions for you. I think having these conversations ahead of time, having
listening to this and understanding what quite what things you should discuss. I do think that something that catches adoptive parents by surprise sometimes is feeling resentful that the birth mom or the birth parents, or the birth extended family, but most often it's the birth mom are in their mind intruding or in somehow interfering with them feeling like the in their air quotes here, the real mom, I think that says that feeling of she's still there. So the reality is, I'm not this child's only mom. And and that's hard to deal with sometimes. Right? Yes. And you know, when you go through infertility, you can feel shame and quote, unquote, not normal, just like all your friends who get pregnant. And then you go through the adoption, and that isn't, quote, unquote, the usual way of obviously, bringing a child into your family. And now you have to deal with issues related to the birth mom, and they can be very positive, it could be a great relationship, she could be a very positive person. But again, it kind of is a constant reminder, I'm not, I'm not the full Mother, I'm not the full biological mother, I really want to just pretend everything is very normal. And in many ways it is I mean, you're changing diapers, you're feeding a baby, you're getting up in the middle of the night, there are no issues to address with this job. You just you treat this child just as you would a child who's been who has been born to you. But then there's always this outside reminder. Whereas if you adopt an older child, there's always other reminders, obviously, that this child is adopted and not a biological child. And I think of course, when people do want to adopt a newborn, they're trying to replicate as close to possible, what is what has also happened. One of the other stressors that can come is also the expectation from family members, especially if we will relate it to the birth mom, we have to always remember that when we go into adoption, we've gone through a grieving period, we've said, Okay, we're not going to have a biological child. But now we're going to have an adopted child, maybe the adopted child won't be the same race. So it'll be a different race. And we've kind of adjusted maybe not necessarily a newborn, but maybe a little bit older child, whatever. And so we've gone through all these, all these steps in our mind of going from perfect biological child, who is to all the variations, maybe a child with special needs, whatever. And, and so our family members have not gone through that process, we just announced that we're adopting a two year old child of a different race or from another country or whatever. And suddenly, we're asking them to go through that process that maybe has taken us years to go through, to go through in a matter of 15 minutes and saying, You're supposed to be really happy for us, and you're supposed to be totally accepting. And I think I think that could be hard. And then going back to the newborn infant, perhaps maybe it was a drug seeking birth mom, and there are many complications, and you still are in relationship with her. And maybe your mom, you as the adoptive mom, your mom doesn't understand why you would be talking to that lady who produced a drug, child, and all those kind of emotions that you're battling. Sure, not understanding openness and saying, you know, the best thing you could do if you want to be that baby's real mom, you know, why are you having this relationship? This is, you know, and discouraging you? Mm hmm. Yes, yes. And I knew adoptive grandparents now and who say I really worry about that openness. I'm afraid that That boy is going to want to go back and be with his family. Because he sees his birth mom regularly. You know, those kinds of records, though. You're also trying to navigate Oh, my goodness, I have to explain this to my parents that while I'm here in town, I'm also going to be the birth mom or the birth father, or relatives or whatever. So yeah, yes, very complicated. I do think another thing with dealing with extended family is they're not all adoptive families do this, but some are hyper vigilant to make certain that their parents are responding to their newborn, their newborn adopted newborn the same way they would with a bite if the baby had been biological and that can cause stress because
They may be right, that their parents are responding differently. But it may just be that as you're pointing out, the situation is different. There is a another family involved. There is this baby may not look like the their their other grandchildren. So there's a lot involved. But that can cause heart hurt feelings from the adoptive family stamp or the adoptive parents standpoint.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yes. There. And some of this could be subtle. Some of it could be perceived, as you said, some of it could be very real. Yes, exactly. Yeah. And maybe again, talking about those conversations ahead of time that maybe you just don't spring on your parents, three days before your child is going to be born, oh, by the way, then you really do have this conversation with them along the way. Yeah, not always hear what you want to hear either. And realizing that that explaining the purpose, also, when you are talking about openness, or when you are talking about adoption, in general, I think it is helpful to lecture through your language you use to let your parents know that you're not seeking their permission, that you're telling them the wet, wet, wet is going to happen. I think sometimes we slip into a child roll again. And our parents think that we're asking for permission. So they feel very comfortable sharing their thoughts. And sometimes their thoughts are discouraging for what we think what you're planning on doing. So keeping in mind that one needs to be the you are an adult, and you need to not seek your parents permission for what you are planning on doing.
Hi, everyone, I just want to take a moment to let you know of a terrific course we just added to our adopted Online Education Center. It's titled preparing kids already in the home for an adoption. You know, it's easy to be so excited about bringing home a new baby or child that we forget that we may need to do some proactive work to prepare our existing kiddos for this new arrival. This is especially the case if the new child will be past infancy, you can find this course by going to our where all of our online learning education centers are. And that is adoption. ed.org. That's adoption. Ed ed.org.
I wanted to talk a little now about how the pre adoption process that what we as adoptive parents go through to become parents, the applying the going through a home study that preparing a for domestic infant and preparing a profile having to be quote unquote, judged by expectant parents feeling that you're having to market yourself. And some people feel like they're competing with every other because there are more adoptive parents out there looking for infants and there are infants. So that is a process a oftentimes a long and arduous process. So how does that process potentially impact this transition home?
Sure. Well, fortunately, to the adoption process, in the home study process, adoptive families become very well educated, and use sometimes sense that sometimes there's a reason and they're like no other parent has to have this level of education, or
I'm so much more worthy of
being a parent than some of the other people that I hear of or know of, and yet someone is judging me. And then on the other hand, you've gone through infertility, you may have shame related to that. And then suddenly, you are being judged once again. And there's further shame in going ahead and being judged. And of course, when we're being assessed, we want to present ourselves as the perfect family, the perfect couple, the perfect parent, potential parent or a parent, that you're already parenting your children very, very well and everybody is well adjusted.
And perfectly behaved to let's just That's right, my children, right there. They're just great all the time. And so if people sometimes are honest with you to a certain extent, but we don't expect them to be that honest, because if there is that level of transparency, then there is the potential of saying, okay, you're either going to have to go to counseling, or you're gonna have to take more assessments, or you're we're gonna put your adoption plan on hold until these issues are resolved, and sometimes very rightfully so. And so, I think that's a huge stress. And so, then after once a child does come and again, a newborn may not present as many issues because you're except for the initial issues of sleep and feeding and changing diapers, and so not knowing what you're doing.
Yeah, right? That, that if you need help, your agency may not be the place that you want to go, because you've already presented yourself as the ideal parent. Now you sort of have to backtrack on yourself and saying, you know, I'm really struggling with this. And oh, by the way, I've had these kind of issues in the past. And this is really bringing up some other issues for me, which has never been addressed in the home study, or anything like that. So or, you know, child isn't getting along with this jealousy or whatever there may be. And so I think that also adds to this, I can't really tell the truth to my agency, who should be there to support me and as much as I work for an agency, and we do encourage our families to come along and say, Yes, I, you know, please come and contact us. But at the same time there is there is that idea that you may want to adopt again, and what are they going to go ahead and think about? Yeah, and later, we're going to talk about posted option depression. And we will, we will circle back to this as for sure, you know, Dawn, one other thing I do want to say,
about perhaps a stressor, but just something to make also parents aware of that, I think when people adopt a newborn, and they, they get a newborn, that it's as much like giving birth as possible. And in many ways it is because the child is coming out of the home with you and the child isn't being abused or neglected or having multiple, or anything like that. But we're learning more and more that that prenatal environment is so important. And one thing I do say to families is that
every birth mom, expectant mom is under a great deal of stress, if she were not under a great deal of stress of her life, we're very, very, um, what what we would all like our life to be well pregnant, she would not be placing this baby for adoption. And so even making an adoption plan is great stress to to unexpected. So I would just have parents just realize that your child could have higher needs, and even that you expect, and so further stress, or could be like, oh, all my other friends about to go right back to work after they have their babies, I cannot go ahead and do that my child may have some extra needs that I just cannot place my baby in, say, a daycare setting or having another person come in whatever it may be, that your child has those extra emotional needs, that you may not even be aware of that I think that we need to just be really aware of that because as our kids start to age, we start to realize that there are things and then also even the stress of how am I going to tell other people about my child's situation? And how much do I tell or when the pain of the lady at the checkout says, Oh, your child looks nothing like, you know, whatever, where did you get those blue eyes from? So I just to be aware that those are added dimensions to the adoption process. And those are more lifelong, they're not just they're at infancy, but they carry in. And I think we we carry that with us as we as we begin to parent. And and often if we haven't thought about it ahead of time, this transition period, is when we're first grappling with it, and first realizing that this could be an issue that and, and, and, and it just complicates the transition because you are having to deal with a new issue, I am thankful that you raised the issue of how much information to share, because that is a very real issue in the transition. Now it is it is applicable to both adoptions past infancy, which would be occur with Foster and international and even some domestic, private adoptions. But it also occurs with a newborn. And in particular, we see it happening with newborn adoptions. Because this is a newborn who cannot hear what you are saying. And and it's easy not to think into the future that this child is going to become a three year old, a 10 year old, a 13 year old, an 18 year old. And once information is shared, it's out there and people don't forget. So as you're holding an infant, and you're thinking about well, you know, the mom use all my god, every type of drug you can imagine. And the dad was incarcerated for blabbity blabbity blah, and, and all this information is as you're sharing, it doesn't feel like it's impacting this child because the child has his pre comprehension. But the people you tell are not going to forget that information. And they're going to remember it throughout your child's life. So we caution people about how much to share. How much do you what do you tell families about sharing the sensitive parts of their child's adoption story? Sure. Well, of course you want to just secret
See versus privacy. We never want children to feel like their life is a secret or anything. But at the same time, we always want to respect privacy. And so I, I do caution, obviously, depending upon the person, depending upon where you're at, there is no need to share even about adoption, when you're at the checkout at the grocery store, as much as you can to use a little bit of humor, never to say to be sarcastic. So if someone says, Where did those blue eyes come from? You know, you don't say Hello, dear, you asked me such a personal question. You begin because your child eventually is going to pick up on that kind of response. And so the other thing is, is that, you know, as you as you share stories like this, as people say, you know, maybe why did the birth mom make this decision? Of course, expect them to use positive adoption language? Why does she mean, they'll ask you? Why did she give up this baby for adoption? But that baby is so beautiful. How could she have given it up? Yeah, right. It's what the person would do that? Yes. Yes, exactly. I mean, and not just your relatives, this could be when you take your child to the doctor, I had one adoptive mom, again, this is going back over almost 30 years ago, that she brought her newborn adopted infant to the doctor, the pediatrician and the pediatrician said in reference to the birth mom, she should be shocked.
Again, fortunately, this is a newborn infant. Yeah, but that kind of attitude, you immediately change doctors, by the way. But again, it's another stress that's on an adoptive parent. And, and, and yes, maybe doctors today would not say such overtly negative statements about about a birth parent. But at the same time, and it's it is an opportunity to educate the kindly educate, I try to remember the ignorant things that I have said, when I was very, very young, I remember I was in Florida, with my family as a teenager, and talking to this woman who had like three biological, biological sons and her little, her little adopted girls. And I asked her Do you love your adoptive children, as much as you love your biological children, and she was so gracious to me. And she said, you know, probably even more. And, and that was a great education. So I do remember how people were coming to me, in my teenage years, or whatever, on comments that were made. So again, it's going to be how other people are going to to perceive it. And certainly, maybe a doctor you will share about the birth mom's obviously, her medical history, drug seeking activities, that sort of thing, maybe reverse father
history as well, as much as you know, but it doesn't have to, again, have to be shared with family members. And I like your suggestion that you don't, that you need to think through and have in your back pocket some responses. And you could have a series of responses depending on the situation. But one nice trick for transitioning are in the transitionary period, would be when somebody says, Why did her parents give her up? or Why did her parents give her away or something like that, is to shift it and be more general and just say, there are so many reasons that that parents decide that they're not able to parent and it's never an easy decision. And just keep it nice and gentle. And it's seldom that somebody will push past that. And if they do, then you can always say you know, that's personal information that we don't share.
Or whatever it is you feel like you want to say but change.
And I do like that, as you said, and in counseling, it's a very counseling term narrative. And regardless of what life experience that you have, I mean, whether it's something very,
again, we can have all sorts of things like divorce or miscarriages, whatever it may be flunking out of school, you can have a narrative for that, and how you're going to explain something to other people. Because we've all had failures in our lives. And there is a way that we can explain it in a very negative or we can say it in a not not necessarily artificially positive but appropriate way that makes everyone feel comfortable. And I think that's the thing is that, as you said, kind of a rehearsal of what is going to be your child's narrative at this point in life. And then as your child matures, you can go ahead and ask them, honey, how do you want me to handle this? When so and so ask this I know with my children, because I was an adoption professional, I would often talk about adoption. And my pet my children would tug on me sure to tell them that we're adopted. So my kids really wanted me to share other children don't do not want to share they want that to be kept private. So yeah, so checking it out. All right.
And before we move off of talking about adopting a newborn, I wanted to talk you have said a couple of times about infertility and coming to adoption from infertility. And I've read in different stats. But the the kind of the universal stat that I see is, especially for newborn infant adoption, about 80% of the people come to adoption from infertility. And I think we, although we certainly discouraged this thought, but it's still very common for people to enter adoption with the thought that adopting a baby will cure their infertility will put to rest any of the grief and the sense of failure that they have from their infertility struggles. And that often very often doesn't happen and can be a surprise to people in this transition period. Because here, they were expecting this infertility dragon to be totally slayed and put in their past and never to raise its ugly head again. And in fact, often that doesn't happen. And they, they feel some of the grief of not having given birth, or the grief that people look at this baby and say, gosh, it doesn't look anything like you, or the grief that they didn't fall immediately in love with the assumption that they probably would have fallen immediately in love, even though that may be false, but with their child born to them. So let's talk a little about how infertility struggles in the reoccurrence of infertility grief can impact this transition time? Well, I think first of all, infertility really puts you out of control. And you cannot it's very hard to plan and something that you think especially when you have a lot of input or infertility that may be undiagnosed, say, you know, this is the this is the infertility, this is the treatment, most people don't have that it's it's every month really waiting and seeing what's going to go have happen. And then trying different treatments. And if they work or they don't work. So there's there is that lack of control there. And adoption, of course, you have that whole lack of control, as well. And until until you actually have the child and so I think in some ways, you still feel like, Am I really in control of the situation. And in some ways, maybe that can make you want to be more in control suddenly, when you do have a child. So finally I have this child now I'm finally in control. or not, I think, Oh, lordy, No, you're not. You're not though. Yeah. And I remember for myself, the one thing that I felt like, was really hard is that you have this child. And now you want to give this child a sibling, just like everybody else wants siblings normally for the other child.
And you go to the park and you see other people who are pregnant, and now they're having their next baby. And when you're going through infertility, it's like, I don't know how long it's going to be before my child is going to go ahead and have a sibling. And so so it kind of again, it carries a carries on. And I remember the moment I adopted My child, my my first daughter Erica, and I was longing for another baby because I wanted to make sure she had she had a sibling. So that was always in the back of my mind there. Mm hmm. I was gonna say we tell people that infertility, I mean, adoption, cures only one of the many losses of infertility adoption cures if and I'm using air quotes around that the the inability to parent because adoption makes you a parent. But adoption does not give you the experience of pregnancy. It doesn't give you the experience necessarily and most often of breastfeeding. It doesn't give you the experience of sharing that communal
sharing of, of your war stories, your labor and your delivery stories that in particular young mothers of babies tend to do when they get together. So there's so many things are and it doesn't cure the the the looking at your that the longing to look at the child that you are convinced will be the perfect combination of yours and your partner's genes. So adoption doesn't cure those things. And, and coming to some resolution of those losses before you adopt is really helpful. Because otherwise, it could take you by surprise in the transition period if you haven't worked some of that through.
I remember when my children were very young, I belong to a woman's Bible study. And they were all young mothers and the wonderful they were give their worst stories. And one of the ladies finally said to me, she goes does it bother you for when we talk about our whole labor and delivery and usually all the pain and
I said no, I love hearing your stories because it's what I I didn't go through but you know, there is there is that, you know, it's just like when you go through a war for a story, that there is that calm
Ottery that you do have for the pain that you experienced together. And then there is that there is a piece missing, of course there. I know our our agency has a very strong embryo adoption program. And one of the
one of the great promotions of the program is you get to experience labor and delivery. And I'm like, is that really hard?
But it really is because it's one piece that's closer to the reality of what women really do go through. And if nothing else, it's the pregnancy, you know, the you know, the baby will obviously get pregnant and the control the loss. Exactly. It's just you do have that loss during the pregnancy and what happens and, and and I know that this might be a little bit controversial, but you know, the older I get, and the more I see, I really do think there is a primal wound that the child does have in being removed from her birth mom. And I think I think we really do need to acknowledge that and that loss of that child has, that's a real painful thing to go ahead, and I'm probably getting a little bit more ahead, it isn't so much transition, because those are the kind of discussions that you have a little bit later with your child. But I remember somebody telling me, have you ever told your child I'm sorry that you weren't able to be raised by your birth mom? And I never, I personally never said that. I'm so glad that I got to having gone through infertility that I got to actually parent, my daughters, I would never think of saying that to them. But when somebody told me that this was about four years ago, I went to each one of my daughters. And I said to each one separately, they didn't know I was talking to the other. Would it have helped if I had told you that I'm really sorry that you couldn't be raised by your birth mom. They said yes, that would have been helpful. And I was very, very open with my children about adoption. There was nothing, hardly anything that was not uncovered, and very open about openness and adoption. And yet, that's really important. And to go into this thing. I love this child, but I'm still sorry that you cannot be raised by your birth parents. That's a hard struggle to carry into parenthood right at the very, very beginning. You're right. It is and whether or not it hits you in this transition period or hit you a little later. It's still hard. It is absolutely hard.
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Alright, we've talked about domestic infant many of the same things we have parents will feel when they're adopting a child past infancy. But there are some additional complications or some additional issues when we're adopting a child past infancy. And that would happen through adopting through foster care or through international because the vast majority of international adoptions now are toddlers at the youngest. So what are some of the the stresses with the emotions of excitement? All of that is absolutely there. But what are some of the stresses that parents feel in the transition period when they are adopting a toddler, a preschool or a elementary school or beyond? Well, this is something I deal with constantly with my families here at the agency and getting lots of support calls and working with them. Usually in the transition phase once a child is home.
And they're they're very numerous You know, when you have an infant, you're really dealing with physical needs. But now with with children, you're dealing with a background of trauma due to abuse neglect, multiple caretakers and so
Their behavior can be very what we call dysregulated. That basically means that they could be all over the place they could be, you could have an eight year old, who is more like a two year old emotionally, in many ways, looks like maybe a six, seven year old, who maybe has the sophistication and the hyper vigilance of a 13 year old. And so you just the just dealing with a child, who is very, very different from a typical, say you're adopting an eight year old, how different that is from having an eight year old. And I think that that your own expectations need to come into play here of what the needs are going to be for your family, this isn't just bringing in a grade school aged child who can make his own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and dress himself and be this way. And you know, so many times, I don't know that people say this so much anymore. But I think earlier on people didn't realize all the needs that children do have. And they would think, Oh, it's not an infant, he's so much easier to take care of that an infant will no, meeting the physical needs of a child and infant is way easier than meeting the needs of an eight year old, who comes from a background of trauma. And then I think one of the other things that we do, particularly with international adoptees is that we tell families, they need to cocoon that we need to go ahead and we need to kind of shut out the world, and we need to stay at home. And if you think about that, you know, we've got it, we all got to experience some of that during COVID. Well, it means not being with your friends, nothing with your relatives, not having your support system, maybe not going to work, all the things that we have in our lives, that that support us. So now we have this tremendous
high needs childhood has come into our lives, we're told to cocoon, and then not to have all the support that we normally have. And that is very, very difficult. Now fortunately, through the internet and FaceTime, and so forth, maybe we can connect more with friends. But still, it's not the same as having those face to face experiences. Again, we've all learned that to COVID, that we really do need that face to face and that real human contact with others. So that is a tremendous stress for families and what they're going to hit and dealing with. And then the list goes on and on. Well, I was gonna say I was going back to what you said about it's one of the things that we face as a as an organization that is whose mission is to educate and support adoptive and foster families, is helping families set realistic expectations. Because we all have, there's a certain amount of idealism that it takes to adopt an older child or a child past infancy. And one of the ways we do it is by thinking the worst is not going to happen to us. But the flip side of that coin, is if we if we become that myopic and aren't able to realize that it could happen to us, then we don't have realistic expectations for what life is going to really be like. And and and since we're talking about the transition period, I think that's important for families to focus on. Alright, so what's it going to be like those first couple of months, when we're home with a child, who, if it's international doesn't speak our language, who doesn't know our food, who doesn't have any any point of reference, or from a foster child who is coming to a place that has different contexts, you get different food, different expectations for behavior, different things. So all that is so new, and it's hard for, for families to prepare for that in advance to have realistic expectations of an eight year old who will in some ways, be a two year old on an emotional level, and a perhaps a 13 year old and life experience levels. That's an that's a different position than just raising an eight year old. So I think that's setting those realistic expectations is really tough for new families. I think, I think some of the day to day kind of things that I know. Oftentimes, it really is the food issues. Children need to eat about six times a day. So that can be a six times a day struggle if and, again, address learning about these issues before you go into it. Or sleep. You know, you've just traveled, the 12 hour timezone to bring home, your child, you're exhausted, they're exhausted, you're on a totally different schedule, of course, that that transition is going to be really difficult. You're going to feel like you have the flu. No, you don't have the flu, and then you're trying to take care of this child. I was just talking to a relative who just adopted a child from India. And this child wants to be held all the time a three year old and that can be very, very exhausting to have some
Who wants to cling to you? And even if you're a very touchy feely person, or you feel like, Oh, my child doesn't want us to be bonding, this is another issue that I see a lot with parents is my child attaching, and then they worry about the attachment. Because there's supposed to be some big moment of attachment. And they're really wondering, and then I'll go into the home and saying, yes, this looks very normal for a child who's newly arrived, everything looks very normal. And but yet we want some kind of a checkoff list that this child is attaching properly. So that that's another stress that parents feel that they have to get it all right. Oh, I'm so glad you said that there is this, we have made attachment, some mythical beast that's of perfection that we have to seek and it has to happen immediately. And, and the fear that parents have when they feel like, you know, I don't feel this overwhelming love for this job, I still feel like this child's babysitter, or I don't really even like this child right now. And so what does that make me and and what does that portend for the future? Are we going to be doomed to be one of those families that this was a child with? Who won't attach or a parent who was unable to attach or something along those lines? And that's a lot of stress to be experienced is yes, I'm so glad you said that. That is and I, I am an attachment expert. And sorry about that, then obviously, I believe in that, and I obviously really support that. But you're right, I think it is it is the only measuring stick that we have some times. And we do we and it is very important. But I think families will think oh, my child, unfortunately, don't hear this term so much anymore. But reactive attachment disorder, I refuse to use the term, just because autoren come home on the continuum of attachment. And it doesn't mean because your child is doing XYZ they have read and they you know, and oh my goodness, I got the red child, you know, it's not that I really try to reassure parents that, that, that is that is not so some kids have read and some kids do know, they all have attachment issues just related to what they've gone through. And over time is really what it takes is for them to attach with you. So I guess for this further transition period, your advice would be to simplify, create predictable routines. And don't expect, don't expect something to happen miraculously from one moment to the next. It took a while for this child to to come to you. And it's going to take a while to form to become a family to become the butthat the bonds of parenthood. Right. And I do want to address foster parents here as well, because one of the issues that unlike, say, adult, say, adoptees from from another country is usually when you adopt to the foster care system, your child has already been in your home for a while. And of course, there's all those issues related to is this child going to stay with me is this child going to go somewhere else. And so transition with adoption has maybe taken two to three years already. And one of the things I do feel that we don't encourage enough because foster care is temporary, is that when a child enters the home, you don't do the cocooning, you don't make special arrangements. If both parents are working, both parents are working, you're going to continue you know, families sometimes don't miss a beat. And then all of a sudden you have a child, maybe six months, maybe two years later, maybe even longer. Home, you finally have adopted and you haven't really had that adoption transition per se. And so sometimes I think that people really need to really revisit that and really say, Okay, now that this child is going to be part of the family, what do I need to do to create a special transition as an adoptee instead of just as a foster child. And some of that may be a new kind of cocooning maybe doesn't mean you'll stop everything that you're doing because your child might be bored if you do that, but maybe some other ways of slowing it all down, and really doing some real healing work with your children, for your child, who are adopted through the foster care system. Another potential thing that foster parents face is that when the child is first placed with this is assuming the foster parent is the one who is going on to a dominant child. When the child is first placed with you, you're not viewing that child nor should you as your child for life, your forever child. This child is someone else's child and your role is to ultimately support reunification and
That's a different role than sliding into the role of a parent. Now, for some parents, there's it's a gradual process, as the child continues to live with you, the permanency plan for the child is being shifted, you're aware that it's being shifted. So that gives you time to slowly shift get your mind around the idea, okay? That this is probably going to be a child that we will adopt. So I can begin to feel more like a parent to this child and a foster parent to the child. But for other people, they don't do that. Number one, they may not know that it's a gradual trends, they may not know that the permanency plan is shifting, or it hasn't shifted. And then it's only something that happens at the last moment, that makes adoption final, or for whatever reason, they haven't had that. And so they've, they have to shift from thinking they have to have to make the decision of whether to adopt the child, even before that shift took place of whether they want to become the parent versus the foster parent for that child. And that can be complicated.
That's right, because we're expected to love a foster child as if we had given birth to that child is the child were fully ours adopted or biological, was supposed to release that child as if we were the babysitter for the day. And yeah, yeah, we are designed as human beings, we are asked to do this as foster parents. But we are not designed this way. No. And so I think there is a transition, as you said, Maybe when you see that the plan is permanency, that you begin to take on a more of a permanency in your attitude toward the child because we're only human. And that's all that we can do. And, again, embracing that. And then maybe making some special plans with your family to with
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All right, I now want to shift to talking about post adoption depression.
I think it's I do think that that we have talked and I want to make certain that we are not over over shattering the fact that for the vast majority of people, adoption brings mostly joy and that this is is not the norm. However, the research has found similar levels of depression as well as anxiety symptoms in adoptive parents, as in biological parents, and in similar ratings on the postnatal depression scale. So it's a it's similar, it's not the most, it's not the norm. But it's also it's about as often as you will have postnatal depression, families will have post adoption depression. So let's start by by asking what is post adoption depression? Well, post adoption, depression would look very much like depression, feelings blue, it could even have symptoms related to loss of appetite for increasing appetite, loss, weight, etc. Those kind of
different sleep habits, sleeping more, sleeping less, as well as just that lethargy that you may feel even the body aches that come with it. And just, we all know what it's like to be down or to have the blues but it's more than just having the blues or having a bad day, it kind of stays with you and you just don't feel like yourself. And you know that something is really wrong. I might add that in kind of getting a little bit ahead, but that oftentimes people who do experience post adoption, depression, some people call it pa D, is that it's often in people who have a tendency toward depression, you know, a good portion of our population. We suffer from some types of depression. And so you'll it may feel more familiar even to you if you have a tendency to be depressed. Can anxiety increased anxiety also be a symptom? Yes, yes, anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. And of course, we know how our bodies can feel within
side and how that can take over us with. And again, going back to Stress Stress, we think of more or less is increasing anxiety, not so much depression. But when our anxiety is very elevated and we feel completely out of control, then of course we can, it can lead into depression. And some people I've literally believe that is their go to is anxiety. Whereas some people, maybe they're more, they're more inclined to be depressed when when a situation is very stressful. I think one of the complicating things here with postnatal depression, we think of it as being a hormonal, something that happens to your hormones are out of whack after the birth of a baby, and that we think of it as, as having a biological cause. And that makes it hard for adoptive parents to embrace the idea that they too could be suffering from a depression caused by the addition of a child and the family because they haven't had the hormonal upheavals. And I think that complicates oftentimes other people's as well as, as our own ability to honor that we're going through something real.
That's right, yes.
And just to kind of further go on about the anxiety and and being very real, again, going back to sort of these feelings of Am I good enough parent, am I attaching enough, that's going to cause the anxiousness and in that you can start to feel irritated and agitated. And again, if you're adopting a little bit older child, some of their behavior can pick up irritated and agitated, just naturally. I mean, they, they they're often what we call dysregulated. And so that can kind of compound some of the issues. And you can also again, feeling like a failure, you've gone through maybe, particularly international adoption, that oftentimes people don't necessarily enter into that due to infertility. But if you have entered into an adoption, due to infertility, and you're already again, feeling the shame, and then and then on top of that somewhat of a failure, for whatever reason, and then on top of that, you're going to go ahead and feel feel uncomfortable, and that again, leading to to the blues sort of speed, and guilt and shame often going in all of that. And just being overwhelmed, overwhelmed, can make you depressed,
and a total change of your whole life. I mean, and that that total upheaval of regardless if this is your first child are a subsequent child. Oh, Lord, what have I gotten myself into? Oh, no, you know, what we had was pretty good. Now, I've messed it all up. And,
you know, will I ever feel normal again? Will I ever, you know, get back into a routine again? So yeah, oh, that's very depression making, you know, or it could be it can potentially be like this, you really said, What did I get myself into and parents adopt internationally, often, they have spent $40,000 or more in an adoption, and then they also taken off lots of time from work, and they've traveled overseas, and they've gone through mountains of paperwork. Most adoptions include mountains of paperwork, yeah. And then you're even questioning yourself? Did I do the right thing? Do I have regrets about this? And I thought this was the right thing. And especially those of the faith, they said, they'll say, I thought God had called me to this, how could I have been so wrong? This is not working out the way I thought it's so your faith is even question didn't God give me the wrong signal? So you can really see why people are? Yeah, they can actually start to experience some depression. And then again, if I can't hear things, right, or if I got this completely wrong, that's obviously going to create a lot of anxiety as well, when you're like, Am I making my other decisions in my life, right. The other thing too, Dawn, that I really want to bring up too. And I was just recently counseling a client regarding this, who has a PhD, and it was really kind of related to this person's own relationship with a parent and not being able to connect with that parent. And then they adopted an older child, and now they're not he's the dad is not able to connect with the child. And he's feeling like this is like, this is all over. I couldn't do it with my dad. And now I can't do it with my son. And, and so
this can again, bring up lots and lots of issues and these children and I will say they will find your buttons, they will find the triggers that bother you. And of course we're gonna feel down depressed, anxious, however you want to label it. And I again, I it's okay to put a label on it because I think sometimes it helps us to find
And maybe seek the right kind of treatment. But at the same time, just to know that it's normal, quote unquote normal, but yet to do something about it if you are feeling depressed or anxious, but again, going back to these children, you are only human, and these children will, will find parts of you that you never knew were even there. And a lot of times what I say to people is the very thing that maybe your child needs from you, or the areas that you need to work on the life that your child has brought out, or the very areas in your life that you need to work on. And to be a gift. It's a real painful, yes.
And, but if you need to maybe grieve something from your past, or work on a relationship, or work on certain habits that you have, that your child realized is that that's your, that's your weak point, then that's maybe where you need to work on something. But again, it's not always easy, you know, you like your simple life that nobody else challenged you like this, and I got to kind of keep my, my thing, my thing, and now I sort of have to change. Well, that's not very comfortable, you know? Yeah, I will often somewhat jokingly say, growth is overrated.
Thank you very much. I think from what you have just said that post adoption, depression is not limited to women. Dads can also have these feelings, quite frankly, they can also have them through the biological birth, because it's the total change of everything, lack of sleep, and different things. But ads can also have post adoption, depression.
And I think you mentioned that when we're trying to figure out who is at risk, at least one of the factors you mentioned earlier is people who have struggled with depression and other times in their life, they're at higher risk for post adoption, depression, are there other risk factors?
Think I think your preparedness and your self care as well. And your again, we talked about this before your expectations, I think the higher your expectations are, whenever we have things that don't anything in our life, that doesn't meet our expectations, that causes disappointment, that can cause us to feel down and, and eventually into a state of depression. And there's a crease that we also experience, when we have a loss of something, we lost our independence, we lost our time together, we lost the way life used to be I just lost $40,000, because I spent this on an adoption. Anytime we have that we don't get back what we thought we should get back. That is can also cause of course, you to feel down. And I keep saying down because again, like as I talked about attachment being on a spectrum, also, depression is also on a spectrum. So it's not like Oh, yes, I have full blown depression. And you may have, we may just be sad or blue. And I guess which would possibly lead us into self care when you do adopt too well, and also going into it as much as you can, realizing that the first six months are going to feel different. Give yourself a lot of grace during that period. Both you and give your child a lot of grace, that combination, lower your expectations. But that leads us directly into what should you do if you think you're suffering from post adoption, depression? Well, certainly talking with someone about what you're going through, and seeing if this is truly am I really depressed and looking at, you know, with your symptomology checklist that someone can go through them. And you can actually go online and look at it too. It's been a mystery as to what are the signs of really full depression. And especially if you're starting to lose interest in things like if you just find, oh, yes, I know, this child is here. But I really used to enjoy seeing eating certain kinds of food or going for a walk with my wife or whatever. And you're saying, I don't want to do that, then that probably is a really good sign that yes, you really are into depression, then you may want to get some medical consultation. I'm not a real big fan of going on meds. I think there's a lot of controversy there. But at the same time, sometimes minutes could be a bridge is a very unique time in your life. It's a special time, just like if you're going to the dentist and you want a little something just to ease the anxiety. I'm really big on that when I go to the dentist, yes, I'd like a little something to take the edge off, you may need something to go ahead and take the to take the edge off of that. If you feel like a child is really bringing out some real other issues and really triggering you. And maybe you're going to places that you really haven't really wanted to go to. Then I would say obviously some counseling for you as well. Some individual counseling, and then your child, him or herself may also need to be in counseling with you. I'm really about Parent Child counseling, not just sending your child to counseling, but you're being an integral part.
And that is often very important I do theraplay. And I see that a lot of times, parents, obviously they have their own issues that they bring. And and actually through the activities and exercises that we do, a lot of it is healing really for the parents as well. And when you are parenting in your parenting, well, a lot of your own issues can be healed. And not that we're using a child to heal issues. No, but certainly good parenting is very, it is a growth experience.
Yeah, you're using life to help you grow past struggles, and that's in charge as part of your life. Absolutely. So they getting help acknowledging that it's normal, cutting yourself some slack, focusing on self care, during this period, and, and and not expecting it to happen immediately, I think it helps for at least some people to think in terms of, you know, oh, yeah, a transition, that's a week or two, I think it's really helpful to go into this thinking, the transition period is longer than that, at a minimum at six months. And I think that if you set your expectations for a length of time, that makes you more patient with the process. Exactly. And then as you know, you say six months, but let's say a child, before, you're even going to take them to medical appointments during like that, usually a month just to give them a baseline of a child going say from an orphanage to your home. And, and just the developmental strides that they may take even within that month, and then having an assessment. And then of course your child is is growing in many ways and leaps and bounds. And some of that growth and then familiarization with you can also mean changes in personality. So yes, you have that six month transition. But that's like saying with a newborn, oh is a transition having a baby? Well, as soon as you go through six months, now they're crawling and how there is a new transition. Same thing with a child coming from another country, they are changing. And so you may find that, yes, we've entered into a different stage and maybe better and maybe worse, in some ways, again, cutting yourself slack. And then other issues may be coming up as well. The other thing I wanted to say, you know, even going back to some self care, again, going back to cocooning and I kind of mentioned this before that the cookie tuning itself could be good, it could be good for attachment, but it may not be really good for you. And, you know, again, cutting out the world is probably one of the most unhealthy things that we can do for ourselves and for our mental health. And so as much as you want to do that, you also have to go ahead and give yourself a break. Bring in other people will say Oh, yeah, don't like grandma around, don't let this person around. Yeah, that might be good for a couple of weeks. But nobody can live with one person, one child being there all giving person, even two parents, that all giving person to just one person 24 seven, that'll drive you crazy. So in a broad sense of the word,
though, again, kids, give yourself that is not official diagnosis.
Yeah, look, do you give yourself some some real slack as you said, and knowing that certain things are going to have to go especially if you have perfectionistic tendencies get help pass for meals, when people say to you, oh, is there anything I can do for you now that the child has come home, whether it's a newborn infant or a 10 year old? And I know you may have over that sort of guilt, like well, so and so has a 10 year old, they don't need meals brought to them.
You know what? It's okay. Yeah, yeah, you know, what, a couple of meals would be really helpful until a few people that it's okay, hey, if you want to come and clean my bathrooms, it's okay. And I have offered to this relative, I'm going to come clean your bathrooms. Because, you know, I hear from families what they need, I would never have offered that to anybody. What's the matter with you? You have three year old I can't have somebody come clean my bathrooms when I had a three year old, you know, yeah, but hey, that's what that's what people do need and let people know, that's what you need. Yeah, don't be afraid to, to allow to honor this transition period. You are changing your life and and good way. But that doesn't make it easy. So honor the fact that you're going through a big transition. And that comes in that same honor you can give to your child who is also going through a big transition. So yes, thank you so much, largely bovay for being with us today to talk about transitioning home as a newly adoptive parents. Let me remind everyone that the views expressed in this show are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the position of creating a family, our partners, our underwriters. Also keep in mind that the information given in this interview is general advice. To understand how it applies to your specific situation. You need to work with your adoption or foster care professional. Thank you for joining us today and I will see you next week.