I was prepared. I was ready for everything that I have encountered in the last several years, from my placement, to my wedding, to my pregnancy after my placement. I researched, I reflected, I weighed the pros versus the. cons in every decision that I made. I knew that I would be sad, and I knew that I would feel fulfilled, and I knew that in the end I would have happiness.
Until I wasn't prepared.
The hard thing about life is that no matter how ready you think you are for something, reality smacks you in the face. This reality came to me after my youngest child was born. My husband and I had planned her from the beginning. She had a beautiful room in the house that we had purchased, our families were ecstatic, and I could hardly wait to finally have a baby that I would be able to bring home. The weeks flew (OK, they dragged) by and before we knew it we were at the hospital getting ready to have a baby.
My enthusiasm gave way to exhaustion somewhere around hour 17 of a 24 hour labor, but when it came time to deliver my daughter, I was able to complete the task. We were elated and completely in love. Life was wonderful.
Until it wasn't.
Several hours after her birth nurses discovered that my daughter wasn't doing as well as we had thought. This led to an emergency ambulance transport, a NICU stay, and me leaving the hospital with empty arms, yet again.
I think this is where it started for me, the anxiety. It got worse when my daughter got home. All I could think about was losing her. I was overwhelmed by a crippling fear of something terrible happening and losing my motherhood all over again. I would hardly sleep, spending my nights watching over her, making sure that she never missed a breath. When my daughter would cry, I would tremble, clenching my hands, and pacing through the room. I would do my best to please her as quickly as possible, but at times it just seemed impossible. I would find myself in the middle of a room, crying, hyperventilating, knowing what to do, but being unable to do it.
I realized that I had a problem when I quit leaving my house. I would take my baby to the grocery store when it was absolutely necessary, and I found myself wrapping her tightly to my chest in a baby carrier, never willing to risk a disaster, regardless of how small the gamble was. I was on constant alert, viewing the world as one dangerous situation after another.
After a particularly rough week, I made an appointment with a psychologist. When I left my first meeting with her, I brought something with me; a diagnosis of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I was shocked. I have never been to war, I have never seen death, I have never been a victim of sexual assault, I don't fit the mold of someone who would suffer from PTSD. At least that's what I thought until she told me that many birth mothers suffer from this, usually after it is triggered by a life event (like the birth of a child). I have an incredible open adoption, and I have never once regretted my decision. However, the experience of placing a child was most definitely a trauma and I've come to see that it will continue to influence me for the duration of my life.
The great news is that PTSD is can be treated quite effectively with talk therapy. During my sessions (and outside of them), I worked hard with my therapist to rewire the way that my brain perceived things. It was difficult and it took a lot of work, but as time went by I became more outgoing and less fearful. After “graduating” from counseling I have been able to resume all of my previous activities. I enjoy going out to places and no longer view the world as one enormous accident waiting to happen.
I guess that what I'm trying to say by sharing this, is that if you ever are feeling like I felt, it is not your fault. It doesn't mean that you made the wrong choice by choosing adoption and it certainly doesn't mean that you did something faulty. I worry that other birth moms feel the way that I felt and don't get the help that they need. Adoption can be a wonderful thing for some, but it is also overwhelmingly difficult, and there is no shame in needing help, no matter how long ago your placement was. I received counseling for PTSD over 3 years after my adoption. I had no signs prior to the birth of my youngest child. I was secure in my decision, and happy with my life. I had everything going for me, and was ready for anything that life was going to throw at me.
Until I wasn't.
Has adoption affected you in ways that you never anticipated? What are they, and how have you been able to work through them?