When You Name It You Can Claim It – P.A.D.S

I remember a week or 2 after Ava was born, a colleague came to visit me at home one evening. I was sitting on the couch, rocking Ava, desperately trying to get her to fall asleep. She walked in, took in the scene in front of her and said what just about everyone, who had met us as a family of 3 for the first time after a long journey of trying:

“How’s it going MOMMMEEEEE?”

With major emphasis on the Mommy part. She was thrilled for Walter and I, as was everyone, for Ava’s miracle arrival in our lives.

All I could manage was a half hearted “fine” as a response when in fact all I wanted to do was burst into tears.

I remember for the first few months after Ava’s placement, in fact I’d go so far as to say, the first year after Ava’s placement, feeling out of sorts, cloudy, tearful, overwhelmed, inadequate and yes, depressed. But I felt immense pressure, because of the long and painful journey to this point, to hide how I was really feeling. I felt ashamed and embarrassed that here we were living the dream and everyone expected that I should be walking on cloud 9 and instead, I felt so depressed that I felt physically sick on the inside, I just wanted to hide away from the world, I wanted to isolate myself and us from the world, while we somehow tried to figure all this confusion out.

I remember sharing with a select few of the people closest to me that I wondered if it was possible to have PND, even though I hadn’t been pregnant. I felt that bad.

I remember one night, somewhere at about 3am, after about 5 hours of trying to get Ava to settle as she was wracked with cramps and colic (only now I realize this was probably as a result of the stress she was experiencing post placement), Walter, pacing the room, our longed for daughter cradled in his arms, as he continued with the rocking marathon. I remember him looking at me, wild eyed and overwhelmed and saying to me that he thinks perhaps he was just not cut out to be a father and hearing him wonder aloud if it was possible for him to have PND?

And the resounding answer is YES! But it wasn’t PND that either of us had, it was P.A.D.S – Post Adoption Depression Syndrome.

I only recently came to know of P.A.D.S. I wish I’d know about it earlier, it would have gone a long way in helping me feel better about myself, about my mothering skills and about the guilt and embarrassment I felt over how depressed I was feeling.

P.A.D.S symptoms include the following:

a combination of symptoms that may include: depressed mood, irritability, diminished interest in most activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia, or sleeping too much, feeling worthless or excessively guilty, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts. The severity of PAD may vary and should be taken seriously if you have five or more of these symptoms during a two-week period. Whether an incapacitating depression that requires treatment, or simply “the blues,” PAD is a very real phenomenon.

Some survey’s and studies have found that up to 65% of adoptive parents struggle with some level of P.A.D.S and that the studies into the causes and treatments of P.A.D.S is now where the studies into P.N.D were 10 years ago.Which means that there is a long way to go before this syndrome is recognized and/or understood by society at large.

Which interprets into very little understanding from my support system into how I was feeling. Had I been pregnant and birthed Ava myself, people would have sympathized and supported me through my P.N.D. I would have been given medication and/or counseling and the necessary tools to help me manage it. But because I had (I’m convinced of it) P.A.D.S and I couldn’t name it or claim it and no one around me knew anything about it, I didn’t get the support, both professional or otherwise, that I probably needed to get me through that difficult period.

I was on the Infertility Support Forum a few days ago, and a waiting-to-adopt-mom asked what to expect when finally getting the placement she longed for and I felt compelled to share with her what I have learned about P.A.D.S.

I only wish there had been someone who could share this with me when my turn came.

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  • Reply Lea White

    I’m so glad that you managed to get through those very early difficult days and that right now you can simply enjoy your little miracle!

    September 15, 2011 at 10:34 am
  • Reply Nisey

    Sharon, I went through something similar and until today i didn’t know it had a name! Luckily my friends and therapist were so supportive and they helped me through the dark days. My hubby on the other hand took to the adoption so very easily and was able to take the pressure off me a lot of the time.

    September 15, 2011 at 11:11 am
    • Reply Sharon

      You were very fortunate to have that kind of support Nisey. It must have gone a long way in helping you find your feet!

      September 15, 2011 at 2:24 pm
  • Reply Mash

    As beautiful and amazing and incredible as a placement is, I think everyone underestimates the toll it takes on all involved. I was struck by the part where you said “only now I realize this was probably as a result of the stress she was experiencing post placement” about Ava. I think being born is stressful enough for a baby as it is, going from safe warm, dark and automatically fed to suddenly having to breathe, eat and find a way to get comfortable, and there is so much adjustment they go through even without the placement stress! On some level adopted babies must realise that the voices and sounds are somewhat different. And then you having zero time to prepare and plan… oh my word. In those early days I just so badly wanted to reach out and hug you all!

    September 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Prior to her birth, we were encouraged by our SW’s to limit the number of visitors in the first few days and weeks after her birth and also to talk in soft, muted tones around her so that she could become familiar with us and our voices. For 9 months she’d only heard her BM’s voice and her BM’s mother and father, then she went through the stress of birth, and natural at that, followed by within hours, being taken from everything that was comfortable and familiar to her and being sent helplessly on her way with complete strangers. There was nothing familiar about us. In hind sight, I realize how immensely stressful that must have been for her and would probably account for a lot of the issues (colic, cramps & restlessness) we battled with for the week’s after she was born. Interestingly, her restlessness and inability to relax and sleep started after my baby shower, where she spent an entire day being passed around, cuddled and held by strangers.

      September 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm
  • Reply waiting4amiracle

    This post comes on a day when I am wondering the same thing myself. I need to write a post about it……….

    September 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      I look forward to reading your thoughts. This is an issue hugely misunderstood by many and as a result there is little sympathy or forgiveness for those of us who struggled with PADS and I know I’m not alone in this.

      September 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm
  • Reply To Love Bella

    so you know i love u right? well my feelings have quadrupled.
    i’ve still alot to say on the matter and i’m gonna link to this posting when i can unscramble my brain enough to make sense on what is going on in there.
    i can only hope that it is read … erm … you know…

    September 15, 2011 at 1:52 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      I look forward to reading your post LM, just know, you are not alone battling with this issue.
      Having said that, the only reason I wrote this post was to help any “waiting to adopt moms” to try and spare them the anguish, guilt and shame of not being able to name or claim what they were feeling. It was not as a justification to anyone who chose to judge how (badly) I coped with my transition to motherhood. That ship has sailed.
      Love u long time!

      September 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm
  • Reply Tan

    I did a lot of research when I was placing T and these were some of the things I came across (PAND and placement stress for T) and I was very concerned for T’s mom as we share the same character of being brave and taking on too much. I spoke to my social worker and she assured me that T’s mom was aware of this. as for placement stress this is why I wanted T’s parents in delivery so she could start to bond and get use to them. I also feel the new legislation which says adoptive parents cant take the baby home in the 60days is so wrong. Now the babies have to get use to numerous people not just their parents. I do understand why the legislation was put in place but I don’t agree with it.

    I’m glad you are raising this issue as it is an issue and people don’t accept that Adoptive parents also suffer from PND or as its now know PAND.

    September 15, 2011 at 3:24 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      There are loop holes in that legislation as it does not state that the AP’s can’t be the babies place of safety so a lot of SW’s are now placing babies from birth using the reasoning that the AP’s are the place of safety. I do understand the legislation to some degree, it is also to protect the AP’s from excruciating heartache should the BM revoke consent.

      September 16, 2011 at 9:29 am
  • Reply tzipieastwest

    Thanks for sharing this so honnestly Sharon !! I have read about PADS in the magazine “Adoptive families” which I subscribe to. It seems like it is very common in many adoptive families, I would recommend this magazine to prosective adoptive parents.
    Still, reading and experiencing are different things !! So, if I am to go through a bout of PADS, I will e-mail your your support …. OK !?
    RE: post placement stress. I also believe this is something very real that is not taken “serioulsy” …. Personnally and at this stage of my journey, I also think about post placement stress (in International adoption) where there is also a dimension of grief and what to say about the trip in an airplane with a young baby for whom his new parents are in fact “strangers” … then different smells, food, lights, people, voices, languages, nappies, washing powder, toileteries ….. The more I think about it, the more I realize we will need time and love and support !!

    September 15, 2011 at 4:04 pm
  • Reply St. Elsewhere

    Glad that eventually you DID find that what you experienced was associated with it. I am not glad you experienced it, but still.

    I keep on writing of this particular fear that grips me now and then, and it was only on the last post on the topic that Mash said it was a sign of PTSD. I had not figured that out at all. It was only when she said and I searched around I came to know.

    Take Care!

    September 15, 2011 at 4:07 pm
  • Reply charne

    I am interested that u got told to limit visitors etc due to ava only been familiar with her bm etc but we were never told that, strange hey. Makes sense though.

    September 15, 2011 at 7:38 pm
  • Reply Tan

    Hi Sharon

    T’s adoptive parents got told no visitors in the hospital and I thought that strange but it makes sense now.
    I also did a lot of research before I decided to place T and I read about PAND then. I was worried about T’s Mom and my social worker said not to stress. But it was a concern for me I wanted her to be aware so she could get help if she needed it.

    I also was worried about post placement stress for T which is why I decided to place her for adoption and not foster care. (and I was offered by many people to care for her till I was ready to raise her) but I couldnt do it as I didnt want her to be confused and passed from person to person while I sorted my life out.

    Im very glad you have done this post as its again something that needs attention.

    September 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm
  • Reply Tracy

    Sharon, this post is exactly why I nominated you for the Mommy blogger award. I’ve just come to from your latest “groove” post. You have the honesty to express what so many adoptive mums feel. I wish I had read this 3 and a half years ago. I didn’t have PADS with our first son but I most certainly had it with our second son (even though I didn’t have a name for it until recently). At the time I thought I was being an ungrateful wretch who couldn’t get her act together but luckily my therapist at the time referred me to a psychiatrist who changed my anti-depressant meds and that helped considerably.

    I think you are awesome. I’m sooooo glad I found your blog.

    May 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm
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