The following post was written by Shawna as part of our Tell Me Your Postpartum Story series. What makes it so unique and eye-opening is that it tells her experience with Postpartum Depression as an adoptive mother. Here is Shawna’s story…

A Little Background…

My husband and I were married for 7 years without taking official “precautions” that would keep us from getting pregnant. We were never able to conceive so about a year after we moved to Arizona from California, we started the journey to adopt. Unlike most couples who discover they are unable to conceive we never had any testing done to find out why, nor did we mourn over the fact. We simply accepted it. I never mourned not going through pregnancy or labor outside of maybe a few fleeting moments here or there when left out of conversations, etc. So, we did not walk into adoption through grief or pain or loss in our opinion. Adoption was, for us, simply the next
logical step to becoming parents and raising kids. For our first, we chose a private infant adoption through an agency in Phoenix. About one month after being placed in the “match book” for birth moms to look over, we received a call informing us that a baby boy had been born the previous day and asked would we want the birth mom (BM from here on out) to see our profile. We agreed and within a couple hours received a second call and were asked if we could be at the hospital that afternoon. We met our soon-to-be son, his BM and two of his biological sisters. When it was over, we were all given 24 hours to make our decision but by the time we were driving out of the parking structure of the hospital, the pregnancy worker called and said that BM had chosen us and asked if we could come get our son the next day! Gulp. So, no 9 months of preparing and bonding with a baby in a womb. No heartbeats or ultrasounds or anything like that. Just a 20-minute chat with BM, holding our son for about 2 minutes each and then boom! We get to take him home and we are “Insta-Mom and Dad.

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Surprising Effects

That first night and into the next day after bringing Noah home, things seemed pretty calm and normal but then I started to get really emotional. I was crying at the least little thing. I journaled about a lot of this but not in-depth as I’m sure I was overwhelmingly exhausted. I remember feeling my body acting funny and suddenly I started my period. That wasn’t supposed to happen at that time. It seemed like having a baby near me was making my hormones go a bit haywire and I couldn’t keep myself from having little crying moments here and there. Maybe it was being on my period that was making me cry? Either way, it was clearly messing with my hormones. Something I assumed only moms who had given birth had to deal with.
Slowly but surely, the fears that started flooding my brain about the “what if’s” of my baby being harmed were taking over. I checked his swaddle a gazillion times. I re-fastened his diaper half a dozen times with every diaper change. I looked into a special mattress and sheets for the crib that claimed to keep SIDS at bay. The culmination came about one week later when my parents were staying with us. I was starting to place Noah in his crib one night and I couldn’t get myself to walk away. I was stuck there out of sheer fear. My mom was standing next to me and I started bawling, telling her that I couldn’t leave. What if something happened to him? What if he choked or was smothered by his swaddle? What if he died of SIDS? What if I did something inadvertently that caused his death? This torrent of fears came flooding out of my heart and mind and I literally couldn’t move or take my eyes away from my son. My mom spoke soft words of understanding. She held me. She prayed. I cried out, “What if God takes him from us?? What if He lets him die?!” I suddenly had to come to grips with my faith in a new way. I’ve always said I trusted God and His sovereignty will no matter what happens in life. I’ve used trite words and quoted scripture to many people stating this fact and trying to reassure them. Now, it was my turn to have the rubber meet the road. Do I really trust that God is good, His will is good, and that He wants my good and His glory in all things…even horrible things like death? Could I really believe and know that He is good if He were to let my child die? This child for whom we had waited so long?
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My mom left the room, knowing there was nothing more she could say or do. I had to wrestle with God all on my own. I prayed and sobbed and prayed and sobbed. I cried out and begged God not to take my precious son away. I begged that I wouldn’t be responsible for this child dying because I wrapped him the wrong way or didn’t have the right sheets. Finally, after so long, I was able to cry out loud that I do trust Him. That I know He is good and full of glory EVEN IF He chose to take my precious son. I would still praise Him and He would still be all that He promises to be. Wow! I had just physically, emotionally and spiritually handed my son over to my God and let go of whatever control I thought I had to keep him alive and safe. It was a crazy amazing experience.

Adoptive Pressures

 Connected to that, especially if you have an open adoption as we do with our son’s BM, there is a guilt on the conscience of many adoptive parents to protect the child with everything they have and are and to be the best parent ever because the BM or BParents have handed their precious gift to you and if something happens on “your watch” you are fully responsible. That weight is just about impossible to bear and can truly wear on the heart of a new mom in horrible ways. I do believe that that is a small part of why I had that huge “come to Jesus” moment as described above. I was trying so hard to do everything just right for the sake of my son’s BM as well as my own.
In addition, until you are in the courtroom and a judge has declared you the legal parents, you also have the State in the back of your mind, knowing that if you screw something up they can easily come and take that child away forever. Oh goodness. The weight! This is also a factor with bonding. If there is in the back of your mind the fact that at any point during whatever prescribed waiting period your child can be taken away, you simply can’t give away your whole heart to them. At least, I couldn’t and that was with both of our kids (our daughter came to us as a 1-year-old through the foster system).  That added more guilt because how horrible of a woman am I if I can’t say that I have bonded with this child and have fallen in love with them at first sight?  What if I fall fully in love and someone snatches them from my hands? I had to look at my kids as precious littles who needed me to love and care for them but I didn’t necessarily fully feel like I was truly their mom until court day.

 Congratulations, Mama!

Oh, if you heard the guttural cry that came out of me when the judge declared us our son’s parents. The weight of everything I had been carrying – trying to do everything perfectly and keep my child from dying, etc. –  suddenly was released. I was so emotional that I couldn’t answer the judge’s questions at first. It was truly powerful.

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Wow! Thank you so much, Shawna, for sharing your story with us. Adoption is such a beautiful thing, and I honestly never thought of the harder emotions/hormone changes that adoptive parents might go through. Thank you for your boldness in shedding some much-needed light.
For more info on Postadoptive Depression see this article from Psych Central News, and/or this article from The Atlantic.
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