One of the things that I strongly recommend to new adopting parents, especially mothers is that when you bring your kid(s) home take as much maternity leave as you can. I recommend this for a number of reasons.
One you’ll want and even need to have the time to develop a relationship with your child. Remember it’s common that you don’t have an instant bond with your child. I know even with my bio children, when they were first born I expected this overwhelming feeling of love to gush forth. However, my initial feeling was more synonymous to “oh my goodness I’m a dad! Are you ready for this? (speaking of myself and my child)”. Fear not love develops quickly. But I was surprised at my initial feelings.
Two, just like having a newborn, there is a period of adjustment for everyone. This includes parents. Schedules are rearranged. Sleep is lost. Helping with school work takes longer especially if they don’t know English. In our case, rooms are now being shared that weren’t before. You’ll find that both your adopted and bio children will need more if not constant attention. You’ll see a little jockeying for position – not any different than when a newborn comes into a home with a two year old child. Be patient, be gentle, be firm and be willing to open your heart to everyone.
Three, take a moment to rest. Find away to escape. Make time for an activity that is good for you-that rejuvenates your sole Soak in the tub, read a book, take a nap, exercise, go to a movie. Do anything that will help YOU invigorate your body and spirit and empower you for the next round.
Four, realize you’re not a machine. You’re not Super Mom or Super Dad. It’s ok to have a down day. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to feel like “oh what did I just do to our family”. It’s ok for your children to have those same feelings. The key is rallying around each other with the attitude of “It’s OK. We’re family and we’re going to build our family together.”
Five, get help. If you need help reach out to someone that can help you. Don’t think less of yourself because you need someone to talk to about your concerns, doubts, fears and even successes. Many adoptive parents think they are abnormal if they experience and kind of depression or self doubt. In fact up to 65% of adopting parents experience some form of post adoption depression (see http://adoption.suite101.com/article.cfm/postadoption_depression) . We’ve been very blessed because my brother Chad and his wife Melissa are adoptive parents of three so we have a great sounding board. We also have a very good friend Amy Thompson who works with family issues as a social work with whom my wife can visit when needed.
Remember building a family is process. It takes time, love, patience, tears and a lot of work. But the journey is worth it!