Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Post Adoption Depression (PADS)

Hang on a minute, you have this new family, the child you longed for, fought for, convinced social workers you were capable of looking after and then wham suddenly you feel as miserable as hell. Tired, fraught, stressed out, not sleeping, irritable, feeling worthless, guilty for not being on top of the world and like, well, a pretty crappy parent. First of all, don't worry you are not alone. According to the McCarthy survey Post Adoption Depression can affect more than 60% of all adoptions.
I am not writing as an expert on Post Adoption Depression, for that go and see your GP or other professional but I can tell you about my own experience.

For my first adoption I coped pretty well but since adopting Boy last year I have at times felt like I am going a little bit insane and apparently it's pretty normal. For us lots of things happened within the first six months of adopting Boy. Girl started school, Boy had an operation (4 days before Christmas), we all got ill, my colds and coughs lasted for 2-3 months as I was so run down, Girl's behaviour went through the roof and PAS were called in and confirmed our worst suspicions that yes Girl has Attachment Disorder. All this took it's toll on my mental health. 
As I see it we feel overwhelmed by the reality of bringing our little ones home, creating and nurturing bonds that do not yet exist, dealing with the grief of seperation that our little ones are feeling, coping with behaviours and difficulties that stem from adoption and learning how to parent in probably a totally different style to what we are used to from our own experiences and that of our friends.
It's not easy to totally relax and just go with the flow because our kids quite often cannot accept that sort of style of parenting, every day is 110% effort, every day can be mentally exhausting. For instance the sort of things that have been buzzing through my head are why is my son so happy and different today? is it because Girl has been out all day? have I not been giving him enough attention? how do I balance their needs so Boy can be this relaxed more of the time? because the thing with adoption is that our kids do feel more insecure than other kids and are definitely more needy (even though to our friends and family they seem like any other kids) and we constantly have to be thinking about approaches to help them feel secure. 
Talking to friends and family is hard. Dare you suggest you may be experiencing problems with your kids and you are treated as neurotic, over-zealous, after all kids are kids, kids are resilient, kids forget. My pet hate is someone saying 'oh but all kids do that...', now when people say it I just think to myself (tongue firmly in cheek) 'OK I know why my daughter has this incessant need to find a toilet every single place we go but why does your child do that?' I do agree that all kids can do some pretty odd things but my daughter does a lot of odd things most of the time not just one or two things every now and again. 
Sometimes I wish I weren't so clued up, maybe I would relax more but I stress and worry every single day and it is taking it's toll. I want both of my kids to be well adjusted, happy and most of all to feel secure and safe which according to my daughter's behaviour maybe they don't, yet (see, optimistic that's good right?).
So all of this worry and stress has resulted in me getting depressed, feeling like I couldn't cope with everyday stuff, constantly tired - even after just waking in the morning, crying at the drop of a hat, irritable, restless, anxious and panicky. The key thing was I recognised that I was frankly not myself, that what I was feeling was not right and went to see my GP. I was prescribed anti-depressants but decided that was not for me, I went to counselling and got an hhhmer (total waste of time somebody just saying hhmm to me, I want positive suggestions not silly noises!).
The best advice I can offer is do not be worried about admitting you need help to whoever will listen (OK not random people on buses or the checkout girl at Asda!). Once I had sought help from my GP and admitted to family and friends that I was not coping things got easier, more support was offered which was badly needed, even though I did get a lot of support anyway its harder to ask for help than to accept what is offered.
Talking to my PASW helps because she understands what I am talking about, she helps me differentiate what is normal behaviour and what is attachment disorder related. Writing this blog helps because it puts my thoughts in order. Talking to other adopters helps. Finding the humour in a situation helps (I can usually find a wee bit somewhere if I try hard enough but I really have to coax myself to do that).
I do feel there should be more help and recognition for PADS, maybe I am missing some vital help somewhere (or my GP is) but I am having to recognise why I feel so low and mostly work it out for myself. I have to tell myself I am not a crap mum if I don't get it right all the time and I am learning to relax. I have gone from seriously depressed all the time to mood swings which I guess is a little better.
Tonight I feel pretty good, earlier today I felt unfathomably low but I think that's probably part and parcel of my depression.

Monday, 9 April 2012

We Survived Easter Sunday!

At 7am I was rudely awaken by Girl nose to nose with me, big grin on her face "Mommy, mommy I have a surprise for you!" Boy was on the bed behind me playfully bashing the top of my head bellowing "mommeeeeee, mommeeeee, mommEEEEEEEEEEE". An Easter egg was rapidly pushed into my face before I slipped back into slumber "It's an Easter Egg Mummy" my girl helpfully tells me. I managed to thank the kids, eyes half closed before Boy suddenly realises I have chocolate. A meltdown quickly ensues and I slink off for a bath whilst hubster deals with it, I'm not ready for the world yet.
At 8.30am it is quickly decided that both Boy and Girl are bubbling over with excitement and a little stir-crazy after a day in and that if we stay in the house for another day we might not actually survive the day without turning to Gin so a heated debated ensues between the hubster and I on what we can actually do for the day. We eventually agree on a castle that has some sort of event on featuring Knights, right up girl's street.
So off we go, we get to close to the (small) castle and the traffic is immense, seems that the castle decided it would be a good idea to offer cut price tickets to their little event on Groupon. My stomach flips a little, crowds are Girl's worst enemy but we cannot turn round (even if we wanted to the street was one-way and everyone was going to the castle), Girl is excited about seeing Knights.
The hastily packed picnic includes Easter Eggs and previously I might have rationed the chocolate a little more but it feels so mean even though I do know that sugar and Girl are a potent mix. Very slowly Girl eats her sandwiches minus the crusts and asks for her chocolate egg. I pass it over with some trepidation and wait. Nothing.
On the way home the hubster pulls up at the reservoir for an impromptu ice-cream. I wait. Nothing.
We get home put the Wii on with a set time limit (to avoid the inevitable but-oh's), we ask her to turn the Wii off. I wait. Nothing. We have dinner, Girl finishes dinner and skips off to put her pajamas on with no prompting.
I have to say Girl never ceases to surprise me, this sort of day would normally be a struggle behaviour wise, too much excitement, sugar, crowds but she behaved pretty well throughout. The only clue we got that she might be a bit anxious was some strange noises and whispering to herself in the back of the car. A day to celebrate. Hoorah!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Get Support, Make Friends

I can't tell you enough how important it has been to us to make friends with and talk to other adopters. I know some adopters are of the view that they want their children's lives to be as normal as possible and not centred around the fact that they are adopted but personally for us having friends to turn to who know what we have been through and what we are going through right now is invaluable.

As well as being support for us Girl has a wide group of friends who are adopted and I personally think this normalises adoption for her, she is not the odd one out or different, she is one of many.

You can find support from many different places, computer geek that I am (I was a web programmer before I was a mommy) I personally made friends with a number of people I got chatting to on the Adoption UK forums way back when we were starting out on our adoption journey and a small group of us went through our adoptions at roughly the same time. Strangely (or not) the same small group of friends have since gone through a second adoption within a few months of each other. It gives us a very unique and special bond. Some of those friends live fairly close, certainly within driving distance so we meet up as often as we can with the kids in tow for a coffee, a natter and sometimes to stop a mental breakdown! We keep in touch via Facebook all the time.

You can find other adopters on blogs, read what they are going through and subscribe to their posts, leave comments, you may find yourself leaving a few posts with one particular blogger.

Post Adoption Support
Your local authority/adoption agency probably offers meet-ups, toddler groups, seminars, a great opportunity to meet local adopters and of course if you are having difficulties you can request support from a Post Adoption Social Worker (PASW).

Ask Your Social Worker
My social worker has phoned up a few times to ask us to talk to and meet with both potential adopters and local adopters. You can ask your social worker if there are local adopters who would be willing to meet for coffee and a chat.

Prep Course
Potential adopters are invited onto a preparation group, swap e-mail addresses/phone numbers with the other adopters.

So what do I get from it? If I am having a meltdown (usually because Girl is having a meltdown) and feel I cannot cope I have a close group of friends I can text, phone or facebook for instant support and reassurance that I am not a terrible mother! The knowledge base, ideas and advice I get from my circle of friends is immense, far more information than I could get by reading books and trawling the Internet, most of all I get friendship, understanding, empathy and none of the stupid comments that non-adopters can be guilty of making!

Friday, 6 April 2012

I Guess I Know Where I Stand!

Our PASW has insisted that the hubster and I spend more quality time together, book a hotel go away for the night, get some sleep and a lie-in. Husband is not so keen, he seems to think that every minute of every weekend should be spent with the kids, well that's very nice but I am not for one minute asking him to abandon the kids all weekend, just have one much needed night off every now and again, say twice a year. 

PASW also reckons that to insist we spend all weekend with the kids is not fair on me because I am with them all day every day and I need some TLC of course I nodded furiously in agreement with this. I love my kids but I love TLC too!

I have to say at this point that we are feeling the pinch, along with the rest of the country and the hubster declared after the PASW had left that if he had spare money he would rather use it to treat the kids than spend a night away with me. Well that's me told I guess! (I am pretty certain he didn't mean any offence by that, he just needs to take off his size nine wellies they are not a good fit for his mouth!)

Second Child Syndrome? Nope, Just One Stressed Out Mummy!

It was my son's birthday this week. We did not plan a party as he is only two, he wouldn't remember it and we have had such a stressful time lately it seemed just too much to think about but we did book a restaurant table for close family and bought a birthday cake.

For each birthday of my daughter we have made a scrapbook page, lots of photos with the cake as the focus. We are sitting in the restaurant and I realise we have only gone and forgotten the blinking cake. Holy Moly, it felt as though the world stopped on it axis for a moment. We are so busy keeping Girl in order that we have forgotten why we are there. The first thing that went though my mind was no birthday scrapbook page! Fortunately we are out with friends next week for the day, all adopted children and we will be taking the cake with us and luckily it will still be in date - just! We can always pretend later on that it was planned all along and hope he never reads this!

I do feel sometimes that he does come second best, last night Girl stayed at her grandparents for a sleepover and Boy has been like a different child, the child I see every day when Girl is at school, relaxed, happy and no screaming ab-dabs (my mum's name for his tantrums). 

Much as I do love spending time with Girl I cannot wait for the Easter holidays to be over just so we can go back to our normal routine and boy can get some much needed individual attention again.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

If all else fails crack out the face paints!

For all her tomboyish behaviour my daughter loves nothing more than a bit of pampering and as a bonding session nothing beats it, from fun face painting to a pretty manicure the closeness of the activity, quality one-to-one time together, the sensory elements of skin to skin contact, massaging creams, sniffing and smelling and messing with the lotions and potions and well just the sheer fun of it is like the best therapy my daughter can get. 

Even at the tender age of five I have no objection to  sharing a bit of my make up when we go out, it's a shared activity, it makes my daughter genuinely happy and if a bit of very pale coloured eyeshadow and lip gloss can make my daughter smile then I am going to indulge to my hearts content!

I guess most girls like to choose bath bombs and soaps but for us it just means so much more and can make all the difference to a day, proper good therapy.