I woke up that morning paralyzed by fear and dread. It had been just under two months since my then foster daughter had moved into our house -- two intense months that had turned my life upside down. Two months of her almost-daily meltdowns: I'd been physically attacked; I'd been called a "f**king b**ch." I'd watched my biological daughter transform from a happy, open child, excited about getting a new sister, to an angry, cornered animal who believed her life had been ruined by the intrusion of this new, dangerous influence. Numerous times I'd had to pull the car over when I was driving to stop these girls (nine and ten years old) from physically harming each other.
And it wasn't even just the sum of these parts that pinned me to the bed. Something else seemed to have been activated in me. It was as if my foster daughter's trauma had triggered some latent trauma in me. My fear and anxiety, though somewhat justified, were out of proportion with the relatively low level of actual threat presented by this nine-year-old girl. Was it really my own fear I was feeling in every cell of my body? Or was it her fear, activating my mirror neurons in response?
I can't say for sure, but I know that on that morning I couldn't bear the thought of her scowling face and tense body. I couldn't face that ticking time bomb. "I can't do it," I said to my husband through tears. "I can't even get out of this bed."
My husband, my hero, flew out of bed and took action, getting the kids ready for school on his own. Whatever obstacles he encountered that morning, he shielded me from them. As the car pulled out of the driveway, I lay in bed with a single phrase repeating in my head: "I will never be okay again."
It's typically called post-adoption depression, but in many cases, as in mine, it strikes in the period after placement and before finalization of adoption. But call it what you will. It brought me to what was perhaps my darkest moment, a moment in which I understood every mother who has done the unthinkable, abandoning through one means or another her sacred role as loving protector and caregiver. I didn't want to be a mom anymore. I couldn't find love and affection in my heart. I only felt fear and a desperate grasping for survival. I wanted to run away, to save myself -- and yet at the same time that very idea was abhorrent to me. So there I stayed, in bed; my adrenaline was pulsing and yet I couldn't move.
Today, my family couldn't be further from that place of despair. Those two girls who were at each other's throats are the happy, affectionate sisters who like to sleep in the living room on Friday nights, staying up late painting each other's nails. (No, they don't get along all the time -- no siblings do -- but they get along as well or better than average.) The foster daughter I couldn't bear to face that morning is my much-loved adopted daughter. Far from being a source of dread, her face is now one of the things I most look forward to seeing when I get out of bed in the morning. She lights up my life in countless ways.
How did I get from there to here? The short answer is that I reached out and got help, and I was fortunate to have resources that I could draw on. Also, time passed. Among those dark days there eventually appeared a bright day, and then another, and another. Eventually the light became the norm again.For more on this topic, please read Five Things I Did To Get Through Post- Adoption Depression
Rebecca Hawkes blogs is an adoptee and adoptive mom. She blogs about adoption from both points of view at Love Is Not a Pie.