Thursday, October 21, 2010


I am going to attempt to write about something that I don't have any personal experience with. I have only read about it. Most of what I have read comes from Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections by Jean McLeod and Sheena Macrae, this is the huge textbook we were required to read for our home study. At first, I did not want to read it, if you saw it, you would understand. It is 503 pages long! Anyway, I did read it, and I am sooo glad that I did, it has been a huge source of information on adoption. I highly recommend it, don't be turned off by the size, though, because you can skip around, or just read what pertains to you.

Anyway, maybe you are wondering what it is I wanted to write about. It wasn't the book, if that is what you are thinking. I want to write about post-institutionalized children, and Post Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADs), yes it is real!

Like I said, I don't write this from personal experience and I am not an expert on it, so if you do not agree with me, please say so.

I have several reasons for wanting to write on this. First, it seems so many parents adopt and then realize they have gotten in over their heads. They just didn't understand the magnitude of problems children have from living in an orphanage. Or they are not willing to work it out. A friend told me tonight that she knows of a family who adopted a 6 year old earlier this year, and are now looking for someone else to adopt him. I do not know this family and cannot assume things about them, but it is just so sad. Sad for all involved, sad that the parents thought they were getting a child that would be so grateful to have a home, to find out that he isn't, and that he has problems too big for them to handle.  Sad that the child is once again being rejected. This isn't the first time this has happened, remember the story of the little boy being sent on a plane back to Russia?

Another reason to write about it is, another family who recently adopted wrote a post and said it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows and she wasn't sure if she should write the truth, because others come back and they have such rosy things to write about. I hope that she does not feel alone, because that would be the worst thing to happen. For everyone to be following along your journey, even donating, and praying, and then you bring your children back, and it is HARD! Not at all what you expected. Your children don't want anything to do with you. One minute they want you to hold them, the next they are screaming and spitting at you. Or maybe they are just super clingy and won't let you do anything else, but hold them.  And then, having to live all of this silently? That is just too much to ask of someone.

I hope that, when we bring Priscilla home, that our friends and family will surround us and be there for us. EVEN if we say we don't know what we are doing, and this is way harder than we expected.

Before reading the book I mentioned, I really thought that it would be dreamy to adopt. That we would become mommy and daddy to a child that didn't have one. I thought she would fit into our family so well. Really, I didn't think she would be any different than our other children. Then I started to read other blogs, and got scared, because some of their children didn't even know how to play. My whole fantasy came crashing to the ground, but it is a good thing that it did.

I did not even think about her loss. And her grief. Yes, she will be getting a family, but she already had a family. And I will be taking her away from the only home she ever knew. Even if it isn't the best home, it is a home.

For every 6 months in an orphanage, a child will be delayed 3 months. And this is for typical children. When we adopt, I think we expect them to love us, we love them, afterall. We have even been praying and looking at their picture for months. But, they have never been taught to love. They don't know what a mommy and daddy are. Except for the many caretakers they had. Will we be like that? Will they think that any friends or family that come over will be the next person to care for them? We took them away from the people, and the smells and the sounds they knew, will someone else come take them away again?

They have no idea how to attach. Because it is a learned thing. Maybe that is why there are books on attachment parenting. When parenting a child who has been in an institution you have to parent completely different. "A securely attached biological child who hasn't been abandoned by a birth parent, would never believe that his mother would ever permanently leave him, for any reason. And primal loss will always be a deep, dark possibility for our internationally adopted children, because the unthinkable did happen to them." -Jean Macleod

Children in an orphanage won't have continual interaction, sometimes they pick up bad habits, just to entertain or comfort themselves. There could be numerous habits, such as rocking, head banging, picking at themselves. They also have to defend themselves from other children and maybe even sometimes caregivers (hopefully not:(. Some habits from that could be hitting, biting, kicking, spitting. They are forced to eat quickly, and even young babies have to learn to feed themselves or not eat. Some children may even be looked over, so they don't get enough to eat. They may have many eating issues because of that.

And don't even think that by adopting an older child, you would be by-passing the waking in the middle of the night. I've always thought children in orphanages would be great sleepers, not sure why I thought that. But, they are still children, they have more issues and fears than most children. They may wake often and cry out in the night. They have learned that no one will come to their aid at night, and that may cause even more fears. Children who are adopted should not be left to cry at night. The ultimate goal is to build attachment with your child, and you cannot do that if you are not meeting every need that they have, even if it is not one they even know is a need. Like getting hurt, they may not come to you for comfort, because it was never something that was done, so they don't know it is a need, but it is.

I could go on and on, of issues that post institutionalized children will have, but I will let the experts do that. :)

Now, something else I learned was Post Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADs). It is much like the baby blues. One reason for it, is that you put all your thoughts and time into the adoption, that the actual child and life were forgotten. And when you spend so much time building trust with the adopted child, you become worn out and stressed. Just as with post-partum depression, it is best to enlist help.

I don't write this to scare anyone away from adopting, only to inform. I hope that this will make people all the more inclined to adopt and love the correct way for that particular child. I hope this will make someone want to adopt a child and show them what love really is. And to teach them that even though their situation was hopeless, that they themselves are not hopeless. 

It may not go this way for all children, we are hoping and praying that Priscilla will have a wonderful caregiver who truly loves her and that she will not have to go through these many issues. But, if she does, we will be ready. And we are in this for the long haul. You won't be seeing my baby on an airplane back to her birth country :)


  1. Hey, Crystal, that is a great post! I never would've thought of all of that! But I think you'll be better prepared since you know to expect these things and that it'll be that much easier because you know. I still remember how surprised I was when I had my first baby that it was so very HARD. No one told me. I think if I had known what to expect I would've been prepared, and not blindsided like I was. Why don't people tell about the hard stuff? It makes us better prepared. Go you.

  2. Thanks, I was worried about posting it, since I am not on the other side yet. :) I should have written TO BE CONTINUED...

  3. It IS hard...even when you've been prepared for it. But setting expectations appropriately is so much better than having no clue of the difficulties. Read all that you can and it will help tremendously. I have a book called Post Adoption Blues that you are welcome to borrow after Priscilla comes home. Another helpful thing is to know that you are not alone in all the emotions that follow adoption, so I really enjoyed hearing others' stories of their struggles. But all of this does not negate the tremendous blessing that these children can bring to a family, so don't let it overwhelm you. Take it all to God and remind yourself of His leading...we just have to trust Him with the results!

  4. You might not be on the other side yet, but your I believe your post is very "healthy", if that's the right word. To be aware of the difficulties that may arise, and adjust to the thought that it's not all peaches and cream, is definitely a good thing! Actually, I thin the very good intentions of "Save an orphan today, isn't she cute?"-thing can backfire when the parents are not as well informed as they should be- and alas, the plane bac to Russia. Sad, for all parts involved.

    But there are so many sunny stories too. And probably (I'm not an expert either!) a lot of "Hard at first, but then better and better"-stories... which isn't unfamiliar to birth mothers either ;-)

    You are certainly preparing for Priscilla in the most careful way. She's a lucky girl!!

  5. I just wanted to say thanks for posting on this subject. I'm glad to find out more about Down Syndrome, adoption, and how we can support you more. = )

  6. Crystal,

    You are quite right that adoption is not all sunshine and rainbows. There are parts that are really hard too. It might encourage you to know that the bonding and adjustment period tends to be a lot easier for children who are two and under. My parents have adopted 14 children, and I have adopted one, and there seems to be a sort of wall right around three years. They have had some older kids adjust well, and they have had some little ones who struggled, but this seems to be the general pattern.