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Post Adoption Depression Print
Wednesday, 06 December 2006
Experiencing post-adoption depression? You are not alone.


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Too Stressed to Sleep Print
Sunday, 03 September 2006
I live in the country. The neighborhood is made up of 2-3 acre plots of land; enough to have space but also enough to feel the close security of a neighbor nearby. The neighbors on all sides are about ten years older than us, which means our home with children is usually the noisiest one, the other homes being relatively quiet except for the occasional barking dog.

Until last night.

About 1:30 in the morning, we were awakened to the sounds of angry, 4-letter-words, and yelling. “Get the **** off my property!” This was quickly followed by a series of door slams and more yelling. We sprang from bed to the door, attempting to figure out where the voices were coming from. The voices would come and go, but we finally oriented them to the home directly behind us. My husband recalled a problem there several years ago between the parents and a teen child. Satisfied that this was an issue of yelling with no one in imminent danger, he returned to bed and was soon emitting sounds of restful sleep.

For me it was an entirely different story.

I knew a large field and a fence separated us from the feuding neighbors. I felt confident that the issue at hand was a family dispute of words and that no one was in immediate physical danger. Yet although my thinking brain told me that no one was in danger, my fight/flight/freeze center was on alert. I listened intently to the night stillness, occasionally pumping my adrenaline when I’d hear a dog bark, a door slam, or a now quieter exchange between the neighbors. I considered all the doors in our house, mentally ticking off each one and whether we’d remembered to lock them the night before. Again, although my rational brain told me I was safe, another part of my brain fought against it, keeping me awake as I lay in bed, waiting for the sounds of footsteps on our porch. My mind debated. Should I shut our bedroom (outside) door? No, it’s too hot in here. You’re safe. But maybe I could sleep if I just shut it. No, there's nothing to be scared of.

About an hour later, a vehicle squealed down the length of the neighbor’s driveway. One party left. All was silent. At that point, I could finally “turn off” the anxious buttons in my brain. I set aside my hypervigilance and was able to sleep again.

How many of our children live in this constant state of high alert, their rational brains forever fighting a losing battle against their fight/flight/freeze centers? I felt immense anxiety even with my adult brain and experience. What would it feel like to be an infant or toddler in a constant state of stress? Based on all the early transitions many adoptive children have, why wouldn’t they have sleep disturbances or hypervigilance? I wonder how much I would have paid attention last night if someone had tried to teach me something new or told me to “pay attention” or “follow directions.” It felt horrible for me to be in a state of hypervigilance for a few minutes; what would it feel like to be in that state all the time?

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Co-Sleeping Worries Print
Tuesday, 08 August 2006
During our pre-adoptive parenting classes when our social worker suggested that we plan to have our child sleep in his own bed soon after arrival, I was secretly relieved. Although I’d slept for short periods of time with my newborns for nursing purposes, I did not sleep well during that time and did not want to start the whole “family bed” thing.

When my six-month-old son arrived home, he made the decision even easier. When we tried to co-sleep with him in the first few nights home (in an effort to mimic the conditions he’d slept in with his foster parents), he’d startle and awaken every 30 minutes or less. With our caseworker’s encouragement, we moved him to his own bed and allowed him to “cry it out” for short periods of time. Within a few weeks he was sleeping great and the threat of co-sleeping was long behind me.

Or so I thought.

Seventeen months, several therapy sessions and dozens of night terrors later, we were game to try again. For six weeks both of us struggled to learn how to co-sleep--I, to learn how to remain unconscious enough through nightmares & night terrors & flailing arms and legs that I could function the next day; and he, to learn how to trust me enough to make it through the night. Even during our early days of co-not-sleeping, I had fleeting thoughts of worry. How will I ever get this child out of my bed? He was already almost two. What was I doing, trying to start a family bed at this late stage? Quizzical looks from friends and family let me know that I wasn’t the only one with this question. But desperation leads one to uncharted waters; in this case, I just hoped I wouldn’t still be sleeping with the fish when he was 18.

It took a while for both of us. But there came a day when I could nod off to sleep with a small warm body pressed against my side, his toddler breath against my neck. Over time, I found myself looking forward to nights. His body began to trust me, seeking me for comfort and matching my breathing patterns, even as he slept. The nightmares and night terrors grew less and less frequent until they diminished altogether. I’d sometimes awaken in the middle of the night, surprised to find him half lying on my chest, virtually hugging me in his sleep.

After a year or so, he “graduated” to a toddler bed nestled against my side of the bed. I missed the baby breath on my neck, but would still sometimes awaken to find that he had slid into bed next to me, his arm again curled around me, his body conformed to mine. Yet, over time, this happened less and less. No more night terrors. No nightmares. No awakenings. Only the sound of deep, delightful breathing. Then I had new thoughts. How will I ever allow this child to leave my side?

I half-heartedly participated in the planning. We bought a bunk bed. My older son and my 3-year-old sleeping companion crawled all over it, making plans for “their room.” They scooted into bed at 8 p.m. that night, thrilled to be “bunk buddies.” At 10 p.m. my older son wandered out. “Help! He won’t go to sleep!” Once again, I was secretly thrilled. I got my little bundle and carried him off to the toddler bed, where once again I got to hear the rise and fall of his baby breath.

The day before my son’s 4th birthday, the boys begged to try it again. I rocked my little guy, but instead of tucking him in beside me, I carried him across the hall to big brother’s room. Then, I waited for big brother to come wandering out. No one came.

I waited.

And waited.

Finally, curiosity sent me to their room. All was silent, except for the rise and fall of big boy breath. Two big boys. Healthy, happy, trusting boys.

I have only one worry left. How will I ever sleep without him?

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Connection Between ADHD & Trauma Print
Saturday, 05 August 2006
Julie Beem has another blog called ADHD-What's Trauma Got to Do With It? on adoptionBLOGS.com that I'd encourage folks to read, especially if parenting an adoptive child with ADHD.

We hear about higher percentages of adoptive children having ADHD. Some of these children, when evaluated by professionals who specialize in adoption, are found to be hypervigilant rather than truly being hyperactive. The distinction is profound, especially when looking at appropriate treatment methods. Medications often fail to have an effect when hypervigilance is the symptom and trauma is the root cause.

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What We Can Learn From Rat Foster Moms Print
Saturday, 05 August 2006
I was intrigued to read What We Can Learn From Rat Foster Moms by Julie Beem on adoptionBLOGS.com.

I encourage you to read this article...then go find your kids and give them each an extra hug and cuddle today.

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