Monday, March 28, 2011

Landed - A Story about Post Adoption Depression

This is an article written by one of our DJ parents. Please note that if you have suffered or are currently suffering with PAD and would like to start a discussion, the mother of this article is willing to do so on the yahoo group, as well as by private email. Remember, you are NEVER alone, so please don't feel that you are. We are a supportive, understandable community and we are here for you! If you or anyone you know is suffering from PAD, please seek the proper support and attention that is needed. If you would like to start a discussion, please leave a comment below or private email

"If you wrote me off, I'd understand it 'cause I've been on some other planet. So come pick me up, I’ve landed."

-Ben Folds

The first year that my daughter was home I was an emotional wreck.

The second year that my daughter was home I spent cleaning up the messes that I had created that first year.

When you are spiraling, you know it. At least I did. It started in October, 2005...weeks before we traveled to China. A dull roar, one that I had never experienced before, started in the back of my mind and grew until it was all that I could hear. It morphed into a paranoid, black mass that settled and would not let go. "How could you do this? How can you do this?" it whispered, and I believed it without really understanding what it meant. I sought help to deal with it, going on medication for anxiety (for the first time in my life), and entering into therapy. I felt like the worst sort of failure....virtual moments before the most anticipated and amazing time of my life, I was dissolving...and I knew it.

I knew. I felt the fault lines forming, and then giving way. I spent the last three days before our flight in my bed, sobbing. My mother came and held me, bolstering me while acknowledging my fears. My husband was afraid for me, and for our family....if I was in this sort of shape here, what the hell was he going to face in China? My friends, the ones that I trusted with my ugly, sad secret shame, were supportive and loving. "You can do this! You have planned for this for so long! Look at her face...she is waiting for her mama!".

"How could you do this? How can you think that you are capable?" it wouldn't stop.

I remember pulling out of our driveway to go to the hotel where we stayed the night before departure....I wanted to run to China, and I also wanted to run back into my house and hide. I was carrying the small, crumpled photo of my daughter that had barely left my person in over two months. Becoming her mother was my greatest hope, and my darkest fear.

It was the most emotionally charged event that I had ever experienced. And I felt I was stealing it from another woman.

S's birth mom landed with a thud into my consciousness when I saw the referral photos...she had been in my thoughts since we had decided to adopt, but in a fleeting, abstract way. After September 1st, 2005 she was there with me, the woman whose loss was now my gain. And I had planned to take advantage of that loss, had paid money, bared my soul, written letters, and prayed for a baby that was the result of loss and probable misfortune in someone else’s world. I couldn't even bring myself to acknowledge her birth father and extended family in those days...the guilt and sadness over her first mom was almost more than I could take.

I tried to explain this to everyone....that I was cheating fate. My body had declared me barren, it had refused the treatments, the tests, and the silent pleading I had heaped on it for years. Fate had told me that I was not to be a mother...but I had found a way around that edict. I had done it by climbing over the back of another with less resources, with fewer ways to protect herself and her heart. Her loss was my gain...the child that she could not raise was going to be my greatest joy.

But where was the joy? I had lost it. The flip side of this raging and sadness was the knowledge that I was taking S away from her birth culture, from the closest ties that she could hope to have to her first family. To maybe walk the same streets, meet the same people. Even with the losses that she had already sustained, I was stripping away the little that was left of her story.

It felt like the worst kind of greed, but everyone told me that I was doing such a wonderful thing! I was so selfless! So caring!

All I felt was weak, a fraud.

Once in China, I realized this was done. I had made this commitment, and had already irrevocably changed S's fate (we all had, really, but at this point I was taking on all the responsibility). When I walked in the Civil Affairs office in CQ, and S was placed in my arms, I allowed myself a few minutes to savor the feeling of her weight, to breathe her in.

The dark subsided for a bit, and another voice came in. "Enjoy her! The best way to honor their loss is to carry them with you as you raise her to respect herself and her story".

That voice? Much easier to like, but also easier to ignore. Self-flaggelation is more my style, sadly.

When we got home the PADS (Post Adoption Depression) set in harder than ever...the dark, cold winter was in full effect, the cozy, safe little world we had enjoyed in China was gone. And I had a confused, sweet, smart, energetic girl on my hands. I was literally paralyzed at times with fear that I was getting it wrong...that her sleep issues were related to her losses, that the sadness I saw in her eyes would never go away, and that she was going to despise me.

That she would recognize me as an imposter.

I kept fighting the dark, kept trying to push it aside. When we were waiting I remember someone saying that they hardly thought of the birth family, that it just wasn't a part of their world. Sometimes I felt like it was all that I thought guilt, my worry for S, and my sadness for the losses experienced on all sides. I played a game where I stacked the things that S had in our world that she wouldn't have had in her life at the SWI (sad, sad example of white privilege rearing its ugly head, and I am almost ashamed to write this)...and tried to bolster myself up with the "bonuses". That perhaps I was doing something good for her, in the face of all that my choice had taken way from her. That maybe she would still love me when she realized that I was a part of her losses.

That maybe I wasn't the monster I had started to feel like I had become.

The breaking point was therapy, which I continued with. I was able to stop the medication, and got to the root of my problems. I was also able to do great work on other areas that had contributed to this cluster of ugly that had filled my mind....losses and issues that were long dormant but just waiting in the corners of my mind. The first year of motherhood ended healthier than I could have hoped for.

Then there was the mess I had created. The friendships that had (and still) suffer due to my anxiety and my worries. The not leaving S because my guilt over being away from her, over leaving her just three months after meeting her to return to work full time. It made it hard to maintain relationships that I miss now, and ones that I hope will survive my blunders. The hurts that created with my words, some are still healing, but all have been tended. The missed messages, the unreturned phone calls, the rejected invitations. ..they all weigh on my mind, and there are still days that I don't have the strength to address them.

Then there is the financial damage. I am paying for it...the spending that I did to ease my guilt, or to just numb the pain. Luckily it wasn't horrible, but it was bad enough. I am ashamed to admit such weakness....but need to. I need to get it out there.

The worst is the physical damage. The eating, the weight, the lack of care for my own body. I stopped caring on so many fronts, like a sort of penance or badge that I was really a mother because I didn't buy those shoes, or that perfume. I was doing it FOR MY DAUGHTER...but not really. I was doing it to punish myself. That is what hurts the most, and this is the hardest part to stop.

Writing about my depression is hard, but acknowledging what it did to those around me is beyond awful. My marriage took hits, definitely. My husband watched me sob on the floor, rage, and just fall apart, and he still loves me. We are doing work on our relationship, and it really is stronger than ever. We are united as S's parents in a way that still rocks my world, and to one another in a way that thrills me and brings a deep sense of warmth to my soul. I am still digging out, and there are days that are harder than others. But I felt like, in order to cleanse I needed to put this out there. Many may read it and wonder "how in the hell did she get past the social worker?" and others may see a small bit of their own story in mine. And maybe it will help someone to get help, or others may stop reading after seeing what a mess I am behind it all. Either way? I feel better, a little every day...and I know that I am not alone in dealing with the darkness.

No one should ever feel alone.

I can only hope to learn from my experiences, to grow from them. To gain knowledge and empathy, for myself and for my daughter. To help her, someday, face her own story. And to help her answer questions, and to hold her every moment that she wants me to.

That is what I can do. I will be there....for whatever comes along. That is what I finally figured out that motherhood is. It is being there, plain and simple. It is also representing for both of us, both of S's mothers. It is the smallest thing I can do, the daily hope that I send out for her first mom. That she has found some measure of peace, of safety, and of health.

She is with me, always. I can only hope that I honor her, and that I get it right for both of us

For all of us.

Post Script-

It was hard to revisit this bit of writing, to experience the pain and the sadness again. We are nearly 5.5 years into our journey as a family, and three years have passed since I wrote Landed. My experience with PAD brought my world into a different focus, and I wouldn’t change that.

Some resources that I found helpful, and that I have shared with fellow AP’s over the past few years are:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Beef & Broccoli Recipe!

We thought it would be really great to share some recipes that you use at home. If you would like to feature your recipe, please send it to: This is a recipe from Krista, our Gracie's Room Coordinator!

Beef & Broccoli

I’ve been making this recipe for years, taught to me by my best friend, taught to her by her ex boyfriend, taught to him by his parents, taught to them by their parents in China. It was the recipe that all the kids had to learned before they could leave home.

I’ve never actually measured out the ingredients before, I’ve always “eyeballed” it like I was taught and I’m going to show you how I was taught, but I'll be kind and post the recipe at the end of the blog!

So gather up all your ingredients:

Broccoli, flank steak, ginger, dark and light soya and cornstarch and oil.

You have to start with a nice piece of flank steak! Around 1lbfor my family! My kids eat a lot! No really, they're skinny minis but can put back a huge amount at supper!

Slice it thinly across the grain, and pile it all up on a plate. A sharp knife is a must!

Sprinkle some cornstarch over the meat, then drizzle some light soya over top and then some dark soya. Remember that dark soya is much saltier so be careful not to put too much!

Next chop your ginger... I love ginger.

Mmmmmm ginger! I always use way more ginger than I should!

If you don’t like ginger don’t use so much, just never used that dried powdered jarred stuff! YUCK!

There's nothing that can compare to fresh ginger!

Doesn’t ginger have some wonderful medicinal purpose?

Did I mention that I love ginger!

Set it aside for now!

Alright, next up is the broccoli!

Chop it, wash it and set it aside! (I sometimes sprinkle extra ginger on the broccoli)

Mmmm.. ginger...

Heat up your wok with some oil and throw in some ginger then your meat.

There is actually an ancient Chinese secret to beef and broccoli.

No no.. really there is!!

It's to keep your meat moving! Keep stirring, mixing. Your arm will burn, it will hurt, and you'll end up with a forearm the size of Popeye's, but keep that meat moving, and you'll see the meat slowly starts to release it's juices.

Set the meat aside, and add a bit more oil to your still HOT wok, and drop in the broccoli

(you can add more ginger if you want)

Add about 1/4 c of water to the broccoli and cover it. Cook it the broccoli turns a nice dark green, but still has some crunch to it and add your cooked beef to the broccoli in the wok.

Now, here is another little secret... you might have some liquid left over from the broccoli you could just ditch it or...shhh here's the secret.. you can keep it aside and after adding your beef to the wok, you can decide if you want the dish a bit more "saucy", by adding the liquid.

Give the whole thing a stir to warm up the beef and serve it on a bed of rice!

This recipe can be made while the rice is cooking and usually be finished before the rice is done!!

So easy, but still oh so yummy!!

Here's the full recipe:

1 1/2 lbs flank steak

1 lb broccoli (about 3 medium heads)

2 heaping Tbsp fresh ginger

1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch

3 Tbsp light soya

2 Tbsp dark soya

2 Tbsp oil

1/4 cup water

Cut the flank in half length wise following the grain, then cut across the the grain to make small, thin, bite size slices. Set aside onto a large plate.

Sprinkle with dark and light soya, and cornstarch. Give the meat a quick toss to cover all the pieces.

Chop the broccoli into even sized spears and wash it.

Chop the ginger and set aside.

Heat your wok on high, about 1 tbsp of oil, once hot add about 1 Tbsp of the ginger.

Fry for 30 seconds to "flavor" your oil and add your meat. Keep stirring till the beef is cooked through. Remove from wok and set aside.

In hot wok, add the remaining 1Tbsp oil and as much of the remaining ginger you would like.

Fry for 30 seconds, and add broccoli.

Fry for 2 minutes and add water and cover until cooked but still firm.

Add your beef to your cooked broccoli and mix till warm.

Serve over a bed of rice.

We hope you enjoy this recipe! Please let us know if you make it and how it turned out for you!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Isabella Update

Last week, I posted about helping Isabella transition to the Bethel Orphanage for the blind and I am so happy to report that we have already seen some very generous donations coming in to support Isabella!

In one weeks' time, we have had $760 donated towards our goal of $5,472!! A great BIG THANK YOU to all who have contributed to our cause thus far. We hope we can continue this awesome support and meet our goals of helping Isabella.

Keep checking back for our progress and watch the ticker at the bottom of the blog!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happenings in DJ

Isabella is a sweet little four year old girl who has been in our Gracie’s Room Program since August 2008. Isabella will be moving in April to Bethel Orphanage, for the blind, but we need your help to make this move as smooth as possible. Bethel is the first and only dedicated organization targeting the Chinese blind and orphan population.

When Isabella first entered Gracie’s Room at 1.5 years old, she couldn’t sit up on her own, but she was able to crawl and also roll over.

5 months after entering Gracie’s Room, Isabella was now able to sit up on her own. She loved to be held in her nannies arms and when she crawled along, she would raised her head up and her nannies nicknamed “little snail”.

Isabella loves to be around people and at almost 3 years old, she started to learn how to walk. She feels safe when she hears her nannies voice, and she loves to hear music and often taps her feet and hands to the beat.

When she turned 3.5 she started to walk on her own while guided. She was now able to balance her body.

She also started making simple conversations.

Isabella is now 4 years old and is very audible, she is able to recognize nannies walking by. The nannies feel she is musically gifted and she sings along to songs.

Bethel Orphanage was founded in 2003 and takes care of only visually impaired orphans. They strive to give them a family atmosphere. It also runs a foster care program (1 caretaker to 3 children) as well as an educational program, where Isabella will not only learn oral English, French and Chinese, but also Braille, daily living skills, mobility, and even piano.

The nannies take care of their daily routines, and the teachers are responsible for their education.

Although Isabella will not be in Gracie’s Room any longer, DJ Kids would like to help Bethel with caring for her. Please help us help her!

In Gracie’s Room we have given Isabella a wonderful start, but she now needs to move on to be able to fulfill her potential! She should be able to feel the grass under her toes and a piano at her fingertips!

We have set up a special fundraiser page for Isabella on our organization's website. You will be able to easily donate to help support Isabella and to also follow along our fund raising efforts. Please take a moment to also share this important information with others you know. Every little bit helps, regardless of the amount.

Thank you once again for your generosity and continued support for the children at DJ Kids! Without you, we would never be able to offer our continued care for these amazing children!