Raise your hand if you tend to overthink things.
Now, raise both hands, jump up and down, throw your head back and yell, “Yes, this is me!”, if you’re an adoptive mama and you tend to overthink things.
Overthinking is a habit that can be dangerous in the best of situations. Overthinking when you’re processing through post-adoptive life is a whole new world of upside-down-sanity-sucking risky business, am I right?
It’s difficult to explain the workings of an adoptive mama’s brain, but I’ll give it my best shot.
Thought: “Suzie has a well-check appointment next week.”
Overthinking: “Suzie has a well-check. I need to make sure to set a reminder on my phone for 1 day out and 1 hour out so that I don’t forget about it like I did last year. They will think I’m a complete airhead if I forget yet another appointment. They say it’s not a big deal, but they’re probably just being nice. Okay. Reminders set. I got this. “
Adoptive Mama Overthinking: “Suzie has a well-check next week! I need to make sure to set a reminder on my phone for 1 day out and 1 hour out so that I don’t forget about it like I did last year. They will think I’m a complete airhead if I forget yet another appointment. They say it’s not a big deal, but they’re probably just being nice. Okay. Reminders set. I got this. Oh! I wonder if I should take her by early to acclimate her to the office environment. Maybe I should take pictures of the staff so that she is familiar with them beforehand. I need to make sure to bring along our sensory items in case she starts to struggle with being in a sensory-deprived environment. I wonder if being at the doctor’s office will trigger any memories from her time visiting doctors before we came to get her. How many days will we spend recovering from this well-check visit? I hope she is on the growth chart this time. What if she’s not? Will we be referred to a new specialist? I wonder if I should start checking out specialists in my area beforehand just in case. I bet my Facebook group will have some good suggestions. Now I’m just freaking out. I know I am. Oh, but please dear Lord in heaven, let them not spring any blood work requests on us, Amen.
Thought: “Sam was invited to Bobby’s birthday party!”
Overthinking: “Birthday party? When is it? Maybe we’ll be busy. Oh, nope, we’re not busy. I guess Sam can go to the party. Note: RSVP soon. Maybe I should just do that now so I don’t forget to. I need to set a reminder to buy a gift. What does Bobby like? Note: contact Bobby’s mom to find out what he likes. I know he’s going to be super sugared up afterwards. I wonder if I can convince Bobby’s mom to make him a cake out of a watermelon like I saw that one time on Pinterest. Note: contact Bobby’s mom to ask about gifts and the cake.“
Adoptive Mama Overthinking: “Oh, look! An invitation! Ahhh… that makes my heart happy! I’m so glad Sam was invited, too. It’s hard when all the other kids are invited and he isn’t. Now, what to do? Should I let him go? Will they think it’s weird if I stay to hang out, too? What types of activities are they doing? Is Sam going to be able to participate in all of them without harming himself or others? I’ll just find out beforehand what they plan to do. Is Bobby that kid who is always really nice to Sam on the playground? Note: ask teacher if this is the case. I wonder if that kid that always makes fun of Sam is going to be there. Is it tacky to ask that question? Who cares if it’s tacky or not. I have to know. I need to set a reminder to buy a gift. What does Bobby like? Note: contact Bobby’s mom to find out what he likes. I know he’s going to be super sugared up afterwards. I wonder if I can convince Bobby’s mom to make him a cake out of a watermelon like I saw that one time on Pinterest. Note: contact Bobby’s mom to ask about gifts and the cake. What if the sensory input becomes too much for Sam? We need to work on a code word he can communicate to me if he’s getting to that point. Will that work? I’m not sure he’ll be able to remember a code word if he’s too wound up. Scratch that idea. I’ll carry a lollipop around in my pocket to pop in his mouth if he starts to meltdown. That always works. That whole sugar thing. Who would have thought? I’m sure glad it does work. Maybe the watermelon cake is a terrible idea. Sam does like cake. Okay, forget the watermelon cake. Note: Scratch asking Bobby’s mom about the cake. But maybe still ask about the dyes in the frosting. I wonder if being at the party will trigger any memories for him. Maybe we should pull out some old pictures from his time in the orphanage to talk about birthdays. Gosh, I remember how it crushed me to see just a few kids enjoying a birthday treat in the pictures while all of the other kids just looked on from the sidelines. We will about how everyone gets to have cake, for sure. Oh! Note: practice handing a gift to Bobby. We can do this. It’s going to be fun! And exhausting. And, okay, actually I have no idea what it’s going to be like but we’re going for it.”
Thought: “Oh look, an email from the school nurse.”
Overthinking: “Oh, no, which kid this time? It can’t have been too bad, she didn’t call me this time. Hopefully they’re not coming down with anything. I heard that two kids in Janie’s are out with strep. We’ve never had strep, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. Maybe I should call the nurse to check. Oh, wait, email says Janie just fell and scraped her knee. Whew. Okay. Now, what was I doing?”
Adoptive Mama Overthinking: “Ohhhhh, no. Pleasepleaseplease don’t let it be about Janie. Oh, shoot. It is. Okay. No big deal. Obviously not. The nurse did not call me, text me, or Facebook Messenger me this time. It’s not that bad. It isn’t. I know it. Although, I do know of a couple kids in her class who were out with strep last week. We’ve never had strep, though. Oh, but what if she is actually someone who gets strep??? I don’t even know! What if her birth parents had strep all the time? I’m never going to know stuff like this. I wish I could. Maybe it’s better I don’t? I don’t know. Has she ever had strep before I don’t remember seeing that in her file. Maybe I should go back and look just to make sure. Oh. Wait. Email says she fell and scraped her knee. Okay. Whew. Not strep. At least not this time. But I probably should still check her paperwork to see if there’s any mention of it. It’s just a good thing to know. I wonder if I should go pick her up and bring her home. I mean, it’s just a scrape, but maybe the extra one-on-one time would be good for us. We could snuggle and bond and attach and stuff. Read books and play with Legos. Or maybe she doesn’t want to be picked up? What if she feels even more different if I go to get her. I don’t even know. I’ll call the nurse. If she says she was happy, I’ll leave her. If she was crying, maybe I’ll go get her. Or at least go eat lunch with her. I should do that anyways. It’s good for both of us. Oh! If I’m going to do that I better go get in the shower. Those people at the school probably don’t even know I own real clothes. Or maybe I should just stick with yoga pants. They are too pants. Says it in the name. I hope Janie is okay. I’m definitely going to go check on her this time. She needs to know her mama cares about every single little boo-boo she has. Shoot. There is no way I have time to wash my hair. Okay. Baseball cap it is.“
It’s a bit silly, I know. But it’s also very real. The brain capacity of an adoptive mama is forced to grow exponentially even though we feel like we’re losing brain cells right and left. I confess that my personal adoptive mama overthinking tends to be a bit much at times. The truth is, I would rather overthink than under-think, especially when it comes to the well being of my newest daughter.
So, if you know an adoptive mama, bring her a candy bar some time. I’m quite sure the science exists to prove that this simple act will calm her brain down.
If you know an adoptive mama, ask her how she’s doing, but don’t let her get away with saying, “Fine!” or “Good!”. Make sure you have time to listen, because once she starts talking, she may just let all of that overthinking spill out and over.
If you know an adoptive mama, know that she could power a hairdryer with her thoughts if she had time to use one.
If you know an adoptive mama, send her text or call her up and let her know she’s doing a good job. Though she may not always believe it, those words do sink in.
Fellow adoptive overthinkers! Hands up! Jump up and down! Who knows? Maybe you’ll start a dance party somewhere, and who doesn’t love a good dance party? (Oh, wait, I don’t… dancing is so awkward… but what if it helps my child…) and the overthinking begins anew.