Helena Waits for a Family

January 16, 2018 0 Comments

This beautiful little girl is Helena, is 7 years old and is listed with Holt International!

Helena has spina bifida, including sacrococcygeal meningocele and tethered cord. She is an active girl who can walk, stand on one foot, skip, and catch a ball. She can draw a person, tie her shoes and pick up a peanut with chopsticks. Helena is described as a talkative girl with a ready smile who speaks in sentences and has strong communication with others. She likes listening to music and playing with toys.

Please contact Holt Internaltional’s China Program to find out more about adopting Helena. She would be a priceless addition to any family!

Nothing Wasted: Life After Post-Adoption Depression

January 15, 2018 1 Comments

The story I’m about to share is my battle with depression and anxiety that intensified after our first two adopted children came into our lives. I could share so many funny and sweet tales of our family and our precious kiddos, and I hope to have the opportunity to do so in the future.

I live a full life with a terrific husband and 7 tiny individuals whom I love to the ends of the earth and back. Our days are full of schooling and giggles and meals and laundry, with a sprinkling of tears and forgiveness and redemption thrown in for good measure. This story is significant and deserves to be shared, but it’s important to say that this specific post is the story of a broken Mama and her healing; not the story of her adopted sons or their shortcomings.

My husband and I have three biological children and began the process to adopt a child from China in December 2012. One child turned to two and, 12 months later, we prepared to board a plane, thrilled at the realization that our one and two-year-old sons would soon be in our arms.

In hindsight, I think my battle with post-adoption depression/anxiety began sometime during that 15-hour plane ride. Which I know sounds funny, considering we were still pre-adoption. However, by the time we landed in South Korea, a heaviness had settled in my chest threatening to steal every next breath from my lungs. “We are too far away. If our kids need us, it will be days before we get to them. What if something terrible happens to them while we’re gone? What are we doing here? Something terrible is going to happen.”

These phrases and questions played like a record in my mind during the 17 days we were in China. Over and over and over… taunting me for my horrible decision to leave my babies behind. And maybe even for my decision to interrupt our “perfect” life in the first place. Waiting to board the plane to Beijing I had the first of many (in country) panic attacks. I was so overcome with fear and anxiety that I couldn’t remember why I had flown around the world to begin with.

The day our boys were placed in our arms played out in much the same way. Twelve months had led up to this moment, yet I wanted to start running down the streets of Zhengzhou as far as my legs could take me. “What if I wasn’t enough for these children? What if they didn’t even like me? What if they needed more than I had to give?”

I look back at pictures of this smoggy day in December and see as much fear in my eyes as I see in theirs.

I do think I held onto the hope that things would get better once the pressures of China were in our review mirror. Unfortunately, our first 18 months home were some of the hardest I’ve experienced. One of our new boys screamed through most of our China trip, a good portion of the 36 hours it took us to get home from China, and the majority of his first 6 months in our house. He also wanted absolutely nothing to do with me and wouldn’t even walk past me in the room for 3 months. He refused to let me pick him up for 6 months and only tolerated my touch (with clear distain) for a full year.

I was in one of the darkest periods of my life, questioning how this would ever work out in the end. I couldn’t see God working, and I had ZERO trust that our story would have a happy ending. All I knew was that my many expectations had put me at a clear disadvantage to parent a child who had experienced so much trauma in his short life.

I was fully trained that he may dislike me. However, I never expected to feel so disconnected from him or to wonder every day if I would ever love him the way he deserved to be loved.

One of the biggest mistakes I made during our first 6 months home was thinking that, if an adoption story doesn’t “end” with happily ever after, then it shouldn’t be told. So, I stayed silent. I told myself that not wanting to return to church was rooted in the cocooning of my boys, when I actually just didn’t want to have to answer the question “How are things going?” I couldn’t imagine anyone wanted to hear a story that had so much mess and so many loose ends. Especially after our faith community, family, and friends had all rallied around us in such an amazing way to help get our boys home.

All the adoptive families I followed on social media and in blogs seemed to portray a life that just wasn’t the one I was now living. I carried so much guilt for the things I felt I wasn’t doing “right” (whatever that meant) and the feelings I was yet to feel towards my new sons. Guilt for all the ways I felt like I didn’t measure up; that I just wasn’t “enough”. Guilt for all the feelings that I knew were perpetuating my sense of hopelessness. The adoptive community loves to quote Joel 2:25 where the Lord promises Israel, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the locusts were continuing to plague one of my boys, even during his first year in my care.

In May 2016, after a day of more “hard” than I thought I could handle, I sat next to my husband on the couch and blurted out that I thought our children would be better off without me as their mom. If I couldn’t figure out how to parent our boys through the darkness of depression and anxiety, and if this guilt was going to be my constant companion, then they would be better off if I wasn’t here with them. I could see on his face how much those words shocked and horrified him, but they also shocked and horrified me much more than I expected. When had I become resolute that this situation could not be changed?

On that night, I clinched my teeth and decided that my new way of living was not okay. My husband deserved more. My biological kids deserved more. My tiny boys deserved more. But most of all, I deserved more. If healing was ever going to take place, and if I was ever going to attach to my son, then something had to change.

I shared all of this to say, we serve a God who loves to restore and heal His children! Upon a lot of soul searching, prayer, research, and input from doctors, I came to a better realization that I have dealt with acute anxiety since childhood, exacerbated by traumatic events (but none so traumatic as my first-year post adoption). I made an appointment to see my family doctor, who prescribed anxiety medication. Obviously, medication in and of itself is not the magical cure for post-adoption depression, acute anxiety, or much of anything else for that matter. I am also very stringent about self-care, prayer, essential oils, being discipled, time in the Word of God, etc. However, for me, medication cleared my head enough that I can usually tell the difference between having a bad day and being a bad mom.

The guilt still rears its ugly head from time to time, but the quietening of the chaotic self-talk has allowed space for my Jesus to whisper words of truth. I still struggle with one of my boys, but the Lord has caused new growth on dead branches. Because of this, I am no longer silent.

I said in the beginning that this was a story about me (and not my children), but that’s not even true. The story I shared today is the Lord’s story that He has invited me to play a part in it. It’s messy and beautiful and broken and restored. And He is still working in and through it… today, tomorrow, and always.

Looking back on our first China trip, I barely recognize the faces of my sons. They have come so far over the past 4 years, as have I. Because I refused to believe the lies that I was undeserving to mother my 5 treasures and I put in the work to restore my health, God added two precious daughters to our family through adoption in June 2016 and July 2017.

I continue to have the pleasure of experiencing firsthand that we have a God who is always at work because He is so very passionate about us. What “the locust ate” in all our lives will be redeemed and restored.

Nothing our boys have experienced and nothing I have experienced will be wasted, and I pray that we will use every bit of it for His glory.

guest post by Tanna

Post-Adoption Depression: Finding Our New Normal

January 13, 2018 2 Comments

After a family’s dossier is logged in and they’re officially LID, our agency provides a resource packet containing information about what to expect in the coming months, different scenarios for Gotcha/Family Day, what travel will look like, and more. When we received that packet for our first adoption, of course, I practically memorized it. That is, except for one of the final pages, entitled Post Adoption Depression Syndrome.

My husband, Derek, and I actually remember commenting on it, something to the tune of “that’s a thing?” and filed it away with a stack of papers to go through later. Both of us were confident that it wouldn’t be an issue. After all, we were adopting our first child, I would no longer be working, by all accounts our son was happy, healthy, and fairly easygoing.

I didn’t see how I could possibly be even a tiny bit depressed, because we finally would be home with our son. I wasn’t naïve; I knew there would be adjustments and bonding for all of us.

But depression? Anxiety? Not here.

When we got home, I felt like I was on top of the world. We were going to have such a great summer, and I’d be such a great mom with a schedule, and play dates, and reading books, and trips to the park and the zoo and ice cream and… you get my drift.

Jet bonded to us incredibly quickly, and we loved him instantly. We were once asked if it felt like we were babysitting, and we answered no, we were his parents. One day we weren’t, and the next day we were, and that was that.


I thrive on routine.
I like predictability.
I crave control.

Parenting an adopted child with a special need does not allow for any of those things.

There are a number of little things that contributed to my slow decline in mental health, but here are a few that stick out:

Six weeks after being home, our CHD-repaired son went from a congested cough to gasping for breath in less than five minutes, which earned us a trip, transportation included, from our prompt care to the hospital ED. No one had ever told me that with his heart condition we should bypass prompt care. I had zero idea what to do in these types of emergencies. I only knew first aid and CPR — not helpful in this situation.

Cue feelings of worthlessness.

A few weeks later, we visited the library where I used to work for Toddler Time. Jet didn’t listen to any of the story, refused to stay in the little toddler area with toys, and instead was intent on destroying every shelf at his height — and there were a lot of them. He screamed when I put him back in the stroller while I tried to fix everything and just leave. A fun outing turned into a toddler-made disaster.

Cue feelings of extreme irritability.

Around this time, a very good and trusted friend — who has not adopted but recognized something was off — kindly tried to tell me that I should make an appointment with my doctor or suggested seeing a therapist. By this point, we had been home almost four months, summer was over, and I was hanging on by a thread some days, but I had it under control. Thank you for the advice, I’ll take your words into consideration. I’m fine. I was dropping weight and living on caffeine, but I was functioning just fine.

Cue extreme weight change.

Two days later, we found ourselves discharged from the Emergency Room again, with the same song and dance from August. My husband was picking up prescriptions and I was crying and rocking our sobbing, vomit-covered son because that’s what would happen when he would have these breathing episodes.

As soon as Derek came home, I handed him Jet so I could wash all of the dirty linens and myself and, while still crying, asked, “Was this a mistake? Should we have adopted? I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Cue feelings of powerlessness.

The following week, other than bringing Jet to the pediatrician, which made me break out into a cold sweat even though it was a beautiful 75 degree day in October, I didn’t leave the house, at all.

Cue not wanting to be around other people.

The week after that, I barely got out of bed except for basic necessities like the bathroom, or changing diapers, or making Jet breakfast and lunch. We watched a lot of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I couldn’t sleep because every cough and noise woke me up. I couldn’t eat because I felt so sick from my lack of sleep.

Cue sleeplessness.

If you would have read any of my posts on Instagram or my blog or our Facebook group, not even an iota of what was really going on behind the scenes was revealed. I knew there was something wrong with me, but more than anything I hated (and still do) admitting weakness. I suddenly remembered, vaguely, that our agency had provided information on this thing called Post Adoption Depression.

I found the printed out version, somewhere in the mounds of paperwork, and realized how many of these symptoms fit my current situation. I texted that same friend, who then brought me two chocolate donuts and a number for a local counseling center and psychiatrist on her way home from work. I made an appointment with that doctor and a therapist, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and we worked to find a solution that would help.

I just wanted things to go back to normal and, I finally realized, I couldn’t do it by myself.

I now see a therapist on a semi-regular basis. Sometimes more frequently, sometimes less. We’ve identified triggers, and work on ways to get past the roadblocks that still occasionally pop up and take the joy out of raising our strong and brave boy. My husband has worked on ways to understand why, sometimes, I just need a time out.

I’ve found hobbies that are just mine, and friends that understand when some days I can’t just can’t. I also take medication, and will for the foreseeable future because, for me, the depression and anxiety that manifested after we adopted Jet are not just “in my head.” Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Sometimes, it can be treated with therapy and counseling, and other times your body needs help balancing the hormones that cause it.

The biggest thing I’ve learned? There is no shame in either of these treatment options. None.

Over a year later, and less than six weeks away from adopting our second child from China, I reread the page about Post Adoption Depression. I know the signs to watch for. My husband knows the signs to watch for. In fact, here’s the list of some symptoms of PADS, so you know the signs to watch for (courtesy CCAI Resource Packet):

• Loss of interest in being around others
• Often on the verge of tears
• Difficulty with concentration or making decisions
• Fatigue and loss of energy
• Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
• Significant weight change
• Recurring thoughts about death or suicide
• Excessive guilt
• Feeling powerless
• Feeling worthless
• A sense of hopelessness
• Loss of enjoyment
• Irritability

If you google Post Adoption Depression Syndrome, one of the first hits is that it is not formally recognized by the medical community. Let me assure you, just because it might not be official does not make it less real. If you are finding yourself suffering from any of these symptoms, talk to someone: a doctor, a therapist, a counselor, a friend, a pastor. Your agency or social worker should also be able to provide assistance.

And – this next part is more important — if the first person you try to talk to doesn’t take you seriously? Find someone who will. Anyone that will listen. I will. And I’m sure there are a whole bunch of other adoptive moms that will too.

I didn’t have a support system of adoptive moms in place for our first adoption, but I do now. I talk to them on a daily, almost hourly basis sometimes. And if you think you need professional help, do not delay. Many counseling centers have therapists who actually specialize in adoption or parenting a child with special needs.

Adoption is not for the faint of heart. Adoption will test your patience, your will, your mettle, everything that makes you you, but it is so very worth it. A lot of people will say you need your mental health for the sake of your children. But you also need it for yourself.

I remember in the midst of trying to find the right medication and going to a therapy session, I texted my (same) friend that I just wanted to be normal. I wanted things to go back to how they were before — before I felt like my entire life spun out of control.

And she almost immediately texted back: “You won’t.”

Before I could get over the shock of that reply because, hello, that wasn’t the helpful or supportive response I was looking for, she texted again: “But you’ll find your new normal.”

She was right. We have found our new normal. It’s completely different than what we anticipated, and sometimes issues still come up. But even still, it’s better.

And in six weeks, we’re looking forward to finding our “new”, new normal when we welcome our newest addition.

– guest post by Mary: email || blog || Instagram

Crossing the Line

January 9, 2018 2 Comments

36.9990° N, 109.0452° W is the only place in the United States where one can stand in four states at the same time. This was not always the case in US history. The boundaries of western territories shifted over the years, morphing into different shapes. Lines were crossed, crossed out, and redrawn as people fought …Read More

Life Books: Memories Forever

January 7, 2018 4 Comments

For me, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is when I want to throw myself into lots of projects. Many projects I have put off all year and I feel this huge push to get them done. This year two of those involved printing my blog into a book and creating Calla’s lifebook. I …Read More

EB… You Lose.

January 5, 2018 1 Comments

Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) is a group of inherited genetic skin disorders. There are five major types of EB and within each type there are subtypes. People affected by EB are often called Butterfly Children when they are younger as their skin is as fragile as a butterfly’s wings. Though it is a debilitating, painful, and …Read More

Waiting for You: Fia

January 4, 2018 0 Comments

Beautiful Fia is waiting for her family to find her. She is now 2 years old, but her report was written when she was only 18 mo old. Her agency (CHI) has asked for an update. Fia was found when she was 10 months old. In her report as an 18 month old, Fia enjoyed …Read More

No Hands But Ours Reader Survey 2018

January 3, 2018 1 Comments

The arrival of 2018 is extra special for those of us around here. Because 2018 marks ten years for No Hands But Ours. That’s right, in October, NHBO will officially turn ten years old. We’d love to hear from you, our readers. We want to know where you are on your own adoption journey, what …Read More

Waiting for You: Applebee

January 2, 2018 0 Comments

Applebee just turned 1 year old and waiting for a family. Born 9/2016, Applebee is postoperative for congenital anal atresia. His file states hearing loss of both ears; and left ankylotia (Stricture or imperforation of the external auditory meatus of the ear.) He is a Children’s House International Partnership file, with a Special Focus designation. …Read More

A Few of Our Favorites

January 1, 2018 0 Comments

Happy 2018! It’s a brand new year, bubbling over with possibilities and, most likely, a smidge of regret and hope to make a few changes. Maybe some of those hopes include reading more. Or getting connected with other adoptive families locally or online. We’ve put together a few of our favorite (adoption-related) things: books, websites, …Read More

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The content found on the No Hands But Ours website is not approved, endorsed, curated or edited by medical professionals. Consult a doctor with expertise in the special needs of interest to you.