So I’m finally getting up the courage to write about Colin’s story publicly. As I said a few days ago, I have been a little conflicted about sharing Colin’s story. On one hand, it is his personal story and I want to protect his privacy. On the other hand, his story affects Christian and me as parents. Ultimately, I hope that sharing his story helps other adoptive or prospective adoptive parents, and I hope that people who have adopted under similar circumstances will contact me.*
Colin’s birthmom, Amy, has a long history of drug addiction, specifically to crack cocaine. She was using when she got pregnant with Colin. She does not know who the birthfather is, but through DNA testing we know he was Hispanic, probably from Mexico. When she was just a few weeks along, she was arrested and spent the first several months of the pregnancy in jail. She was released when she was about five months, and was on house arrest, and living with her sister, Amber. She had to take drug classes and weekly drug tests. She passed all of the drug tests, and she and her sister both swear she was clean during this time. However, she disappeared at the end of the pregnancy. He sister filed two missing persons reports and eventually found her, but could not get her to come home. (Weirdly, the police would not arrest her or make her go home either, even though she was on house arrest.)
Eventually, Amy called Amber and told her she was in labor. Amber found her and took her to the hospital, where she tested positive for cocaine. Colin also tested cocaine positive when he was born, but he was not cocaine addicted and he did not go through withdrawal. He has had some weight gain issues that could be linked to the drug exposure. More recently, he has had some behavioral issues that could be linked to the drug exposure. Generally though, he is healthy.
We took Colin home when he was two-days-old. When he was three-days-old, Amy was re-arrested for her house arrest violations and was sent to prison to serve two years. Her sentence was recently reduced for good behavior, and she gets out next week.
The adoption started as a semi-open adoption. This meant that we exchanged letters with Amy and we exchanged phone calls and e-mails with her sister and Colin’s two half-siblings, but they did not know our last name. They just knew that we were Tracy and Christian in [our city]. I set up a generic e-mail account and I bought a pre-paid phone.
Eventually the secrecy started to seem a little silly. We had developed a good relationship with both Amy and Amber. While in prison, Amy has done all of the right things. She got her GED, applied for and received the PELL grant, and started taking college courses. She also took drug classes and parenting classes, as she hopes to regain custody of her two older children. She has also written to us that although placing Colin for adoption was very difficult, she is very thankful that he is with us and she thinks we are great parents to him. She also expressed thanks that we have kept her in our lives and in Colin’s life, and said that it makes things much easier for her.
Christian and I decided that we were going to tell them our last name, but thought we would wait for a while after Amy got out of prison just to see how everything went. Even then though, we were planning to visit her. Were we supposed to hide our license plate? Take a rental car? We knew they could have tracked us if they really wanted to.
I started using my regular cell phone to call Amber, but I always dialed *67 first to block my number. Then one day I made a mistake. Amber got a new cell phone number and e-mailed it to me. Instead of dialing it into my phone manually, I just clicked on the link in the e-mail on my BlackBerry. Amber didn’t say anything, but I knew my name had showed up on her caller ID.
I told Christian about it immediately, and we decided we should just go ahead and tell Amber and Amy our last name instead of making Amber pretend she didn’t know it. I mean, we were going to do it anyway. This just moved our timetable up a bit.
I do not worry that Amy will try to get Colin back. She will have a lot on her plate once she gets out. She will be on house arrest for a while and then on probation. If she decides she is able to parent, her focus would most likely be on Colin’s half-brother and half-sister, who are 10 and 12. Also, she has no legal standing to get Colin back. She has relinquished all parental rights and the laws are very clear in our state. If she did try to pursue it anyway, we would definitely have more resources to go to court than she would, and I also think we are in a much better position to say that it is in Colin’s best interests to be with us. (Again, I’m not worried about any of this. I’m just trying to answer the inevitable questions that people will have about it.)
I don’t worry that she will just show up on our doorstep either. Although she will only be two-and-a-half-hours away, she doesn’t even have a car. If she could borrow a car, I don’t think she would have enough money for gas. It is sad that money puts us in the position of power here, but it is true. (Again, I’m just trying to answer the inevitable questions that people will have about this. I am not saying this to be a b*tch.)
What I do worry about is that we will not have as good of a relationship with Amy once she gets home. While in prison, she has had nothing but time. I’ve become accustomed to hearing from her and I have a book with all of her letters that I am saving for Colin. I worry that once she gets home, she will have so many other things going on that Colin won’t seem as important anymore. I’m afraid that my feelings will be hurt (for myself and for Colin) if she is not as interested in him.
I worry that she will start using drugs again and that she will disappear, or that something bad will happen to her.
I worry that she will develop a relationship with Colin, and that someday she will disappoint him. What if she stays clean for a while, until he is old enough to understand, and then relapses?
The bottom line is that even though we have had an open adoption, it has been an open adoption under circumstances that have somewhat worked in our favor (given Amy’s history). That all changes next week, and the future makes me nervous, scared, excited, etc. We plan to go visit her next month, and I will definitley update everyone then!
*I really am writing this in hopes that other people in this situation will contact me, or that people will contact me with resources. With Zoe, we are members of a group of familes with children from Vietnam and we see them a couple of times a year. I’m a member of several online groups, some specific to Vietnam and some that are just about international adoption. After writing about corruption in Vietnam adoptions, several people who have the same fears contacted me. I feel like I have a great support network when it comes to Zoe’s adoption, but I don’t feel the same about Colin’s. I would be really interested in connecting with other people in open adoptions, with other people who had babies born positive for cocaine or other drugs, and especially with familes who are navigating open adoptions under circumstances similar to ours.