Colin’s history and our “accidental” open adoption

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.


23 thoughts on “Colin’s history and our “accidental” open adoption

  1. Thanks for sharing, Tracy. I’ll keep you all in my thoughts and prayers as the situation changes. I hope that it continues to be a positive relationship for you all and that Amy’s readjustment goes smoothly.

  2. I have a daughter from vietnam around the same time frame that you had, not sure if I have commented here before or not, but my fears are the same and it is, in a way, comforting to hear someone else speak of the same fears, my family doesn’t get it, they think, oh well she’s ours now, but i have a nagging feeling with me all the time, that my little girl was taken from her parents….it haunts me. What am I going to tell her??? I rarely verbalize this, so I could go on and on, but I won’t, but would like to follow along on your journey of finding things out and good luck with your son and his birth mom.

    • I have been meaning to post on this topic for some time. The second phase of Zoe’s birthparent search starts next week. If we don’t find anything, I think we have to tell her that there was corruption in her province, although we will be careful to say that we *do not know* if there was corruption in her adoption. She will eventually be able to find this information on her own, so I would rather she hear it from us. I have no idea how we will say it though, and I already dread the conversation.

  3. You are definitely brave for revealing all of this. I will hope that the future brings good things for everyone involved and that none of your fears or worries will come to be.

  4. Have you ever read Dan Savage’s book “The Kid”. The birthmother of his child was a runaway and has some issues with drug addiction. I haven’t been able to read it myself (our library only has one copy) but I’ve heard good things about it. I know it’s a strange source but ya never know. In terms of yahoo groups with Adoption Agency research there is the domestic version – you are probably already a member but if not I wonder if there are other folks in a similar circumstance. Or if the moderators of this group would be helpful? Production Not Reproduction is a blogger that adopted domestically – maybe she may have some good sources? Another book I loved recommended by Adoptive Family magazine is “Three Little Words” about a child raised in the foster care system – a young adult book.

    I know this isn’t what you are looking for but hope might be helpful in some way.

    I look forward to following your journey.

    Jill C.

    • Thanks Jill. I had heard of the Production not Reproduction blog, but had not pursued it. Thanks for the reminder and the other resources.

  5. I hope the best for you guys in the coming weeks. I understand your fears about the future. All I can say is, you’re Colin’s mom and will always be his soft place to fall no matter how things turn out. Opening up to someone is almost always a little scary, but it’s the only way to truly experience those joys that come with it. I hope Colin gets lots of those joys!

  6. You know I wish you guys the best! I hope that Amy doesn’t let you, your family and most importantly, Colin, down.
    I know I have my expectations for Stormea’s birth mom set way to high. I almost can’t help it….and I am most often left frustrated and sad by the situation.
    I need to figure out how to keep Stormea’s expectations low (when she is older). I only hope that by the time Stormea understands things…that I have some kind of idea on how to help her handle all this.
    I hope your first meeting goes very well. I am really excited for you guys.

  7. This sounds like love to me! I know it isn’t the same but my ex sounds a bit like Amy – struggling, always, no resources to battle me yet hell if I didn’t spend tons of energy battling him to keep him at arms length! It took me a LONG time to get to the point you are now at with Amy but I’m there with Thanh now too. You are reacting from a place of true love. Love for Colin of course but for Amy too. You worry about Amy relapsing because you care about her and you really care about Colin. You want to protect his heart. You are no longer concerned about protecting yourself. It is no longer necessary. Now its about protecting him and caring about her. Sometimes that means sharing your last name. Sometimes that means worrying about drug relapse or not being as important in her life (concerns I struggle with constantly too). That is love, girl! And how freeing to be able to just love – with all its risks – than the alternative. You are amazing!

    • “You are no longer concerned about protecting yourself. It is no longer necessary. Now its about protecting him and caring about her.”

      Thanks Nicki. I hadn’t really realized it, but that pretty much hits it spot on!

  8. An amazing story and I am so glad you shared. Adoption under any circumstances has it’s challenges and associated fears. None of us adoptive parents are free from it. The more we are immersed in the adoption world the more we see all of its different faces. I would be lying if I said that has not had impact on us as we consider a third adoption. Bottom line: my life is so much richer and joy ridden because of my boys and I wouldn’t change a thing. Colin was meant for your family for a very specific reason. You are SO inspirational Tracy!

  9. We adopted domestically a little over a year ago (very suddenly) and had some unexpected cocaine issues as well at birth.

    I’ve followed your story off an on for quite a while, and it is very similiar to ours.

    Would love to connect via email.

  10. Pingback: Does money have an impact on our open adoptions? « My Minivan Rocks!

  11. Hi Tracy,
    I found your website through DC Adoptive Parents Forum after I posted a message out our open adoption. Was that you or posted the message? We’re in an open adoption with visits with our son’s birthmother and although it isn’t always easy, it’s been incredibly wonderful. I never expected to feel love for her, too. But I love my son so much and I know that she gave him a great start and he exhibits her calm demeanor. Her life is so different from mine and I worry that we’ll lose touch with her. Our adoption agency has not been great about offering any support or helping me through the tougher moments. So I’m also looking to talk to someone pretty candidly about our experience. Maybe you could email me and we could start a dialogue about it?


    • Hi Karen-

      That was not me who posted the reply. What is the DC Adoptive Parents Forum? I am really having difficulty finding resources about domestic adoption, so please let me know if it is something I should check out. I’m considering starting a Yahoo group myself if I can find enough people who are interested.


  12. Pingback: Update on Colin’s birthmom « My Minivan Rocks!

  13. Pingback: Update on Colin’s birthmom « My Minivan Rocks!

  14. True strength is what Christian and yourself have shown here, and I admire your love and support of this little boy that you are even worried about what may happen if Amy hurts him. Unfortunately, the future is out of your hands, and it is extremely unpredictable. However, what is in your favour, is love, because what you have given to this blessing in your life (Colin) is love without measure, and he will therefore always have the best foundation to fall back on, even if he does get hurt. Just keep doing what youre doing, be there, show love, and enjoy your family.

    Adoption will always have heartache attached, because at some point, somewhere, there is always someone feeling rejected, whether it is the biological parent, the adopted child, or the parents. I think your idea of a group is awesome and you should do it. Support groups are the saving grace of many. I wasn’t adopted, but I never knew my father, and when I did find him, I was rejected by him and his wife, and kept as a secret from the rest of the family, rejection hurts, but people like you are there are the healers, and the givers of love for those of us that so desperately need it. Your story is inspiring, thank you for sharing.

    I wish you joy and happiness on your journey, GOD Bless x

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