When Your Child’s Birth Parent Struggles With Addiction

Our daughter’s birth mom has a drug addiction, and this leaves us with some delicate questions to wrestle with as we raise her.

Kathy Asbery September 07, 2016
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This is a hard topic for many of us. Our children come to us with different stories and we have to be careful on how much we share of that story. What parts are theirs alone? What parts can we share to help others? It is a difficult balancing act.

Our daughter’s birth mom has a drug addiction. She abused many different drugs during her pregnancy with our precious baby girl. She has gone to jail many times due to her drug use and interactions with the law. What is the story that we will tell our daughter? What parameters will we set on the relationship when her birth mom is using and not safe? These are a few of the things we have struggled with through the past four years.

When our daughter was born, she was “bagged” afterward to catch her first urine and feces so it could be tested. This was very stressful to me. To see this tiny six pound baby with a plastic bag around her lower extremities. To find out the answer of what we may be dealing with. But upstairs in a hospital room was a young woman with a c-section cut who was also worried. She wanted to know if her baby was healthy. Did she do anything to hurt her? Would she be smart? Would we still love her even if drugs ran through her system?

See, this is the core of addiction. It is a compulsive, physiological need for a habit-forming substance, even when it is known to be harmful. Without help, our daughter’s birth mom will continue down this path. Jail has not changed her behavior, her family’s support has not changed her behavior, short stints in rehab have not changed her path. She feels she needs drugs to get through her daily life. Even when they take away from her the very things she desires. Love, money, stability, friends, a roof over her head, family, and her daughter. Our daughter.

Setting limits is so important for us. Our daughter’s birth mom knows that we will write to her when she is incarcerated, but she does not have the privilege of receiving pictures. They are something she can have access to when she is out. We have talked with our daughter’s birth grandmother about this rule and she supports us. I do not want pictures of our daughter hanging in jail. The thought of that breaks my heart. It may seem heartless of me to some, but it is our rule.

One of my biggest concerns is when and how much to share with our daughter about her birth parent’s drug use. Since studies show that adopted children whose birth parents abuse drugs are twice as likely to abuse them as well, there is real concern. What can we do differently to make sure our little one does not head down this same path? How can we protect her? Not from the truth of her birth, but from the negative aspect of addiction. Her birth mom has a problem; she is not a problem. Her birth mom was still able to put the desire for her baby to have a different life first. To place her baby into our arms and lives. To make sure we will love them both through things in life. And we do. Even when things get hard. Even when we have to set hard lines in the sand. Because our main focus is on this little girl we all love, through it all.

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Kathy Asbery

Kathy is the busy mom to four kids and a part-time weight loss life coach. Holding a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology has helped her not only in child rearing and surviving breast cancer, but through the adoption process as well. Her favorite saying is: Live the life you love, and love the life you live!


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