Another Big Adoption Decision: Substance Abuse

In addition to the race decision we have to make this week, we also have to make one more pretty big decision:

How much and what type of alcohol and drug exposure we are okay with during pregnancy.

Holey shit, this is something we never considered prior to this whole adoption thing. We always just knew, that our child would not be exposed to any dangerous anything during pregnancy. Of course, we thought we knew this, then we had 5 miscarriages and realized that maybe we cannot control everything in life. Clearly the joke is on us, eh?

Anyways, essentially we have to check off what we will accept for each substance during various stages of the pregnancy. Something like this:

 

Early Pregnancy

Throughout Pregnancy

Alcohol

□Low   □High

□Low   □High

Cigarettes

□Low   □High

□Low   □High

Marijuana

□Low   □High

□Low   □High

Methadone

□Low   □High

□Low   □High

Cocaine

□Low   □High

□Low   □High

Heroin

□Low   □High

□Low   □High

Methamphetamines

□Low   □High

□Low   □High

 

We’ve found that every adoption agency we have spoken to have tried to convince us that drugs and alcohol are typical in the adoption world and that we have to accept this as part of adoption. They say things like:

What were you doing in university? Presumably you were at least consuming alcohol.

Typically those who choose to place their children up for adoption live risky lifestyles which means drugs and alcohol are normal.

If you don’t accept some sort of drugs and alcohol you will wait forever and possibly never get a child.

We have felt a lot of pressure from every agency to accept that we have to adopt a child with some sort of exposure to something. We have really struggled with this attitude. Like, really struggled!

I’ll admit, I am a bit lost when it comes to drugs. I’ve never been into the drug culture, so I really don’t know much asides from the fact that they can be very addictive and really aren’t good for a person, let alone a fetus/baby.

So, what have we been doing to help us make this decision? You guessed it, we’ve been researching. (Check out this website as a good resource if you are looking for additional information on substance abuse during pregnancy – http://www.motherisk.org/).

So while the adoption agencies keep telling us we have to accept drugs and alcohol, we have chosen not to accept this as reality. We have always know the idea of drugs and alcohol is not something we are interested in. With certainty, we have always known that we would only accept minimal use of some drugs and alcohol prior to confirmation of pregnancy. Beyond that, we are not interested. From the start of our road to children, we have always said we wanted a healthy child, and in fact one of our biggest concerns about adoption has been our fear of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). In fact, that’s one of the main reasons we continued to try on our own, because we knew we could prevent FAS.

(As a side note, I should state that yes, we know a child could be hurt and life may not go to plan, but we want a child who is given a fair chance at a healthy life from the start. Honestly, I know that if we had a child with FAS I would forever harbour anger at the birth mother who made decisions to destroy an innocent life in favour of her addiction/choices. Whereas something like autism or a brain injury from a car accident wouldn’t result in the same emotional response. For me, there is a very clear difference. And, I will add, I’m not interested in dedicating my life to raising a child with FAS just to raise a child. I am amazed and awestruck at those who choose to, but I know for us this is outside of our comfort level.)

Anyways, needless to say we are comfortable with our decision. The other day for the first time we heard something from adoptive parents, who just happened to be pediatricians, which really spoke to us – if it wasn’t something we would have done ourselves, we weren’t prepared to compromise. In a way, for the first time in months we felt validated by our position on this. This was the first time, someone had supported our position, and we were grateful for this.

Our decision to limit substance abuse may mean a longer wait for us. If so, then so be it, we will wait.

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67 Comments on “Another Big Adoption Decision: Substance Abuse

  1. I know this is a highly controversial topic to post about, and I appreciate the courage it took to do so. DW and I have also discussed whether we would be willing to accept FAS or drug-affected babies if we went through adoption, and having taught kids that have come from similar beginnings, we both do not think we could do it. Some people can, and I commend them, but we feel the same way as you and Mr. MPB do.

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  2. I have a friend who adopted two children who have significant disabilities due to the birth mother doing drugs (cocaine and who knows what else). It’s an uphill battle for her. She loves the kids for sure, but she’s constantly dealing with behavior problems, impulse control issues, and a host of cognitive delays. I really do admire her for being able to raise these kids, but man is that not for me. Good luck to you as you do your research. I hadn’t really thought about these things before–that most kids from adopted mothers would have some kind of exposure to drugs and alcohol. I really admire you for doing your research and knowing full well beforehand what you do and don’t want to deal with. Raising a child is hard enough…

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    • Thank you for reading, sharing and encouraging Leslie.
      I to admire anyone like your friend who wants to and can help children with these problems. I am thankful there are people who do have the ability, the world needs more of them.

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  3. I admire that you didn’t cave in to what all the agencies are telling you. You know what will be best for you guys, and your ability/comfort raising a child. I like what the pediatricians told you!! You shouldn’t feel pressure with such a huge decision, and I kinda think it’s wrong that they do that to you.

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    • We can be very pretty stubborn people, and on this specific decision we know we need to hold our ground. I am interested to see how hard we are pushed to open up the options during the homestudy. Not that we will, but I’m still curious.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I believe every person considering adoption has to decide what they are comfortable with. It is ultimately your decision and for no one else to judge you. I have friends that adopted two kids from the same birth mom who used drugs. The oldest child doesn’t show any affects of it but the younger child has behavioral issues. I know it’s a challenge for them but I’m amazed at everything they’ve done for these children. I completely understand your viewpoint though and if I were to adopt I would have made the same decision. I hate that these kids are born with no control over their parent’s drug and alcohol intake yet these parents keep popping babies out. I feel like we live in a cruel world most days.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your friends experience and your thoughts. I always love to hear how other people are making these decisions and coping with the long term implications.

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  5. This is a great post. Every family goes into adoption knowing what they can/cannot or will/will not be able to do for their future children. I think it is wonderful you and your hubby know what type of lifestyle and upbringing you can provide for your future family. This isn’t to say that you’d be great with a child who may have development issues, etc, but don’t feel bad or guilted for not choosing that path. (I hope this makes sense) if my hubby and I were to adopt, we would probably do the same route you guys are, not because we don’t care, but because we know what we could offer to a child. I hope this all make sense. The main point is that it is a tough choice, but there is no right or wrong here. You are doing what is best for you and your family!!

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    • Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. You are so right about needing to do what is best for us. The decisions like this that we make now will have long term effects on every element of our lives, so we absolutely need to be confident in them

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can totally understand this decision. You don’t want to start a beautiful family with deep resentment. Xo

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  7. I appreciate how candid you are throughout your journey 🙂 I can understand the FAS issues – by no means was it comparable but I was a Big Sister to a little girl with FAS and it was challenging. I can’t imagine it full time. It broke my heart and I too had resentment towards her birth family but still knowing that her parents too had FAS and that pattern was borderline cultural. It’s hard. Side note: I have frequented motherisk.org on a variety of topics – it’s a good resource.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience with FAS. I can honestly say I don’t have much first hand experience, just the reading we have done. So, I greatly appreciate hearing about your real life experience!

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  8. You have to do what you are comfortable with! We were open to some of the less long-term damaging substances, but we knew we were not equipped to deal with Something like FAS. Plus, if you know it will be difficult not resenting the birthmom’s decision to abuse drugs or alcohol, avoid it. Kids have enough questions about their adoption and need to explore those freely without a negative bias. I would have had a hard time being as open to our kids questions if I knew they were being abused in utero.
    Go with your gut!

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your experience – I am always grateful to hear from others who have already walked this path. You make such good points about how we will handle questions in the future if we knew about in utero abuse – honestly, we hadn’t even thought about that implication and I am glad that you brought this point up.

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  9. Hearing about the pressure from the agencies made me feel angry. But great job on your part – you listened to your gut and dug in your heels! My heart goes out to the children who suffer these things, but at the same time it is not anyone else’s responsibility to clean up the messes that some irresponsible undeserving fertiles create. ESPECIALLY after all you’ve been through.

    Although I’ll likely end up child free not by choice, I firmly believe a cornerstone of good parenting is knowing your limits. So good for you – keep standing proud!

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I completely agree about having compassion for these children. And I am thankful for those who do choose to help, but we know our limits and need to stand by them.

      Like

  10. Isn’t it such a relief to make the decision and put it behind you? I dislike the emotional churn of indecision. Another arm of this decision are the genetics that come with having parents who were addicts. There is an incredibly complex constellation of genes that promote anxiety/depression/addiction. It’s very likely the child will have a heavy predisposition towards addiction. As an addict myself it took me a long time to even consider passing my genes on. I’d hate to see our child grapple with substance abuse. I’m far into my recovery but it still takes a lot of my time and attention. If M were able to have children we would absolutely be going with her egg. As it is we picked a donor who doesn’t drink and reported a family who doesn’t drink due to religious beliefs. (Of course, Murphys Law dictates we’ll have an alcoholic with far right religious beliefs) Am writing a post of this very topic. Congrats on having another decision in the books and good luck making the rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make such a great point here about the genetics, even if the birth mother doesn’t have an addiction. Thank you for sharing and making me think about something new. That’s a gamble we just have to take as we will never have that level of knowledge. But, I can take that gamble over actual FAS.
      I’m looking forward to your post!

      Like

      • I wasnt clear. I meant that even if the child escapes drug/alcohol related harm they are far more likely to manifest addict behavior due to genetics. If youre drinking/drugging during your pregnancy youre really deep into your addiction. And probably the father is a using partner. Most of us addicts dont have a wide and rich social group when using.

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      • Sorry, I just re-read my initial comment and I actually understood what you meant, but typed “even if the birth mother doesn’t…” I mean to say even if the birth mother does….
        Oh well, it sounds like we are on the same page. 🙂

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  11. Oh my gosh, that chart is crazy and makes my heart race just looking at it, so I can’t even imagine how hard this decision must be. I say hell yeah to you guys for knowing what you can and can’t accept, and I’m so glad you met those pediatricians who essentially said the same thing. There’s so much about adoption I didn’t know until reading your posts. I never would have guessed that alcohol/drug use was that prevalent throughout the mothers in the adoption community. I guess your agencies’ explanation makes total sense as to why this is, but wow. These are some seriously hard decision. Wishing peace and clarity as you go through them all. Xo.

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    • I’m so happy I’m able to share some of this adoption info with the general public, I think awareness and factual information is soo important and yet we’ve struggled so much to get it. So, I am so happy someone is actually learning something about adoption from all of this! In fact, you just made my evening. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I just can’t imagine how difficult of a decision this must be for you, along with all of the other decisions you never thought you would have to face. But I think you are doing a great job handling everything. Never be ashamed of any of your decisions. You always need to do what is best for you and your family. Sending you hugs and praying for you to have continued peace and wisdom as you travel down this unfamiliar and bumpy path of adoption. Love ya!

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  13. I understand your decision. Without having gone through the same thing, I think we’d make the same decisions. Raising children is hard enough without always wondering, “is this because of what his/her first mom did?”. I would always wonder that. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your understanding. I do worry that no matter what I will always wonder “is this because of what the birth mother did.” I hope with time I’ll get over that.

      Like

  14. Wow, what a crazy thing to even have to think about. I couldn’t agree more with the advice you got from the pediatricians. I’m glad you had the strength to stick to your guns and make the decision that is comfortable for you.

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  15. This is a scary one for us. If we want to adopt a baby from foster care there is a pretty darn good chance that the baby will be exposed to drugs and alcohol and we have to accept that. It’s terrifying.

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      • I truly admire your courage to write about this topic. I know many of us think these things, but rarely have the courage to blog about it. I can truly respect your decision and if adoption (or foster care) are in the cards for T and I, we will have to think about it too. I think I have a unique perspective though.. I was one of the children. My mom used alcohol, smoked, and used cocaine when she was pregnant with all four of us kids. She used throughout my entire childhood as well, so my exposure was pretty great. So I do feel like my position might be different, but that is because of my background. I do think you need to own your decision and I’m happy to see that you are sticking to it. Honestly, adoption will be hard enough without added struggles. Sending you lots of love and support. I’ve really been enjoying these updates.. gives me a lot to think about as well.

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      • A Calm Persistence, thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts. You really do have such a unique perspective given your mother’s exposure. I am so thankful you are willing to share this perspective with me.
        And thank you for your love and support, and encouragement to keep sharing about our adoption process.

        Like

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  17. I drank two martinis (pretty weak, they were happy hour specials!) before I found out I was pregnant (and I knew at 6 weeks), and felt AWFUL about it. Most of my birthmom friends are the same way. I think it’s weird that agencies would make it seem like a baby born to a mom who isn’t abusing substances is unusual! There are so many medical issues that can arise; I can’t blame anyone for wanting as fresh of a slate as possible, especially when drug issues (especially FAS) can be so devastating. On the other hand, all babies deserve loving homes, so extra props to those who take on those special challenges.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing this Evie! Both Mr. MPB and I love hearing that many birth mothers do not drink and engage in drugs during their pregnancies. We’ve adamantly believed this, but it sure is nice to hear it from someone who knows. Thank you!

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  18. I’ve seen a few posts recently that play upon the concept of compromise and how often we are judged for setting standards or knowing our limitations. I love your stance and I think it’s very honourable that you are sticking to what is right for you and your husband. I had never looked at it that way, but it’s true. Becoming parents to a child that has been affected by substance abuse puts a whole new spin on your life.

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    • Thank you so much for your encouragement. You are so right that becoming parents to a child that has been affected by substance abuse greatly changes our lives. I admire anyone who can do so, but we just aren’t those people. And to pretend to be something we are not will only result in long term problems for everyone, so there is just no point.

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  19. I’m surprised at the outright blatant messages you’ve gotten from some agencies. I know there are reasons for them, but they sadden me. I’m glad that you were able to make the decision that was right for you and feel good about it! ❤ Wishing you all the best!

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  20. Good for you for standing your ground on this issue. I think I would do the same. I believe in setting up the child for the best possible start too. I just love that statement “if it wasn’t something we would have done ourselves, we weren’t prepared to compromise”. Shame on the agencies for pushing you on this.

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  29. I admire your honesty, here. I think there is a strength in acknowledging and accepting what you and your husband are able to handle. Of course all things are not within the scope of control and of course you would handle it and you would love that kid no matter what, but we are not all equally equipped to handle disability, cognitive impairment, etc. I’ve been getting a lot of horrified reactions to my husband and my decision to do NIPT testing for our pregnancy — people are all like, “But why bother? What difference would it make? Would you actually terminate because your baby would be disabled?!” Well, I don’t really know for sure and I hope I never have to make that decision, but I want to know what we are looking at because I am honest enough about who my husband and I are to know that we are probably not the type of people who can handle some of that. Besides, some of the disorders the tests look for result in stillbirth, infant death, or death before the age of 3 or so. Do I think a termination would be a hell of a lot easier than burying my toddler? Absolutely. We should not be so quick to stand in judgment of one another. You have the right to know yourself. Good luck to you both.

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    • I really appreciate this comment – thank you. I think it is so important for us to realize what we can and cannot handle regardless of adoption. Honestly, because we made the decision to terminate due to the risks for my life and we are now choosing adoption, we have really been forced to think through how we felt about having a disabled child and knowing what our boundaries are. For me, a large part of it is greater them me, its about the quality of life for the child too. And as you say, we will love our child no-matter what, but we will also do everything in our power to provide our child with a healthy life, both physically and emotionally.

      Liked by 1 person

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