I was typing away at my computer when my phone buzzed.

A birth mom and I had been texting, so I wanted to check it immediately.

I stared at my phone in disbelief for several minutes. Things had been a little crazy hectic and I wanted to make sure that I read this text message properly.

We had been making plans to meet with her lawyer for the adoption process. She was still pregnant but close to delivery so we scheduled a meeting for birth parents to be able to ask any questions and understand what would happen if they decided to sign, and for us to again reiterate that we are still here to support them if they didn’t.

She had texted me back to say, “Thank you for your kindness”.

I didn’t know what to do with that. The way she said it then, and several times during the process leading up to placement, made me feel like that kindness was not something she had experienced much in her life. That the safe place, free of judgment and full of support, that ABI had offered for her was something new to her.

This particular birth mom had struggled in her past with addiction. I knew that. But I somehow always forget the way the world treats people with addiction. That people are sometimes dismissive and cruel to those they see as ‘helpless addicts’. I suppose I have the privilege of never having to experience that life first hand, so I truly don’t know what it is like. Both of these birth parents seemed so overwhelmed by the love we poured over them during this time, like they were not expecting us to care about them, only the baby. It caught me off guard on several occasions, wishing we had been able to connect with her earlier in her pregnancy and offer more assistance than we were able to.

My heart breaks knowing there are people in communities all over our country who are not reaching out to the people who could love them best because they have had negative experiences in the past. That there are people in those positions who should be loving these individuals, but instead are treating them with scorn. That our society took a “War on Drugs” and made it into a “War on Addicts”, forgetting that addicts are just people who are struggling. The only difference between someone with addiction and someone without it are the protective factors surrounding them. Somewhere along the way we have lost that recognition of humanity.

I live my life in firm belief that no one wakes up on a bright Tuesday morning and says “You know what I want to do today? Get addicted to meth!” and bounds off to find a local dealer. There is always a deeper story of hurt and trauma there where the person felt backed against a wall and had nowhere else to turn. They just needed something to take that hurt and pain away. Unfortunately the thing that takes their hurt and pain away winds up dishing it back to them 100 fold in the end. Sometimes I forget that the rest of the world has a nasty stigma related to these people; I am blessed to not yet be so jaded by addiction to be immediately dismissive and distrustful when it waltzes into my life. I believe we can recognize that taking drugs is a choice someone makes while also having empathy for the place they have to have been in to make that choice. This is not a moral black and white, but a wide gray area.

I am still processing this interaction with this birth mom. I know there are many lessons to be learned from it, and nuggets may fall from it for years to come. Each mom I work with touches my heart in different ways, leaving impressions on me that will help to inform the way I work with the next one. Always, I am carrying the love and respect that one helped me learn to the next who needs it right now. But this one has staying power and I am excited to see what else I can unravel from her story. Maybe I should thank her for that, in return.