In 2017, Kristen was a 26-year-old single mother living in Delaware. She was struggling to provide not only for herself but her two daughters. Aside from the common struggles that are associated with being a single parent, she woke up each day with an overwhelming dark cloud of depression and a drug addiction she was trying to conquer.
Kristen recalled the experience of discovering she was pregnant again.
“It was the most terrifying moment of my entire life; I felt like I got crushed by a wave.”
At the time, Kristen was already parenting two young children, ages two and four. When her family learned of her pregnancy, her ex-partner took their children away from her.
Her family encouraged her to get help with her addiction at this point in her life. Kristen went into drug rehab. At the time, she was 12 weeks pregnant with her son, Logan.
At this point in her pregnancy, Kristen was overwhelmed with her addiction, and she was putting her child at risk for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS); however, Kristen was up to fighting and went on methadone maintenance to treat her addiction. Even with this treatment, Logan was still at risk for NAS.
A few weeks before Logan was born, Kristen made the choice to place him for adoption; she felt that she was making the best choice for her child at this point in her life. She wanted to have an open adoption with her son’s adoptive parents so she could keep in touch with them.
Before Kristen became pregnant, her sister was pregnant and placed her child for adoption through Adoptions From The Heart. Due to the positive experience her sister had with the agency, Kristen decided to consider placing her son through AFTH also.
“When you have a good social worker and they make your feelings a priority, and when both parents are in agreement, it’s just one step at a time and one day at a time,” she said.
While Kristen had not yet met them, her son’s future adoptive parents Sam and Jeff had been trying for three years to conceive a child and had suffered several miscarriages. They eventually decided to begin their family through adoption. Sam and Jeff selected AFTH because their best friend had just adopted a daughter with AFTH, and they became familiar with the agency’s process.
After adopting their first son Peyton through the program, Sam and Jeff wanted to continue expanding their family. Kristen connected to them through an ad on Facebook and the rest is history.
“Meeting Kristen for the first time was nerve racking, even though we felt like we already knew her. We messaged a lot back and forth, and we knew that she had an addiction problem, but we didn’t know much about drug addiction. Her parents came with her and they told us they were very supportive of her choice so that helped our thinking,” said Jeff.
Logan was hospitalized for 21 days as he recovered from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. His symptoms were mild and included sneezing, shaking and crying.
Logan underwent significant improvements and has continued to develop at a healthy rate. Currently, he is three years old and will be attending nursery school in September.
Kristen, Sam, and Jeff have an open adoption. Their level of openness goes beyond what Adoptions From The Heart requires. Kristen visits her son’s family at least four times a year. Sam and Jeff often share photos of Logan with Kristen directly and through Facebook. On numerous occasions, they have attended Kristen’s other children’s birthday parties.
“They make it so I don’t have to question whether or not Logan is taken care of or loved. They make me feel loved unconditionally and like I am a part of their family. If it wasn’t for our open adoption and how understanding and loving they are, I wouldn’t be able to get through it. Our relationship is incredible and I couldn’t ask for a better one,” said Kristen.
When asked about what life is like as parents, Sam and Jeff have described it as being “simply wonderful.” “Logan is simply the happiest child in the world. He is just so funny, loving and caring at such a young age. We know Kristen is happy seeing him grow and being happy, and that’s very fulfilling to us because that is why she chose us to be his parents,” said Jeff.
Kristen has just celebrated three years clean, and she feels that having Logan was the motivation she needed. Because of their open adoption, Kristen’s momentum continues to grow.
Kristen was one of the first to attend the birth parent support groups led by her social worker, Amanda Aliberti.
Both have described the support groups as a safe place where you can share your feelings without being judged.
“Kristen is a huge advocate for open adoption, and she has become a major mentor to others. She uses her history of addiction in a proactive way by helping to educate and mentor others. I have such high respect for Kristen, and I am truly so proud of the transformation she has made over the years and I am honored to be in her life,” said Aliberti.
Sam and Jeff are also very proud of what Kristen has accomplished. “Kristen has been an amazing turn around and we are glad she shares her story. She was in a really rough spot, yet she managed to pull through it. I always tell her that she is doing a really great thing, and that she is surely not alone in what she has been through,” said Jeff.
Kristen hopes that by sharing her story that she will reach other birth parents who are in her shoes. “As a recovering addict, just be proud of how far you’ve come. To somebody else [your accomplishments] may seem small, but they matter to you. The milestones of being clean – it’s one more year that I’m alive when I very well could have died. Just be proud of yourself and don’t let your fear of being judged stop you,” she said. “Even if this only reaches one person and makes them feel like they are not alone, that’s what I do this for. Putting it out there and sharing your story could really make a difference.”
Kristen continues to speak out about her adoption story and her past struggles with addiction through different mediums and platforms. She has appeared on the AFTH TV special series “The Unheard Voices of Birth Mothers” and the AFTH TV season 5 ep. 2 “Considering Adoption Again: Different Circumstances Led to a Different Decision.” Recently Kristen was featured in a short film titled “Babies Amongst the Opioid Epidemic,” by New York University journalism student Kyla Milberger.