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Mother's (Dangerous) Little Helper

Instant attraction

Derek and I had met in June 2003, at a friend's birthday party. He was five years older than me, tall, and good-looking. But what immediately attracted me was that he was the quiet one in the crowd, and I'm shy, too. We started seeing each other every day, then moved in together.

After we'd been living together for three months, Derek, who is now 25, told me that he'd been using meth, on and off, for about a year. I was shocked  -- I'd never taken any drugs, not even pot. A few days later, he showed me a tiny bag of white powder. "Want to try some?" he asked. I hesitated, but I trusted Derek. "Just a little," I said.

He poured the meth onto a piece of foil, held a lit match underneath, and inhaled the smoke. Then it was my turn. The rush was immediate. I was filled with energy and felt like I could do anything. Soon, I was doing meth a few times a week, staying up all night, cleaning the apartment and having intense conversations with Derek. When I took meth, shyness disappeared; I could talk for hours. It was like life had become one big party.

I began needing more meth to get the high I craved. I gave up my dream of becoming a makeup artist and quit school. I avoided my family. That is, until the day I found out I was pregnant. That changed everything  -- I was so afraid it would hurt the baby, I quit cold turkey. I had no withdrawal symptoms and didn't even crave the drug.

Weary  -- and weak

Cameren was born on November 23, 2004, healthy and beautiful, with blonde hair, big brown eyes, and dimpled cheeks. I set out to be the perfect mom. I used hand sanitizer before I touched her, and boiled her bottles. But Cameren was waking up every two hours and I was worn out. I knew just what would perk me up  -- and I started feeling that familiar urge.

I felt guilty when I started smoking meth again, but I also told myself it was helping me be a better mom. A few puffs gave me the energy to clean the apartment, do Cameren's laundry, run some errands, and still be wide awake whenever she cried. I was very careful, though, never to smoke around Cameren. I'd wait until Derek got home, and the two of us would put our baby down securely in her crib, turn on an air purifer to keep smoke away from her, and go downstairs to light up. I somehow managed to convince myself that by doing it this way, I could take care of my habit  -- and my baby.

Then I ended up in jail. Because I had such a small amount of meth, I was charged only with a misdemeanor. I was given a court date and released without bail. A few days later, a caseworker from the Department of Human Services (DHS) arrived at our door. She told us that we had until midnight that night to show up at a nearby hospital for a urine test for meth. We were terrified.

Later that week, the caseworker returned, with a police officer. "We're here to remove Cameren from your home," she announced. I ran to the crib, screaming, "Why are you doing this?" Derek started yelling that they had no right to take our child. But we both knew what had happened: Our drug tests had come back positive. I was hysterical, crying and asking to hold her one more time.

For five frantic days the only thing I knew was that my baby was in foster care. Then my mother was given custody of Cameren, and I was allowed to visit her a few times a week. It was a relief, but I hated leaving her and coming home to an empty crib. I'd hold her toys and cry, wondering if I'd ever get her back. She got so attached to my mom that there were times when I visited that my baby didn't even want me to hold her.