I got my baby hooked on heroin
PAIN throbbed in waves across my bump.
‘It’s happening now,’ I called to my partner. As a mum of two expecting my third baby I knew it was time to get to the hospital.
The first signs of labour would have most expectant mothers reaching for their hospital bags and maternity notes.
But not me. Rummaging in my bedside table I found what I was looking for.
Fumbling with the packet, I poured the brown powder into some foil, lit a match and inhaled deeply.
Calm washed over me as the labour pains eased and I sank back on the bed in a fuzzy glow.
I was nine months pregnant and addicted to heroin.
I’d been desperate to kick my habit ever since I’d found out I was pregnant again.
Now nine months on here I was about to give birth and all I could think about was getting high so I could face going into hospital.
Ashamed of myself and terrified that somebody would find out I’d been taking heroin during my pregnancy I’d avoided all contact with midwives so far.
But there was no avoiding the fact I was about to give birth and couldn’t keep my shameful secret any longer….
The ironic thing is all I had ever wanted was a happy family to call my own. The youngest of eight siblings, our dad suffered with schizophreinia and was an alcoholic.
Mum did her best but she suffered with depression and when I was eight Dad had been admitted to a secure hospital and I’d been placed in care.
Dad died when I was ten and then mum started drinking too. It wasn’t long before I went off the rails, skipping school and running away.
I left school with no qualifications but when shortly after I fell pregnant I was delighted. Even though I split with the dad I couldn’t wait to be a mother.
When Nicole was born I threw myself into taking care of her and felt truly happy for the first time ever. The only thing missing was someone to share it with.
So when I met Dave* I hoped he was the one.
We got on well and he doted on Nicole. Soon he was spending all of his time at mine and inviting his mates round in the evening.
When they baby went to bed they’d all start smoking. I was so naïve I assumed it was marijuana. Keen not to make a fuss I turned a blind eye.
In time I learned it wasn’t weed, but a type of painkiller that just made them feel happy and relaxed.
Soon they were smoking the ‘painkiller’ every night, but I refused to try it.
But eventually I caved in: ‘ What harm can it do?’ I told myself after making sure the baby was asleep.
I had no idea as I inhaled that first puff that it was heroin. I’d never even heard of it before, let alone knew it was addictive.
I was sick that night but it didn’t stop me trying it again the next night because I liked the warm fuzzy feeling it gave me.
Only one night we didn’t have any and it drove me crazy. Only then did I realise I was addicted to the stuff.
Over the next six months we smoked heroin together several times a day but then I missed a period. ‘ I’m pregnant,’ I told Dave and quit straight away.
He continued to smoke until our daughter Keira was born, but despite me vowing not to, by the time she was three months old I was using again.
Now I was juggling two small children and a secret addiction. To the outside world I was a young mum doing her best for her children, but behind closed doors it was a different story.
All our spare money went on drugs. I fed the girls on a cheap diet of beans on toast to make sure there was enough to pay the dealer.
The house was cold and bare and when we were really desperate for money I’d borrow from mum and tell her it was to buy food for the girls.
Thanks to the heroin, I always managed to look ‘together’ the girls were clean and fed. Only if I couldn’t get it was it a different story….
Even getting out of bed was hard without a fix. But with heroin I could carry on being mum.
So when we run out of money once I sold the TV and some kid’s toys, telling myself it was for the best.
In my drugged up state I didn’t even realise how low I had sank. But there was worse to come.
‘I’m pregnant again,’ I said to Dave one night.
Like before, I vowed to stop using. But my ‘one last time,’ never seemed to come. I always found an excuse, vowing to give up for good the next day.
I missed all my midwife appointments and scans. ‘They’ll know I’m a druggie,’ I fretted to Dave. I was terrfied I’d lose my baby and the other kids too.
As my bump swelled I remained hopelessly addicted.
By eight months gone I was still smoking heroin five times a day.
‘I’ll stop before the baby’s born,’ I swore. But now here I was in labour smoking drugs.
Dave drove me into hospital. By now the labour pains were coming thick and fast. I’d read about what could happen to babies born to junkie mums like me and I knew there was a chance my baby could be addicted to drugs too.
In between contractions I blurted the truth to my midwives. Despite what I was, I still wanted to do the best for my baby.
They rushed off to tell doctors but remained supportive and reassuring until I finally pushed my little girl into the word.
She was rushed off immediately and suddenly the atmosphere changed straight away.
I was moved from delivery suite onto the ward. It was confirmed that my baby had been born fully dependant on heroin. Now nurses stared and pointed at me.
To them I was the evil mother whose baby had been addicted to drugs. Panicking with withdrawels, I could only think of one thing that would help me cope. Drugs.
Wrapping my dressing gown around me, I sneaked out of the ward to get high outside in the car park.
Able to function normally, I was then strong enough to go and visit my baby. She was being given methadone orally to help prevent withdrawal symptoms.
I knew how bad that felt as an adult, I couldn’t bear to think of my newborn going through it.
But while Georgia was detoxing, I kept getting high in the toilets or outside.
Georgia was one week old when I finally broke down to doctors and admitted what I was doing.
‘I can’t stop, I need help. I just want to be a good mum again,’ I sobbed.
Like my baby, I was prescribed methadone. Slowly we were both weaned onto lower doses until finally the fog started to clear.
My mind free of drugs for the first time in so long, shame hit hard.
Only now could I really see what I had done. ‘ Please forgive me,’ I wept at Georgia’s cot as the full horror hit in waves.
I knew it was time to tell mum. She really had had no idea. ‘ I feel like scum. I’m so sorry mum,’ I sobbed.
I could tell she was horrified, but she vowed to support me when I promised her I would stay clean.
The doctors could see how determined I was. I didn’t falter once and finally after a month they agreed to discharge Georgia and me if we went back to mums.
We both grew stronger and now when Dave got high, I turned away in disgust.
In time I fell pregnant by him again and had another daughter Jaycee.
I stayed clean and finally when he didn’t: ‘ I want you to leave,’ I told him.
One year later I met my husband Patrick and in time we had another three children together.
He knew all about my past but judged me only on the person I was when he met me. The kids didn’t have a clue. Only each pregnancy brought the shame back.
‘I should have been doing this when I was pregnant with Georgia,’ I’d torture myself ironing baby grows.
To the outside world we were the perfect respectable family with a nice home and foreign holidays but the guilt kept gnawing at me. Then finally in 2013 I suffered a breakdown.
I knew it was because I had never been able to stop beating myself up about Georgia’s birth so I made a decision.
‘I want to tell the children about my addiction to move forward,’ I told mum and Patrick.
I called them all together in the lounge. They knew it was serious, but nothing could have prepared them for the moment I admitted I’d been a junkie mum and that Georgia had been born an addict.
But then they all just shrugged and hugged me.
Knowing I’d raised such good compassionate and understanding kids was more than I felt I deserved.
But finally being open meant I could do something I had always wanted to – help others battling addiction. I worked with a local charity to raise awareness of drugs.
Now I’m studying full time and plan to start university.
It’s time to stop beating myself up over my junkie past.
My kids have forgiven me. Now I can too.
I got my baby hooked on Heroin
I got my baby hooked on heroin