When people say unkind things about birth moms
who have children with FASD, it is usually out of ignorance of
the nature of addictions, frustration about the unnecessary injury
to a child and/or a feeling of helplessness.
I stayed with my son's birth mother, a Family Physician,
through hell and back for 4 years. I attended countless AA meetings
(for alcoholics) with her and Alanon meetings (for families and
friends of alcoholics) for myself. She also attended the Doctors
on Chemicals program. She was involuntarily committed 5 times
under the Mental Health Act as a danger to herself and others
during the pregnancy. I did everything legally (and humanly) possible
to protect my son, and he still has FAS.
I believed the doctors when they said alcoholism
is a disease, little different than cancer. Would I leave a wife
because she had cancer? Certainly not. Then why would I leave
her because she had a different disease? We object to the justice
system's misguided attempts to cure brain injury with punishment
by jailing our FASD kids. Is there any difference in the concept
of treating addiction by prison.
That whole period of my life was filled with insanity.
Men are "fixers". If it is broken, we are absolutely
determined to fix it. We become extremely frustrated if it can't
be "fixed" by us. I did eventually leave with my son
when he was 4 months old and he was in great danger. My son's
birth mother died 6 years ago at age 45, still "unfixed".
My son is now age 15. If I wrote the truth about those years,
they would have to sell the book in the fiction section because
nobody would believe the truth.
I direct my anger for the injuries to my son, not
at my wife (because she was a victim too) but at the beverage
alcohol industry and its distributors of death and destruction.
It takes time and education to stop blaming the victim and start
targeting the real villain. And it takes those who have walked
in those moccasins to help others to that understanding too.
Nobody chooses to become addicted to alcohol or
tobacco just as nobody chooses to get cancer. Whether the disease
comes from genetics or environmental toxins (physical or psychological)
is irrelevant. These are medical / biological issues that have
to be dealt with, not moral decisions.
Jailing a pregnant alcoholic is not the solution.
However, I do believe that involuntary committal in a treatment
hospital along with family supports is probably the only thing
that will work in many cases. Addiction, by its very definition,
means that voluntary decision-making has been removed. It is the
chemical that is making the decisions, not the addict. The addict
cannot hope to make rational, free-will decisions until the monkey
is off his or her back first.
Involuntary committal does infringe on some individual
rights, such as the right to commit suicide on the installment
plan or faster. Your right to swing your fist ends before it connects
with my nose. The mother's right to drink alcohol ends before
it reaches the placenta. In order to live in any society, tribe,
family or other social grouping, we accept certain limitations
on our personal freedom.
And this debate is not about abortion. Right or
wrong, abortion is about preventing a child from being born. In
the case of a child who is going to be born, both the child and
society have the right to protect their investment in a healthy
beginning. That means we have a vested interest, right and responsibility
to both the mother and the child.
If we really want to deal with these issues, then
we MUST build more treatment facilities for pregnant women. We
MUST provide family supports, probably with the children and spouse
living there as well. We must change the environment the recovering
addict will go to after the treatment program. Fail to change
the environment and you set them up for the same old triggers
to cause a relapse. We need to provide ongoing supports for the
And we need to get our governments into rehab for
their addiction to alcohol taxes that go to the general treasury
and not directly to dealing with the problems booze causes.
And we must make the beverage alcohol industry pay
the entire tab. As it is, they pay far less than 1% of the total
damages caused by their products. "If you want to play, you
have got to pay".
During the pregnancy with my son, total taxes and
profits to government from the sale of the booze used would be
less than $10,000.