It sounds awful, doesn’t it? ‘I took class A drugs during my pregnancy’. I bet you are picturing the worst mother in the world. I bet, as I speak, an image of a toothless Jeremy Kyle-esque character is unfolding in your mind.
I’ve got friends who abstained from drinking coffee for the full nine months incase it had any ill effects on their developing baby. I’ve got friends who quibbled over taking half a paracetamol when they were hit with a migraine. Me? I took morphine every single day. Twice a day. Sometimes more.
Am I a bad mum? I certainly felt like it. Every single time I swallowed one of those pills, I felt a punch in the gut of my stomach. Guilt. I thought about my poor, defenseless, innocent, developing baby and the damage that was potentially being caused by, what felt like, the most toxic poison I could have been feeding her.
The reality was though, I either took that morphine, or I didn’t continue with the pregnancy. I’ve been on a stonking dosage of morphine for seven or eight years now. With a chronic pain condition, other medications just don’t cut it. It’s not the type of thing you can suddenly stop and without it, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed on a morning – physically and mentally. I’ve been consumed by pain before and it is hell on earth; life without pain management would be no life at all. Going medication free wasn’t an option and after ten years of trying to conceive a second child and eight years on and off fertility treatments, not continuing with the pregnancy was not an option either.
However, I would be lying if I said that in my darkest moments I didn’t have doubts. I contemplated, very deeply, what I was doing to our baby and whether or not it was fair to continue. I googled way too much. I googled every possible bad outcome I could think of. I felt guilt as the Doctors explained to me that my baby would be born dependent on morphine and that they would have to go through the withdrawal process, being given smaller doses of the drug to help their body copy with the withdrawal. I wondered if it was moral, if it was ethical, to put a baby in that position through no fault of their own.
When I think now about those dark moments, it makes me feel sick to my stomach. Sick to my stomach that I, even if for just thirty seconds, contemplated life without her because I was so terrified of making her poorly.
It wasn’t easy. Nine months of swallowing down a medication that you know is going to directly impact on your baby has its own side effects (pardon the (very poor) pun.) Namely, guilt. It didn’t matter how many Midwives, Obstetricians or Doctors reassured me that taking the morphine was necessary and that the situation was more than manageable with the right plans in place, I still felt guilt.
The sort of guilt that makes your heart pound so hard you can hear it in your ears whilst lying perfectly still in bed during the dead of night.
She was born perfect. A little earlier than expected, but she was born perfect. It was incredibly difficult to watch her go through withdraw in special care and I was utterly guilt ridden throughout it all but that light at the end of the tunnel came three months following her birth when we administered her very last dose of morphine. I will return to this at a later date and I’ll write about our experiences during her withdrawal in the hope that it helps someone else facing the same situation. I found medical journals and articles all over the internet but they definitely weren’t written in a lingo that I understood very well. I searched, hoping to find a parent’s personal experience of it all to no success so I will definitely dedicate a future blog post to our experience of it all in the hope that it helps someone somewhere in the future.
Coincidentally, my hubby and I were looking at photographs of her today, and the difference in how she looks in those early weeks to four to five months later in mind blowing. She looked very poorly. It breaks my heart to see those photographs, even eight months later. She is unrecognisable from the big, wide eyed smiler that she is today. It was a difficult journey but we made it. Do I still feel guilt? Every single day. I feel guilty that she had a traumatic start to life and still feel extremely responsible for that. I know technically speaking I didn’t have a choice, but it doesn’t feel like that to me. I still feel very personally responsible for taking that medication. But the idea that, in those darkest moments, I contemplated not putting her through it, makes my heart plummet to the bottom of my stomach. Because the world would have truly missed out on a beautiful soul who has already, in her short life to date, brought an immense joy that is simply indescribable.