The Toxic Womb

Both of my daughters grew and developed in “toxic wombs”.

It is a fact that I can’t allow myself to think too much about, because honestly, it angers me.

It is what it is, and the fact is my girls were exposed to methadone (and other narcotics) while in the womb and nothing in this world can ever change that fact.

Little Bug’s birth mother was on methadone for the last month or so of her pregnancy with Little Bug.

Sweet Pea’s birth mother was on methadone for six of the 9 months of her pregnancy with Sweet Pea.

Before Little Bug’s birth all we were told about methadone was that “it will not harm the baby”.

While this was true, it didn’t give a complete accurate picture of the effects methadone would have on Little Bug.

Tracy, Little Bug’s birth mother, told me during one of our hospital visits to see Little Bug right after her birth that, “Little Bug will need to stay in the hospital about a week.”

Thinking she didn’t know what she was talking about, I didn’t think much more about that.

Until we arrived at the hospital after TPR had been signed and learned our baby girl was no longer in the regular nursery.

Little Bug had been moved to the NICU because she “had to go through some withdrawals”.

Talk about freak out session.

We entered the NICU not knowing what in the world to expect. I was in tears because we had no clue what was the matter with our precious baby girl.

The NICU nurses were very good to finally explain to us what was going on. We were told that Little Bug was withdrawing from no longer having methadone in her system. She would be scored every so often on her “withdrawal symptoms” and as long as she was below a certain score (of which I cannot remember at this time! I think maybe it was a 6 or 7?) she would not have to be given morphine to help her with the withdrawals. We were told she would be in the NICU anywhere from 5 days to THREE months!

When I heard 3 months I was so angry! Why didn’t anyone prepare us for this??!

The NICU nurses told us sleeping was the best thing for Little Bug and if she had too much stimulation she would cry and cry and crying would only make her scoring higher. So we obeyed the NICU nurses and kept Little Bug in her isolate, only taking her out to feed, change and reswaddle her every 3-4 hours.

After only 5 days, Little Bug was able to come home, but her withdrawing was certainly not over. It was just clear that she was not going to need the NICU to go through the rest of her withdrawals.

Little Bug was very stiff. We had to do muscle exercises with her daily to loosen her stiff muscles. Her Daddy did those with her every morning before he went to work and every evening. Little Bug SCREAMED the entire time.

Little Bug was also VERY easily overstimulated. Methadone effects the nervous system so her senses were extra sensitive to any kind of stimulation. Her nervous system needed time to heal from the drug exposure and it needed time to grow and develop further so that she could handle processing the sensory information.

Around a month old, we decided that it was best for Little Bug to stay at home. At home we could better control her environment so that she would not become overstimulated. I remember feeling like a slave to my house. I also remember telling myself it was only for a season until Little Bug could handle the outside world.

We also had to limit visitors as Little Bug could not be passed around from person to person. It was hard to have family members over who we knew wanted to hold our long-awaited baby girl, but could not, because it was too over stimulating for her! Fortunately, our families were understanding of this.

Around 3 months, her overstimulation issues became a thing of the past and she was able to handle the outside world like any other baby.

When we found out Sweet Pea’s birth mother was on methadone, and had been since January (when she was approximately 3 months pregnant with Sweet Pea), we immediately got our family and friends praying that God would shield her little body from any effects of the methadone.

I guess common sense just told me that since Sweet Pea had been exposed to the methadone way longer than Little Bug had, I assumed Sweet Pea’s withdrawals were going to be way more severe. And I prepared myself for a longer NICU stay with Sweet Pea.

But then I read an article that the amount of time on the methadone is not what determines how affected the baby is to the methadone. It all has to do with the placenta and how much of the methadone the placenta allows to pass to the baby.

When Sweet Pea was born the rH factor trumped my focus on withdrawing from methadone. (It also takes a few days for the withdrawal symptoms to show up.) But I will never forget seeing Sweet Pea for the first time. A tiny baby laying on a bed, unswaddled, with blue lights shining on every inch of her body, except her diaper area. She had “sunglasses” on to protect her eyes so I couldn’t even see her eyes at first.

She was a sight, that is for sure.

Then our lawyer started filling us in on what is going on with her. (The lawyer is not given rights to medical knowledge of the baby until TPR is signed. So while we drove over to meet Sweet Pea for the first time our lawyer was already at Sweet Pea’s bed side getting all the information about her medical condition.) I remember words like, rH factor, blood transfusion and very jaundiced and all I wanted to know was, “Is she going to be okay? Is she going to be healthy?”.

We were quickly told by the lawyer and nurses standing nearby that yes, Sweet Pea was very sick right now and without medical intervention she would continue to be very sick, but because she had been treated aggressively right away, she would be just fine.

After Sweet Pea’s blood transfusion and her blood levels started increasing, I then started to think about her withdrawal symptoms.

The only thing so far that the nurses had noticed was that she seemed to have a very sensitive stomach. The nurses were trying to figure out what formula would agree with her stomach the most.

Then, just like Little Bug, at six days old, we thought we would get to bring Sweet Pea home. However, her doctor decided that she needed a few more days of monitoring because she seemed a little “irritable” at times. As much as we wanted our daughter home, we totally agreed with her doctor.

Sweet Pea came home at nine days old. It wasn’t long and her tummy troubles really started to show themselves. She writhed in pain after feeding. It was so pitiful. After lots of trial and error on formula, sleeping positions and other things that were suppose to help with stomach pain, we found a combination that worked well with Sweet Pea.

By 3ish months, her stomach issues were under control with Zantac, Gripe Water, mylecon and ready made Similac Allimentum formula. Besides her Zantac prescription needing to be tweaked every month or so and causing her some discomfort until the new dosage was found, there was no more writhing in pain after eating and that was such a relief!

This is just my experience with two babies who have been exposed to methadone. I have a friend whose baby was also exposed to methadone and her baby spent 6 weeks in the NICU (same NICU Little Bug was in, just 10 months later). When he came home, she told me he cried about 70% of the time from the pain of going through withdrawals. He also had a MAJOR spit up problem. He would throw up entire bottles of formula and they had to thicken his bottles to help him keep food down. I have another friend whose daughter’s situation was very similar to this one. Her daughter spent the first 9 weeks of her life in the NICU withdrawing from methadone.

My girls’ withdrawals are minor compared to my friends’ babies. Their babies would be consider very severe cases of methadone withdrawal.

Each baby’s withdrawal symptoms are different.

I wanted to put this out there for anyone who may have adopted a baby exposed to methadone or who may adopt a baby exposed to methadone in the future.

I know I’ve said it before but I absolutely hate the fact my daughters grew in a toxic womb. But then I think about the fact that it is because of these toxic wombs that God wrote the redemptive story of my daughters’ adoptions.

Drugs are a horribly wicked addiction. They come into a person’s life and literally take over. They control everything there is about that person. Everything that person does is for their next high.

Drugs steal, kill and destroy relationships and a woman’s ability to mother their children.

It is extremely tragic when you stop to think about it.

Both of my daughters’ birth mothers are held in bondage to the stronghold of drug abuse.

It breaks my heart to think that drugs have literally ruined their lives and made them both not be able to be a productive member of society.

If I could save them both, I would in a heartbeat. But I know all I can do is pray for them to know the One who can.

We live in a fallen world full of sin. But we also live in a world where God is still at work performing miracles and interceding in innocent little lives who were born to mothers addicted to drugs.

Through God’s divine intervention and a moment of clarity in the lives of two women addicted to drugs, two little girls were plucked from a life of growing up with mother’s addicted to drugs and were given a stable environment to thrive in.

It is a gift given to them by their Heavenly Father and their biological mothers.

I have been told many times that I saved two little girls lives. I simply do not see it that way at all.

All of this is because of God. It is His redemptive story. Adoption is simply a reflection of God’s redemption for His children.

We were all born unto sin, destine to die as that is the only just payment for sin. However, God desired to not see His children die so He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for all mankind’s sin.

Jesus entered this world as a baby boy, born in a stable in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph. He lived on this earth and then died on this earth. His blood paid for our sins, making it possible for us to be adopted into the family of God.

Adoption totally changed my daughters’ lives, just like adoption into the family of God has totally changed my life.

I don’t have to allow the anger I feel to consume me because I can see the big picture now. As much as it saddens my heart to see my daughters’ birth mothers living addicted to drugs, it saddens God even more. But in a way that only God could do, He has made good come from bad.

He has taken two precious girls out of a life consumed by drugs and given them a blessed, abundant life filled with opportunities that are endless.

I can only pray that God will free these women from the bondage of drug addiction.

2 thoughts on “The Toxic Womb

  1. The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine (FT Press Science) [Kindle Edition

    it’ free on Kindle. There are lots of websites that tell you how to read books other places if you do not have a Kindle.

  2. Our daughter was born addicted to cocaine, subutex, and who know’s what else. She spent 3.5 weeks in the NICU on methadone and once she came home she had issues with over stimulation but we were very blessed that was all. It’s a horrible thing to see your child go through and not be able to control. I am glad LB &SP are thriving now just like my E.


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