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Changing the stigma: Mother shares her story of substance abuse while pregnant

Posted at 6:43 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 18:39:11-05

Every year, between 800 and 8,000 babies are born with fetal alcohol syndrome. It's a statistic that is 100% preventable when mothers in need find the right support.

Fetal alcohol syndrome is a disorder that impacts the physical, psychological, and behavioral side of a child through adulthood, and is with them forever.

One Texan mother, Amber Church, shared her story in hopes of changing the fear many women have to seek help.

"When you are that deep into addiction, you don't want anything more than that, and no one likes to admit it. No one likes to say, "I cared more about drugs than I cared about my child,"" she said.

The stigma surrounding pregnant women who struggle with addiction is a common reason mothers don't reach out for help and instead struggle in silence.

"We need help. We need resources, and we need to not be judged for the position that we are in," said Church.

The 35-year-old is a loving mother to her six-year-old daughter.

"She has always been happy and big and perfect," said Church.

Church is a recovered drug addict who fights every day to change the stigma for pregnant women in need of help.

"I was using drugs while I was pregnant the entire time, and I did not feel like I could tell anyone because I felt I was being judged," she said.

On Friday, January 22, Church celebrated her second year of sobriety, but says getting to this point was not easy. Before her substance abuse began, she was a typical teenager.

"I was a goody two shoe and did not even drink alcohol until I was 21-years-old," Church recalled.

Her addiction started after she was prescribed opioids for medical reasons.

"It was a constant struggle of I am going to stop but I couldn't. I struggled with addiction for years before I got pregnant," the mother said.

Church believed her pregnancy would give her the strength to stop using drugs, but she says the addiction was too powerful.

"It's a real illness, and no sane, healthy person would ever put their child in danger," she said.

It wasn't until 2018 when she willingly asked for professional help. Now, she shares her story with one goal.

"I am sitting here to have a conversation with the woman sitting there who is saying, "OMG, that's me." Hopefully, women will start to see that they are not alone, and resources are out there," said Church.

While her story is hard to share, she believes it's one that needs to be told.

Dr. Rachel Rube says no mother should feel ashamed if they have a substance disorder.

"If the mother is struggling with this,the disease of addiction are often felt to be shameful, and it's just like diabetes or high blood pressure. It's not because you are weak or bad or harming your baby. If you struggle with this, there is no shame in coming forward," said the family medicine faculty physician.

For more information about substance use services, you can contact the state's Outreach, Screening, Assessment and Referral Services at 844-309-6385.