I write about addiction being a disease in order to counter the negative stigma that society holds for those who, through little fault of their own, were captured by opioid dependence. One of the most potent examples of this stigma is the attitude toward addicted mothers on the labor and delivery ward from doctors, nurses, and family members of an addict who is a new mother.
News stories, movies, and public service announcements have implanted images in our minds of babies in opioid withdrawal, suffering horribly because of their mothers’ bad habits.
I was a part of the world of obstetric suites, newborns, and labor epidurals during my ten years as an anesthesiologist. During that time I met many new babies, and I became pretty familiar with the experiences they endured in their first few hours in the hospital. I like babies—my wife has had a few who I’ve become quite fond of—and so I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic toward them. But the images that most people have of babies craving a ‘fix’ are not accurate—not by a long shot.