What I Wish I’d Known About Alcohol & Pregnancy

AWHONN Connections

NOFAS_Kathy_Karli_blossomsby, Kathleen Tavenner Mitchell, MHS, LCADC

“Your daughter has full-blown fetal alcohol syndrome.”

Those words hit me like a tsunami. I was drowning in waves of grief, disbelief, horror and remorse. For 15 years, I searched to understand why Karli wasn’t learning and growing stronger, like my other two children. Doctors told me ear infections had caused her minor delays, but she would “grow out of it.” Today, Karli is 42 years old; developmentally, she is about 6 years old.

I grew up in the 1960s in an upper middle-class suburban neighborhood. My charismatic father suffered with alcoholism, and my co-dependent mom worked hard to cover his tracks. At 16, I was already experimenting with alcohol and other drugs when I got pregnant, married and dropped out of school. I wanted to have a healthy baby so I gave up all of the drugs and drank apple wine on…

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