A break in the transmission: My last word on pregnancy and heroin addiction

This is not going to be my usual m.o.

This is not going to be me WRITING for the sake of it, or for the words, or for the documentation of the dying and the days of the City I love.

This is not going to be neat or tidy. I will not bother to adjust my language or worry if anyone reading will be upset, or triggered or offended. This is because this matters to me on a level so visceral, so intimate, that to even try to rein in the runaway horses will leave me shattered, and I cannot afford that right now, but I promised I would do this, and here I am, caffeinated, window open, fan pointing at me, headphones channeling my favorite song of the week into my ears, Big Thief’s mythological beauty. “You are all caught up inside” sings the friend I have never met, as I try and wriggle off the hook of attempting to put this together.

I have a deep churning in the pit of my stomach, tears are far too close to the surface. This is stuff I don’t care to look at too closely at a rule. So, knowing this, flinging myself at the page and the heart of the matter, resisting the temptation to scream obscenities at the screen, or punching my fist through a wall, or adding my scream to the madhouse I find myself in, cutting a piece of myself out, but not spilling a drop of blood, here I am.

I have touched on this subject in parts, in pieces, in fragments. I never did it justice, I always hold back. I hold back because of the drooling moral majority demanding to know ‘what about the children’ …yes what about the children..

I was a child once. I was a child sitting in a room hollowed out and broken, shattered into the tinest unknowing pieces, just knowing I hurt. I hurt and I couldn’t fathom, could not reason. That child grew up, survived what men did to her in their sordid pathological criminal acts towards my innocence and bodily autonomy. Hands round my neck, weight on my body, spittle on my face, flecked with my blood. This was where my addiction came into being.

Make no mistake, put the works in front of me right now, spoon and lighter, bag and cotton, and I would be back down the rabbit hole with Alice, dreaming my opium dreams. I am not excusing myself. Why should I? I am not giving reason, I don’t care to. This is an explanation for the churning in my stomach that will not allow me to remain calm and polite.

I ran away from home. I was just 17 years old. Sitting in a shooting gallery with a boy a little older that I barely knew, I was offered heroin. This is back back a few years. Heroin was still worth doing, it was still smack not analogue chemicals. The euphoria took all the pain and turmoil away, but it is not here that we are going to stop today.

Skip forward years. Smack and I lived together in a close relationship. I became a prostitute to pay for my habit. Methadone kills people like me. Failing to stay totally away from the smack, doing their methadone and their smack, they overdose and they die. It happened to my friends. I was not ever going on the methadone program. No one else would care if I died, but I did. I wanted to live.

Pregnancy is an occupational hazard. It is here that I am going to pull up and stop a while, and talk to the pearl clutchers. Yes you, I see you, I hear you. You make me cry in quiet moments, when your inhumanity and ignorance burns through the years I spent getting strong on suffering and survival. You make me a 19 year old girl sitting in the clinic again, going in for her condoms and U100s. Nobody smokes that shit with any kind of habit. Wasteful, lack of bang for the buck. It goes into arms, and legs, into necks and groins, into the mainline and the brain.

I sat there, and did the usual piss test in return for my stuff. The doctor hung her head into the room, not even sitting to face me, or talk to me with any measure of decency or kindness. “You know you are pregnant, right?” she asks me, all nonchalant. I didn’t know. I had no idea. It was a suckerpunch to the gut. I rarely had periods, I was very thin, and I used a lot of opiates.

I had kicked – detoxed – before. I had a large habit, and knew how bad it would be. Your bowels turn to water, and viciously cramp and twist, you vomit when there is nothing left in your stomach, not even bile. The slightest movement makes you spew, you can’t breathe, can’t function and it does not let up. Your bones feel like they will break with cramps. You sweat and sneeze uncontrollably. There was no way a fetus was going to survive it.

  • Momentary exit. Current advice is it is too dangerous for the fetus for an addicted woman to detox after the 12th week of pregnancy. It will cause a miscarriage. Allegedly, according to the butchers that call themselves healers, here may be a benefit to trying to detox a woman who is pregnant and in her first trimester. I don’t see it. Kicking is so brutal. That is current advice. Many junkies have periods that are very irregular, and they do not find out they are pregnant in the first trimester. Their options if the fetus is to survive, are bupe, methadone, or smack. That fetus, if it is going to survive requires it’s mother to stay ON OPIATES.
  • We are talking early ’90s for me. I was told to keep on doing what I was doing, but preferably go on the methadone program in order not to have fluctuations in my blood opiate levels. The baby would be born addicted and withdraw after birth. I was then told that the baby would be removed from me at birth and placed for adoption. Just giving the facts.

My heart is in my mouth, it beats too fast. Tears are in my eyes, but they are not of sadness, they are of frustration.

There are people who do.

There are people who don’t.

There are people that get it.

There are people who don’t.

Some of them are junkies. Some of them are civilians. Some of my best friends aren’t junkies. Some of my worst enemies are. Some of the kindest people I have met have been the most addicted. The problem is when people who don’t decide to smear their ignorance across the subject in a damaging hurtful explosion of superiority. “what about the babies!” they wail. Bad women! Bad Mothers! Dirty junkies! Why don’t they just give up! Why do they even get pregnant! They don’t need to be having sex! The white right wing Christian conservatism kick takes their righteousness into high gear. Down they look from their ivory tower into the gutter, not getting anything and not caring to either.

Female junkies, earn their bags by prostitution. They are often prostituted by their male partners whose habits are also fed from the woman’s prostitution. Whether you see or you don’t see why they use drugs, whether you approve or do not approve doesn’t matter one jot. Some damaged women use opiates. In my opinion they would be best served by a system which gives them pharmaceutical grade heroin in the amount they need, and safe injection sites they can use if they need and want to.

These women are prostitutes by necessity. Men who use prostitutes are not paragons of good behavior. Rape happens all the time – sex of a kind that is not agreed upon. These men rip of condoms, and force unsafe sex on prostitutes. These men run without paying afterwards. These men leave the women they abuse pregnant. Women who are on the nod – in a twilight zone – are vulnerable from other men too. Women who are homeless are vulnerable. Getting pregnant is not a choice. SEX IS NOT A FUCKING CHOICE. It is just what happens. These women, women like me, cannot avoid pregnancy. It is not a choice for them to have sex, nor a choice for them to get pregnant.

The addicted pregnant junkie can abort. That is what I chose to do. I was lied to by a nurse who said my baby would be born with birth defects from the drugs I used. I was also told I would not be allowed to keep the baby if I carried on with the pregnancy and would be forced to give it up at birth. I was not capable of this. It was too harsh on me, and would have destroyed me. I mattered to. I was and remain an actual human being that is on this earth, with feelings and rights, I am not in debt to a fetus forced upon me, and nor is any woman. This nurse either lied or was misinformed. Heroin does not cause birth defects. I didn’t drink. At the clinic I was subject to more sickeningly righteous women and men, who didn’t care to think through their actions, fueled by the drug of superiority and their belief in their moral high ground, shouting and chanting, and pushing and crowding me. I had to listen to them as I waited, and apologized to the baby I could not have.

The anesthetist asked me a few questions about my life and my family, and kindly told me it would all be over soon. It was done and I was released from the actions of a man who raped me. I was devastated, sad and relieved.

Sex is not always a choice. Pregnancy is not always a choice. More privileged women have choices in what happens to their bodies – at least more of the time than the less privileged…

Kicking, or detoxing as civilians put it, is too dangerous for a fetus past 12 weeks gestation. Junkies don’t have regular periods. Catching the situation before that point is not easy or assured. Past 12 weeks the fetus NEEDS HEROIN MORE THAN THE MOTHER DOES. Without it, it will die. Before 12 weeks detox might be an option.

Even if detoxing is an option it is a giant mountain that women should not be forced to climb unwillingly. I personally don’t see how it can ever be safe for a fetus to be put through the mother detoxing. Detoxing is not just a cold or a sniffle, and gets worse with each fall from grace and escalation of addiction.

Now since, I have been so restrained and wasted my time and energy on this…can I just say….fuck you, all you right wing Christian conservative ignorant judgmental pearl clutching monsters who care nothing for women, nor babies after they are born, and do not even care to think it through. The photos that are put on blogs and articles are mostly those of premature babies, the most unwell they can find – not even babies who are in neonatal withdrawal. It is playing for shock and for the leverage. It is a public stoning of damaged and hurting women. The rhetoric peddled, and the sheer inhumanity of the bile, make me sick.

Women matter too. Women are not vehicles for fetuses that are forced upon them. Truly this has made me feel sick.

Edit: Even if a woman just gets pregnant from carelessness while addicted, a moral judgement on her sex life and it’s consequences is not appropriate, not is it helpful. A woman has no moral responsibility not to have sex, even if that is an option open to her. There should be no judgement, not a word to be said on the subject from those not involved.