Shifting The Way We Think About Addiction And Pregnancy

An Albuquerque police officer was honored in front of the whole country during the State of the Union address earlier this week. While on duty, he met a woman who was addicted to heroin and adopted her baby. More and more pregnant women are struggling with addiction in the state. But attitudes can be harsh, services are limited and funding is tight, leaving people with nowhere to turn.

Jade SanchezJade Sanchez

MARISA DEMARCO / KUNM

When Albuquerque Police Department Officer Ryan Holets found a couple shooting up behind a convenience store last year and noticed that the woman was pretty far along in her pregnancy, he was catching a glimpse of a much larger and more systemic problem in the state.

Jade Sanchez knows all about it. Years ago, she was in that same hard spot: pregnant and addicted and looking for help.

“People are like: Don’t drink caffeine and soda and things like that while you’re pregnant,” she said. “You can imagine what people think of somebody who’s strung out on heroin, you know, and it’s a daily habit. It definitely doesn’t motivate somebody to change or try and help them to get out of that position for sure.”

There are other complicating factors, too: Physical symptoms of withdrawal that are miserable and dangerous for both the mother and the baby, for one. Plus, Sanchez added, there’s a high likelihood that you’re experiencing homelessness or you’re in an unsafe living situation. If you’re in a relationship, she said, it’s probably not the healthiest one.

But the hardest part for her was the shame. “As a woman and as a mother, it’s just this natural feeling in you to want to care for your unborn child,” she said. “And when you know that you can’t, you’re not doing that to the best of your ability, it can be heartbreaking and really really hard to deal with.”

After running up against judgment and humiliation while seeking services, Sanchez found the Milagro Clinic in Albuquerque, which helps pregnant women detox safely. She gave birth to her son. “I still feel like it was just a miracle,” she said. “I was so proud of myself. Not many people get to make it out of that. And so that’s why it’s kind of like my mission now.”

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