No Blame No Shame

As a birth mother of an adult with FASD, I have no problem with the egg illustration. I agree that it focuses on the actual physical effect of the alcohol, rather than on the 'blame' for the exposure to that alcohol. I am often asked if I feel guilty about my daughter's brain dameage. I answer, "Not guilty, but responsible."

I am matter-of fact and up front about the cause of my daughter's brain damage: my exessive drinking during the early weeks of pregnancy. I don't 'blame' myself for her brain damage, because a)I did not know I was pregnant, b)in 1978 the general public had no idea how devastating an impact drinking could have on an unborn child, and c)I was an alcoholic who had not at that time been exposed to a program of recovery. No blame = no shame. And no shame means I can openly take full responsibility for the result of my actions...while doing whatever it takes to help my daughter live with those results, and help other women and children avoid having to.

It is important not to shame or blame the pregnant women who, for whatever reason, drink while pregnant. Compassion requires it. And kids with FASD will have a better chance if their birth mothers admit to drinking during the pregnancy so they can get an accurate diagnosis. That is less likely to happen if they feel blamed and ashamed.

At the same time it is imperative that we do not downplay the woman's responsibility toward the life growing within her or toward the child her actions may affect.

September 2003

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