Let me be completely clear. I have never been an addict. I have never lain my head on the street for slumber or been driven to prostitution or acts of craziness for cash. My perspective is based wholly on being a witness to addiction. Sadly, most of the addicts that I see cannot talk. They are tiny babies born to moms who are addicts. I am a lowly administrative assistant in a small hospital on the east coast that helps babies born addicted wean from the drugs they are dependent on. There are stories here…stories that some folks aren’t strong enough to tell themselves. Yet. Not strong enough YET. I always say yet because as my young daughter tells me, anything can happen.
The first mama that I ever encountered was named Sharon in 2010. Sharon had a beautiful baby girl as well an older child which I never met but she talked about constantly. She was in her 30s and her story still haunts me.
It is amazing what people tell me. I really have no power and that makes me a completely safe ear. I am not a social worker, I don’t have any clout to speak of . I met Sharon at the big honkin industrial coffee maker near my office. I love my coffee so I visit that machine often. So did Sharon, but for fucks sake, she would put so much sugar in hers it was like brown cotton candy. She had her boyfriend with her. He was a nervous wreck. Talking a mile a minute saying that they couldn’t take care of this baby. She didn’t say much to him but seemed really preoccupied with me…”Hey, I like your necklace?” “where do you live?” “Do you have kids?” I always talked to her. She was kind. Engaging. I talked to her a lot. She told me that her baby was weaning from heroin. She was done with all of that. On methadone…couldn’t wait to be a good mom for her two little girls. She was staying at our facility (we are the kind of place where parents can nest with their babies and she was never far from that baby). She walked around with her often….sang “I'm a creep”…made me laugh. I will never forget her saying that she lived “on a main street in a little town in a green house with a swingset in the front”. Life seemed like it was looking up for her little crew. The boyfriend was dick and I hoped she would come to her senses regarding that. I believed in her.
Then disaster struck.
Sharon’s baby got a super bad infection in her little toe where the morphine was being administered. If you have never seen a baby detox, consider yourself lucky. They wail. I mean cry like there is no tomorrow. It makes colic look like a picnic. And this baby shook. Almost like she got out of the swimming pool and was freezing. I mean, this poor little baby had enough shit going on for an army and she didn’t need an infected toe. She had to go to the main hospital. We are considered stepdown. Sharon followed her baby. Of course she did! It was her baby! Before she went back, I saw her in our coffee area. She said goodbye to me and gave me a piece of cake that she scammed from another family. I gave her a hug and told her I would see her soon. Hells yeah! Her baby was strong…they would prevail. They would come back to step down in a jiffy.
They didn’t fucking prevail.
They didn’t fucking prevail.
It turns out Sharon couldn’t take it. Maybe it was guilt….She mentioned that she felt like it was her fault that her daughter was in this shitty position. The stress of a sick baby…this kid was super sick. She used. She uber used. She came in barely recognizable. Full nod. Said she left stuff at our place. She didn’t. She tried to scam me for money. I didn’t have any (I really didn’t!). It was the first time I have ever looked at someone and saw demise. I hugged her. Wished her luck.
The baby came back. Sharon never did.
That baby cried constantly. You could hear her from every corner of the floor she was on. We have an amazing group of volunteers . They are baby holders and they come in and help the nursing staff by holding babies. They always held her. She had this head of crazy baby hair and enormous blue eyes. She was utterly irresistible. I always saw a sadness in her though . I know she was only 4 months old but I think that baby missed her mama. She knew. She was with us for a long time. CYF got involved. Eventually that raven haired beauty found a family. I learned much later that she was adopted by a wonderful couple. Two moms. One a pediatrician, one a pharmacist (A little ironic?).
I know the less successful mama. The one who looked at her like she hung the moon. The one that she cried the least with and shared the same big eyes and crazy hair. The one that couldn’t cope with all the shit that life throws at you daily and a needle eased the pain.
I know in my heart she loved that mama. I don’t know much, but I know love where I see it. I saw it in those two. I really did.
That’s what haunts me. I worry that Sharon didn’t see the love. She was so busy being hypercritical of herself. She didn’t SEE the love. I should have told her what I saw between the two of them. But I think she thought she wasn’t worthy of that beautiful baby. She was, By God, she really was.
She must be about 5 years old now. She is probably in some fancy dancy school, playing an instrument, learning French. I bet she is becoming a beautiful person. I also bet that everytime she passes a green house with a swingset in the front, her heart smiles and she doesn’t know why.