A mother's redemption
By Laura McDonald
Devin, 24, was born and raised in the Bonney Lake area.
Her mother was an addict. As a young child, Devin watched drugs flow in and out of her home. To make matters worse, she was sexually assaulted. As an adult, it eventually became too much to bear.
“I didn’t know how to cope with that childhood trauma,” Devin says.
At 19, her life spiraled out of control when she started self-medicating with opioid pain pills. Eventually, the pain pills were replaced with heroin and methamphetamines.
At the time, Devin had a 2-year-old son named Carter. A single mother, she started selling drugs to pay for food and toys for Carter. But she soon realized that she was falling into a familiar family pattern.
She made the tough, but responsible decision to take Carter to live with his loving, stable grandparents in Eastern Washington.
Devin learned she was expecting her second child in September 2016. She wanted to get clean immediately, but the scars from her past and increased anxiety made it difficult to stop.
Devin learned there are four programs in Washington that specialize in treating chemical-using pregnant women. She asked her family to drive her to an inpatient facility near Seattle the following week, where she spent 26 days receiving prenatal care, medical detoxification and chemical dependency treatment.
When she completed the program, Devin was referred to Abi Plawman, MD, a family doctor with MultiCare East Pierce Family Medicine in Puyallup, for follow-up care.
Dr. Plawman runs an outpatient clinic for pregnant women and mothers in recovery. The goal of the program is not just healthier babies — it’s healthier mothers, too.
“People tend to treat chemically dependent pregnant women as a vessel, which diminishes their self-efficacy, Dr. Plawman explains. “When we treat the mom, we are treating the environment so the baby can grow up in a safe home. Changing the behavior long-term after the baby is born is key. We want to set the mothers up for success.”
Devin worked on staying clean for her baby, but it wasn’t enough. She stopped visiting Dr. Plawman. That’s when she truly hit rock bottom — 20 weeks pregnant.
“I was pregnant, alone and surrounded by needles,” she recalls. “I was walking around pregnant — with a loaded gun. If I didn’t get clean, I probably would have died, gone to prison or killed someone.”
Then she received two voice messages that saved her life. The first was from her grandmother, a painful plea to get help and “take care of yourself.” The second was from Dr. Plawman, who expressed her care and concern, saying, “I’m worried about you, Devin. We haven’t seen you in a while.” She just wanted to make sure Devin was getting help somewhere, anywhere.
Those messages inspired Devin to go back to treatment the day after Christmas. She spent another 26 days at an inpatient unit for pregnant women.
And this time it stuck. What made the difference, explains Devin, is “I did it for me this time.” She stayed clean for the rest of her pregnancy.
Devin gave birth to her daughter, Lola, on May 14, 2017, at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital.
Although she was sober for the last trimester of her pregnancy, Lola needed to withdraw from the maintenance medication Devin was taking to stabilize from the heroin use. On average, Good Samaritan provides intensive care for three newborn babies a day suffering from drug withdrawal, otherwise known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
Babies with severe NAS can spend months in the NICU. Women who get help early enough in their pregnancy can reduce the severity of NAS and improve overall outcomes for their baby. Because Devin worked on removing the heroin from her system, Lola only had to spend 12 days in the NICU. And her symptoms were much less severe: Lola had a hard time feeding, a low fever and sneezing.
But every day was agony for Devin.
“I felt horrible knowing I did that to her,” she says. “I never left that NICU.”
Today, Lola and Devin are both happy and healthy. They regularly see Dr. Plawman and the East Pierce Family Medicine team for their outpatient and pediatric care. Devin is using every support service available to her to stay clean, including mental health counseling, parenting groups and addiction and recovery groups.
“I love everything about being a mom,” she says. “Lola goes with me everywhere. She’s totally worth everything I have gone through; I never want to go back to using. I want her to have the complete opposite life that I’ve had.”
Her sobriety has also given her a chance to reconnect with her son Carter, now 7.
“I took everything for granted — my freedom, my children. Now I cherish every moment.”
MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital to create an OB Addiction Unit
The number of women who suffer from alcohol or drug addiction while pregnant is growing exponentially, especially amid a nationwide pain pill and heroin abuse epidemic.
An 18-bed Obstetric (OB) Addiction Unit, led by Dr. Abi Plawman, is part of an expansion plan at Good Samaritan Hospital. The unit will become just the fourth hospital in Washington serving pregnant mothers who want and need a safe space to recover from chemical dependency issues.
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