Baby born with FAS after mum drank eight beers a day
LINDA McFadden's second baby nearly died from foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), but that wasn't enough for her to beat a debilitating addiction.
She battled on for than six more years, getting drunk daily and hiding alcohol around the house from her husband.
It started when Linda was 15 years old. At first it was just the odd beer at a party.
"I was usually painfully shy, but with the booze I felt happy and confident," the now 53-year-old mum told The Sun.
Soon she was at the pub every weekend. Even though she was underage, Linda appeared older.
By the time she was 22, she was hooked.
"Alcohol consumed my every thought," she said. "Living with my parents, I'd hide cans on the outside window ledge so they didn't know."
Even so, Linda didn't believe she had a problem. Sure she was late to work, but she could still function.
"Nobody ever said anything and I refused to believe I had a problem," she said. "I was slim and had plenty of energy. So what if I needed a drink?"
In 1989, Linda was married and expecting her and her husband David's first daughter, Sarah. She tried to cut down her drinking during the pregnancy but found she couldn't.
"Are you sure you don't want a lemonade?" David once asked her when she was five months pregnant and ordering a pint at the pub.
"He didn't understand that this wasn't a choice for me," she said. "I needed to drink alcohol."
Sarah was lucky enough to escape permanent damage from her mother's drinking, although she was dangerously underweight at birth: around two kilos.
When Sarah wouldn't feed, doctors said they suspected she had foetal alcohol syndrome. For a while the baby girl had to be fed through a tube, but in the end she hit her milestones and was turning into a strong, lovely little girl.
Linda on the other hand was surviving on eight pints (470ml a glass) of beer a day.
"David would come home to find me passed out on the sofa with Sarah in her play pen," Linda recalls.
When Sarah was five, she found her mum vomiting in the toilet.
"What's wrong mummy?" the little girl asked. Linda blamed it on too much tea.
That same year, Linda found out she was pregnant again.
"By now drinking had such a hold on me, I didn't even think about cutting down."
Unfortunately, the second baby didn't fare as well are her older sister. Linda had an emergency C-section two months before her due date. The baby, who they named Claire, was less than one kilo. The tiny newborn had a 50 per cent chance of survival.
"I sat by the incubator in tears as the consultant came to see us," she said. "'We can tell by Claire's features that she has FAS', he said. He explained that babies with FAS often have small eyes, and the space between their eyes and their nose is flat."
It should have been the wake-up call Linda needed to immediately stop drinking, but her addiction was way too strong.
"I didn't want to admit my drinking had affected her, so I carried on."
One day, while David was at work, Linda left the stove on and passed out, drunk. A frantic Sarah woke her mother as smoke billowed out of their kitchen.
After the fire brigade came - social services arrived to threaten Linda that they would take the girls.
Linda went to live with her aunt while David stayed with the girls. She checked herself into a rehabilitation clinic.
After three months of painful withdrawal symptoms, the sober mum returned home.
Although Linda is sober, Claire will always experience the effects of her mum's drinking.
"She suffers from anxiety and her progress was behind the other children at school," Linda said.
"Telling her that it was as a result of my drinking was the hardest thing I've ever had to do."
For a long time Claire blamed her mum, but she's now 23 and has a regular job and boyfriend.
"She still struggles socially," Linda said. "Thankfully we're very close. She knows how sorry I am and that I'm always there for her.
"I will never forgive myself. I feel so guilty for betraying my daughter."
This article appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.