12 Steps for Birth Mothers

The 12 steps for birth mothers are based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and they have been written specifically for birth mothers. These steps may benefit those mothers needing to come to terms with sorrow brought about by their contact with FASD. I have related them in the third person to align them more with the AA methodology and they are best discussed and actioned with the support of other mothers and support workers.

  1. Step 1 — Accept that we are powerless to change anything about our past pregnancies but we can change how we manage our future pregnancies.
  2. Step 2 — Acknowledge that we used alcohol either because we were not aware of the dangers during pregnancy or our own personal circumstances at the time were unbearable creating a situation which requires us to now be responsible but not to blame.
  3. Step 3 — Admit that while it is not within our power to change our past, it is within our power to make the future brighter for our children.
  4. Step 4 — Make a decision that regardless of who we were or what we did in the past, we now have to do and be whatever will help our children achieve their optimal health and potential, at the same time being careful not to compromise our own.
  5. Step 5 — Make a decision to learn as much as possible about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
  6. Step 6 — To enable our children obtain an accurate diagnosis, admit to ourselves and then to as many medical professionals as necessary that we indeed used alcohol while we were pregnant.
  7. Step 7 — Make a decision to persevere in our attempts to find a medical professional who is fully informed about the condition and is willing to help.
  8. Step 8 — Understand that holding on to our fear, grief, guilt, shame and anger will not help us or our children.
  9. Step 9 — Make a conscious decision to put aside these feelings in order to fully and effectively advocate for our children.
  10. *Step 10 — Come to believe that our children had reasons of their own for choosing us as their parents.
  11. Step 11 — Make a decision that although we need to plan for the future and remember the past, we must remain in the present.
  12. Step 12 — Whenever and wherever appropriate, extend our knowledge, experience, strength and hope to others to enable them to make an informed decision about drinking during pregnancy and/or to assist those similarly affected.

*This Step for me has been one of the most powerful. Having found my ‘Higher Power’ during my recovery, I followed my belief through and found that the idea in this Step made sense (to me). Whether it is as a method of alleviating my guilt or as a genuine spiritual concept is not important (to me).

The job of caring for a child with FASD is not an easy one. It is heartbreaking, stressful, frightening and soul destroying. My experience as a mother of two children with FASD tells me that when your affected child yells at you, he or she needs you to know that it’s just frustration or from being overwhelmed with choices or problems, even though they are choices that are very easily made by you or me. They will need you to know that when they persist about something it’s because they cannot change their mind, not because they choose not to. They want you to be there for them regardless of how much they annoy you, or how often you have to bail them out of some predicament that they may have unknowingly initiated. They also need you to advocate on their behalf, if necessary, for medication and other things that will improve their quality of life.

And above all, they need you to keep coming back to them no matter how many times they tell you to ‘leave them alone’. But if they exhibit behaviours that are dangerous to themselves or to you then that’s when they need you to be at your strongest and do whatever you can do to ensure the safety of everyone because occasionally the damage is so severe that there is very little help outside of an institution. And sometimes, no matter what you do or how many services you access, nothing will stop them from destroying themselves. People with FASD have been too long forgotten and dismissed. It is not that their families haven’t been looking after them or their parents haven’t been caring. It is just that there are no clinics specifically for people with FASD who have workers who understand this condition and who can help the affected individual and their family manage their lives both medically and socially. Neither are there support groups where parents and children can mix and offer each other support, strategies, and their own experience. Without this assistance the ordeal of looking after children who have behavioural problems beyond the imagination of many, will be too much for some parents who will concede defeat.

Elizabeth (Anne) Russell

Further Information and Resources

Intervention Strategies

Information for Parents and Carers