I Do Love My Baby: Stories of Mothers with Recovery and Addiction
by Marilyn Hazlett
“I Do Love My Baby” is the title of the recently published book featuring the work of 15 Creative Inquiry students in the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and Perinatal Substance Exposure Creative Inquiry projects mentored by Dr. Heide Temples and Dr. Mary Ellen Wright in the School of Nursing. Together, the multi-disciplinary team has collected stories from mothers suffering with opioid addiction and used their findings to influence healthcare for these families nationwide. Temples and Wright are the co-authors of the book with each student contributor highlighted within.
The goal of this Creative Inquiry project is to improve the recovery for mothers suffering from opioid addiction, for the health of both the mother and child. The team’s published research is being presented at professional conferences and distributed to hospitals and decision makers in the government and medical communities. The team is also sending their findings to public figures with the hope that by using their public influence they will help shape policy and transform public opinion of mothers suffering from addiction.
To collect data for their project on perinatal care and drug addiction, the team sent participant solicitations to recovery centers in North and South Carolina. Even before publishing their findings, the community’s response to this team’s research was overwhelming. Mothers and families were eager to share their stories in hopes of positively influencing another family’s experience navigating raising a family in similar circumstances.
The students worked with Temples and Wright to conduct phone interviews with the participating mothers. Students then transcribed the interviews, omitting any identifying information, such as hospital locations and names. Once the stories were written, the team organized the stories chronologically for the book. Presented in the book as stand-alone chapters, each story focuses on the struggles and successes of a mother affected by opioid addiction. The book presents a powerful case for major adjustments to the professional care of mothers affected by addiction and the public perception of these women.
This project relies heavily on qualitative research. Within the medical field, published research is often primarily supported by significant quantitative findings and clinical trials; however, capturing the women’s perspective of recovering from addiction while raising a family required exploratory, story-based research.
Using a data analysis program called ATLAS.ti, students analyzed the transcripts identifying themes such as first pregnancy and first experience with drugs. The program returned over 160 themes. Across all of the stories, three major themes dominated: positive social support led to faster recovery; adverse childhood events were correlated with addictive behavior in mothers; and the loss of child custody was a positive push for the mother to recover from addiction.
The team’s work has received international attention. Collectively, the team has presented their research 21 times: 15 posters at nine conferences; three podium presentations; three papers submitted in peer-reviewed journals; and one book.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, students were unable to travel to present at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners’ 41st National Conference in Long Beach, CA in March 2020 or the 2020 Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses Annual Convention in Phoenix, AZ in June.
Past and present members of this Creative Inquiry project hope their work will positively influence the care mothers affected by addiction receive during and after pregnancy. The team’s research provides specific suggestions for how to improve physical spaces, strengthen emotional support, aid recovery and ensure proper childcare. They all want their work to leave a lasting impact.
Barbara J. Speziale