Mother’s guilt over alcohol’s effect
ELIZABETH Russell drank alcohol while she was pregnant with her two sons. She has regretted her actions ever since.
The National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Queensland representative is dedicated to telling pregnant women about the dangers of drinking alcohol.
Ms Russell’s youngest son, aged 22, is constantly battling the ongoing effects of foetal alcohol syndrome.
Despite having a high IQ, Ms Russell said he struggled with his judgment and decision-making abilities.
‘‘He lives inter-dependently . . . at least twice a day I hear from him, I have to be constantly by my phone,’’ Ms Russell said.
‘‘I don’t know how many times I have talked him down from suicide — it is a constant battle, for him as well as me.’’
Ms Russell’s eldest son is 25, and despite showing all the signs of foetal alcohol syndrome as a toddler, has ended up able to live a normal life.
But Ms Russell said she would never know whether his IQ and abilities could have been better if she’d abstained from drinking.
Like Dr Whitehall, Ms Russell believes abstaining from alcohol completely while pregnant is the only way mothers can ensure their baby is not affected.
She said she did not drink much more than the seven drinks a week the National Guidelines state is safe.
‘‘I don’t remember drinking more than two or three drinks a night,’’ Ms Russell said.
Ms Russell said she disputed the view that it was the woman’s body and it was her choice.
‘‘You can’t put the mother’s rights over the baby’s,’’ she said.
She said the lasting effects of alcohol on a baby were ‘far, far worse’ than those suffered by drug-affected babies.
Ms Russell has written two books about foetal alcohol syndrome. The second, AlcoholandPregnancy:No BlameNoShame, is about to be released.