I’ve never really understood why pregnant women would gamble with their unborn baby’s health by smoking. Every time I saw a visibly pregnant woman that was smoking, I silently passed judgment on them and never really considered that they might be trying to stop, really trying with all their might to curtail their addiction, until I read an article by Sarah Moolla in the Daily Mail.
In it, Moolla describes her struggle with not being able to stop smoking during her two pregnancies:
The minute we find out we’re expecting, we are told to stop and I believed my body would help me. But it didn’t happen. I still wanted to smoke. My body would no longer tolerate my two other great loves. Coffee made me vomit and cheese made me queasy — but I craved cigarettes. Every single cigarette tortured me because I was so scared I was going to harm my baby. Sometimes I’d be smoking with tears streaming down my face. Yet still I didn’t stop. Cigarettes are a bad habit at the best of times — and at the worst of times they’re an evil, embarrassing, ugly, selfish, all-consuming addiction. The first puff wasn’t one of deep satisfaction, it was one of dreadful shame.
People who don’t have an addiction mistakenly assume that pregnant moms just carelessly grab a smoke without any thought to their unborn child. I know I have had similar thoughts in the past. A previous article in the Daily Mail that profiled a young mom who smoked drew hateful remarks Moolla explains, which is party what prompted her to revisit this time in her life, when she was pregnant and smoked and was very guilty about it. Unlike the young girl, who many readers said was too young and uneducated to have a baby, and even suggested that the baby should be taken away from her (more judging), Moolla was in her mid-thirties, college educated and happily married.
Moolla described being a smoking mom as the ultimate taboo and sign of a bad mother:
A glass of red wine while pregnant is all good mum-in-the-suburbs fun. But not a cigarette. It’s the ultimate taboo. I bought every stop-smoking book and every pregnancy guidebook, tearing through to the index to see if the subject was discussed, but it never was. Good mothers, it seems, don’t smoke — so they don’t need any help to stop.
She also says that when she found out she was pregnant with baby number two, her smoking addiction was the first thing she thought about:
A year later, I was pregnant again. We’d only just decided to try for a second child, so couldn’t believe how lucky we’d been. Except I didn’t feel lucky, I sobbed when I saw the positive pregnancy test. I didn’t care about not drinking, or getting fat, or sleepless nights — I cared about having to give up smoking.
Luckily, her two children were born completely healthy. As she also points out, look at how many of our parents smoked with us. Moolla says she never smoked in front of her kids after they were born.
Like so many parenting issues, mother that smokes can fall in between two opposing sides, and smack in the middle of a bunch of judgment. Just look at all the feelings and issues Babble’s series on Alcohol and Pregnancy brought out. I know there is a difference since one alcoholic drink may not harm your unborn baby, and might relax mom, but a cigarette bring toxins into the woman’s body, and therefore the baby’s environment. But in replace of judgment, why not try some practical advice to help all those nicotine-addicted mothers? Surely, if pregnant mothers can learn how to kick the habit, their children would grown up in a much healthier, smoke-free home.
I don’t condone smoking while pregnant but I also don’t condone shaming mothers who do. That does nothing to help them stop smoking and it does nothing to help the babies. These moms need support and education to help them learn how to stop. Moolla says she is writing her own book since she could not find any advice out there to help her:
The lack of really good, non-judgmental advice for smoking mothers-to-be is something I feel angry and passionate about. I tried every method, means and magic to stop smoking. In the end it was an accumulation of all of these things that made me finally quit three years ago. I’m writing my own guide to stopping smoking and, unlike other books, I will include a pregnancy chapter. I’m proud I finally quit, but when I look at my wonderfully happy, robust, handsome boys I’m so ashamed at the gamble I took with their health.
What do you think? Does smoking make you a bad mom? How about smoking while pregnant?
Image: Stop Smoking Tips
Bad Example? Celeb Moms Who Smoke!
Read Danielle’s blog Just Write Mom.