Nine years ago God gave me the great privilege and honor of becoming a mother through adoption.
I adopted my first son, Steven, when
he was almost six years old. One year
later, God gave me the opportunity to
adopt Steven’s younger brother, Walter,
who at the time was almost five years
old. From the beginning, being Walter’s
mother was very different than mothering Steven. I did everything I knew as
a mother and nursing professional and
applied all of my knowledge gained after
working with children at risk for more
than ten years, but nothing worked. Instead of progressing, it seemed like everything was getting worse at home, at
preschool, and in every environment. I
felt so frustrated and fearful thinking of
Walter’s future as it seemed that nothing helped him.
I knew that the biological mother of my
sons was an alcoholic, and being a nurse,
I began to wonder if in some way alcohol
had affected Walter. I looked for help in
Costa Rica, where we live, but didn’t find
anybody who knew much about the ef-
fects of alcohol on the developing fetus.
I continued looking for information on
the Internet, and after a long path, dis-
covered that Walter has what is called a
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
There are thousands of teratogens
that can affect brain development, and
perhaps one of the most significant substances is alcohol. Alcohol consumption by the father before conception or
by the mother during pregnancy affects
the developing fetus, most importantly
the developing brain. Most people don’t
understand that any kind of alcohol and
any amount of alcohol, whether a lot or
minimal, can cause damage. Many people still receive information saying that it
is okay to drink during pregnancy and/
or while nursing. Scientific investigations are bringing truth to these myths.
In the United States and Canada, the
recommendation is to avoid all alcohol
during pregnancy and, if this is not possible, to support abstinence.
Alcohol and carbon monoxide in cigarettes pass easily through the placenta,
and exposure to alcohol puts the fetus at
risk for being born with a fetal alcohol
spectrum disorder. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a term that includes FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) but
also all the children that have behavioral
and/or cognitive changes but show no
• FASD is the leading cause of preventable
developmental disabilities in the world. 1
• Prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading
preventable cause of birth defects and
neurodevelopmental abnormalities in
the United States. 2
• Between 90-100 percent of children
with FASD have not been diagnosed.
• About 2 billion people across the world
consume alcoholic drinks3 while 16 to
by Suzanne C. Emery
We often have a difficult time seeing what amazing and
truly beautiful gifts these children are to the world.