PAPERBACK BOOKS
ALCOHOL AND PREGNANCY, No Blame - No Shame! 

This book is the sequel to Alcohol and Pregnancy – A Mother’s Responsible Disturbance.  Along with a short history of the author and her family it explores how prenatal alcohol exposure has affected the lives of sixteen Australians.  Stories range from a mother challenged by symptoms consistent with FASD who has given birth to a baby, now a teenager, who was prenatally exposed to alcohol; to the exasperation of a young woman with pFAS trying to live her life based on the values with which she was raised, but falling short of her goal again and again.  These stories highlight how they coped, strategies they used, mistakes they made, their pain and heartache—and their triumphs and tragedies.*

 
Online Price:   $22.95

ISBN:  978 1 921240 05 8
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 189
Genre: Non Fiction

 

 


Author: Elizabeth Russell
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2007
Language: English

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

 

I would like to acknowledge the sponsorship of this book by ITEC Employment. This Australian company’s willingness to be involved is due in part to their understanding of FASD and how it fits into the many federal government programs they deliver throughout the Northern Territory and Queensland .  

Thanks also to the members of NOFASARD who, ever vigilant for ways to educate Australians on the harmful effects of alcohol and pregnancy, contributed to the expenses of my first book - helping us considerably at a time when more than just our spirits were low.  

One last acknowledgement to my brother, Noel, who allowed himself to be levered from a well deserved retirement (not that he has sequestered himself away by any means) in order to edit both books for his loving sister. Thank you Noel.

DEDICATION

 

To Sue and Tony Miers – one day you will both be formally recognised for the extraordinary work you do for this cause.  

(Author’s Note: Sue Miers was recently awarded the Order of Australia (AM) this year for her work in this field.)  

Don, Mick, Seth and Hayley you will always be the reason for everything I do.  

Thank you to Sonny, Don Snr and others in my extended family - Sue and Nigel, David and Beth, Natasha and Barry, Russel and Anita, Devin and Clete, Murray and David, Anthony and Michelle, Kevin and Lana, Diane and John and Noel and Alma for loving me.  

The synchronicity that has resulted in the publication of these two books has been astonishing. From an unrequited, until now, love of writing; to the people I met through the commission of my profession – the very people and organisations who were funded to provide support and assistance to individuals with difficulties similar to Seth’s. Many of the individuals I met in recent years have made contributions to this book, if not in sentences or paragraphs, then in information, contacts and ideas. Then there are my friends, the people I have found through opportunities presented via the Internet and my work who have given me courage, support and confidence, many of whom have gone beyond the call to help me and my family – Sue and Tony Miers are but two of these extraordinary people. Because of them my life is now so much richer than it has ever been before. I have a responsibility and an obligation to them all as well as to my family. To ignore this obligation would be to dishonour the effort that has been expended to help me get to this point in my life because I believe with all my heart that when something is wrong, *those people who have the ability to take action also have the responsibility to take action.

*(Paraphrased from the movie ‘National Treasure’)

 

FOREWORD

 

Professor Fiona Stanley

2003 Australian of the Year, Director of the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and Executive Director of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth

 

Ask most pregnant mothers what it is that they wish most for their unborn child, and most will answer quite simply that their greatest wish is for their child to be healthy. Their greatest fear is that their child will be abnormal. Yet when it comes to telling women that drinking alcohol in pregnancy is dangerous for their child and can cause lifelong harm, many health professionals skirt around the issue and give mixed messages. Rather than advocating abstinence, they offer false reassurance that a few drinks could be okay.

The truth is that there is NO safe level of alcohol consumption in pregnancy. Society would frown upon a mother who put alcohol in a newborn’s bottle, but accepts a pregnant woman having a ‘social’ drink. Women have a right to know the real harm that drinking alcohol – even in small amounts – can do to their developing child. Armed with knowledge, they can make good choices. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is an entirely preventable disability – IF we have the courage to confront it.

Courage is something that Elizabeth Russell both has and inspires in others. She doesn’t shy away from the truth about alcohol in pregnancy– it’s something she’s had to live with on a daily basis. Through her honesty, she has helped so many others. But while her contribution to families living with FASD is immeasurable, I think her most significant achievement is bringing her confronting message into the public arena where she has made so many people stop and ask the hard questions: What messages about alcohol are we giving to pregnant women? How as a society do we support women not to drink in pregnancy? What are the implications of the increase in alcohol abuse amongst teenage girls? Awareness is the first step towards prevention.

Elizabeth is absolutely right when she says this issue is not about blame. It should never be about making people feel guilty or uncomfortable. But it is about responsibility – a responsibility that we all share to support mothers in our society and to educate women about the effects of alcohol in pregnancy. It is about how we value children and about how we protect them. It is about how we support families in crisis.

At the end of this book, Elizabeth has penned poignant letters to those she has confronted personally with a message about FASD that we as a society are not being brave enough to deliver. It is not a battle that she should be waging alone. It requires a substantial shift in the way the community thinks about alcohol use. It also requires an acceptance of the unpalatable truth that many amongst us already bear the burden of this condition. Drinking in pregnancy can and does harm babies. Every day. And the pain and anguish can last a lifetime – for mother and child.

Thank you Elizabeth for your courage – may others now have the courage to listen, to speak up and to act.


Sue Miers

Co Founder and Spokesperson for the (Australian) National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Related Disorders (NOFASARD), Peak Body for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Australia

 

My very first contact with Elizabeth Russell was by email in 2001 when she contacted me to find out information about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Since then, Elizabeth has become a very special friend whose courage and bravery has left an indelible imprint on my life. She has demonstrated incredible inner strength and tenacity of spirit in coping with the pain and grief of being the birth mother of two sons affected by prenatal exposure to alcohol. She also has my deepest respect for moving forward despite all odds and for turning those negative emotions into a positive experience by her commitment to raise awareness and educate the public and health professionals about the human impact of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Elizabeth exposed the raw reality of the impact of alcohol exposure in utero in her first book, Alcohol and Pregnancy – a Mother’s Responsible Disturbance. In this, her second book, she continues to raise awareness by sharing personal events in her own family’s life journey and by interviewing other families whose lives have also been profoundly impacted by the effects of alcohol exposure in pregnancy. These collective experiences are incredibly moving and very personal stories from individuals with FASD, their carers, parents and families, all struggling to cope in a society that has little understanding or awareness of their needs. They are stories that highlight the terrible personal and societal costs of alcohol exposure in pregnancy, the alarming lack of support from health professionals and the deficiency of resources in the community to adequately and appropriately meet the needs of individuals with FASD.

“You are not alone” could have been an alternate title of this book. Elizabeth ’s concern for the carers of fetal alcohol affected people lies beneath each page. Other titles that spring to mind are: “FASD a Survivor’s Guide” and “The Care and Management of a Person with FASD” or more brutally: “You are not a bad parent, your child has FASD”. All of these titles allude to Elizabeth ’s selfless commitment to promoting awareness, educating the community and assisting with the management of this disability.

Elizabeth however, has carefully chosen the title “No blame – No shame” to emphasise that a mother does not usually deliberately set out to harm her unborn child. Elizabeth ’s pressing message to this book’s audience is that harm is occurring and that we as a society must understand why it is occurring and that we should blame alcohol, not pregnant women.

FASD is real and it is a largely unrecognised disability in Australia . Given our alcohol consumption patterns, it is hard to believe that it is not better understood by educators, health professionals, law enforcement agencies and governments who clearly do not understand the size and the social and economic costs of it. This situation is changing and Elizabeth is not alone in campaigning for better education, management and ultimately the prevention of what is regarded by the World Health Organisation as the most common preventable cause of intellectual or developmental disability in the western world.

Through this book, Elizabeth has shared her experiences, knowledge and understanding of the disability. She has also been the medium for many others to add to that invaluable pool of expertise through the somewhat cathartic publishing of “their stories”.

Thank you Elizabeth, once again for your articulate, yet sensitive and caring work on this topic.


Feedback from Alcohol and Pregnancy – A Mother’s Responsible Disturbance

 

The comments below are from people who all took the time to write or email me after reading my first book causing me to be more of an emotional wreck than at any other time since 2002 – the year I started writing. At long last I can say (and really believe) that I have made a difference. I have always understood, now more so than ever, that I am a product of the people in my life who have taken the time to love me – my family most particularly, but also the people I have acknowledged on the previous pages and the people below. Surprisingly this feedback is only about one quarter of what I actually received. Names are withheld for obvious reasons but if anyone has any doubt that they are genuine, they can be verified.

 

‘Congratulations on a wonderful achievement!!!

( Elizabeth ), the book is a first for Australia . It’s written from the heart and there’s nothing like it available here. In fact it’s a historic document to mark a turnaround point both for mothers who use, or have used alcohol, in pregnancy and for those affected.  

 

Congratulating you for having the courage and persistence to write this book and get it printed seems so inappropriate…..and “well done” seems so patronising…

 

So I will just tell you that I respect you…yes for writing the book…but more importantly for the woman that you are…for acknowledging and facing up to your responsibilities and for sticking by your family.

 

I hope that writing this book has helped you as I know it will help many other mothers. In time I am sure that it will be the catalyst to prevent other families from ever having to personally experience FASD.’  

 

‘It must have been such a hard thing to do – baring your most painful, darkest secrets in life to the world, things you would probably much rather put behind you – I really admire what you have done – you are amazing!!!’  

 

‘I read a few pages last night...you are an excellent writer...my heart was in my mouth when you decided to tell your family...but I am glad they accepted it so well...the boys are so cute...’  

 

‘Oh, I do feel for you and your struggle!!!  I told my husband that you must be an Amazon to have overcome all of this pain...and to put down the boys' problems so clearly and making suggestions on how to change their situations as you write...very valuable information...I don't know why but we can write things like "structure" and "consistency" and "non-stimulating" but people never understand until you can tell them a story or show them with a child's reactions. I am in the middle right now and your struggle with alcohol is horrendous...I had to learn how to quit smoking but smoking was not doing the damage to the ones I loved that alcohol can do...You really are to be applauded...you are a tremendously brave person!!!

 

’I just wanted you to know that I am so very impressed by your talent and courage...’    

 

‘Congratulations on your book. Jan gave me a copy to read and I found it to be so interesting and enjoyable to read that I just couldn't and wouldn't put it down. You are an amazing author and again congratulations and thank you for your inspirational and motivational stories of your struggles and your achievements. Good luck to you and your family. Can't wait for the next book.’  

 

‘Email words about your book will not do it justice. Well first of all I think it is a magnificent effort. I enjoyed reading every single page. I think you have a talent for expressing thoughts and feelings that connects with people on an emotional yet practical level. As someone who knows the subject fairly well (short of living it) I kept in mind the person reading this who may know very little and I think you have managed to write a book that is enlightening for both perspectives. As soon as I read something that I thought a less informed person might question, low and behold you raised the same question and then addressed it in a very pragmatic and honest way.

 

The raw power of your considered words and the strong sense of your integrity and your family’s integrity dealing with a profound and life-changing experience that would have blown lesser families to bits is amazing. It is more than just love that sustains that. It is honesty and trust and strength and that shone through to me in your writing. I loved the way your book has others sharing their thoughts and those people you encountered who made a positive difference to the outcome. It could have been so different without them. As we both know, that’s the tragic reality for far too many and, that’s an ‘onion’ (you may have noticed) that gets me crying. I think they are tears of frustration.’  

 

‘I was emotionally very moved when I saw the book, and have already started reading it. (I am) also extremely grateful for your considering my involvement.’  

 

‘…no wonder you speak of ( Elizabeth ) in almost "awed" tones. My words are inadequate to describe my admiration of her overcoming her own early problems and her abilities to write and describe how she, her husband and the boys have faced FAS front-on-up-close-and-personal.’    

 

‘I love the way you asked the members of your family to write...I applaud your courage and determination...this is really a MUST read...

I am just thrilled to have it!!!!’  

 

‘Just wanted to drop you a line to congratulate you on your excellent book which I have just finished. The book was delivered on Tuesday (I was impressed with the speed of delivery) and apart from stopping to feed, wash and put (my children) to bed, was absorbed for the better part of Tuesday evening. Thank goodness there are those in our society who have such amazing courage as to write a book like this and from the perspective from which you write it. You have also been instrumental in providing me new information regarding the condition. Whilst I knew that cleft palate was a possibility for children with FASD I didn't know that other jaw abnormalities were…will be a better carer for having read your book.’    

Over the last 4 years, reading what is now several hundred studies on FASD cannot compare to reading your account of the condition in one session. From this perspective your book is invaluable to me as a carer, seeing how FASD has affected one single individual throughout childhood and adolescence helped me to understand far better the strategies that need to be adopted. Your suggested strategies are invaluable. Thank you. ( Elizabeth ), you are one amazing woman.’

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