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What picture comes to mind when you think of a birth mom of a child with prenatal alcohol exposure? The fact is whatever you thought, there is no one version. There are thousands of stories of birth moms. But the one thing I do know is any birth mom I have ever met has never wanted to intentionally hurt their child, and today’s guest is no exception. 

Niki Marshall had a troubled youth. As a result, she was addicted to drugs and alcohol at 13, kicked out of school at 14, and living on her own at 15. All the time seeking to self-medicate an undiagnosed mental health disorder. Eventually settling into a relationship, being told she nor her partner could have children, she found out on a visit to a doctor she was 4 months pregnant. We talk about what that was like for her when she found out and what she did immediately, as well as: 

  • The challenges of parenting a child with a misdiagnosis of autism and the often frustrating, and lonely journey from an FASD prognosis to eventual FASD diagnosis; 
  • Strategies she has learned and pivot points to respond to her son’s needs; 
  • The coping skills she has used to maintain full-time studies, a full-time job and being a single mom to where she is now with what she refers to as the Laundry Project; and 
  • Her advice to not only bio moms, but to people who still judge birth moms and especially to professionals. 

“I don’t feel like professionals or anyone broaches the subject of drinking during pregnancy if you don’t look a certain way. It’s not okay because I didn’t look the part.” 

As one of the alumni of our Caregiver Kickstart online course for FASD caregivers, I have known Niki now for almost two years and watched her incredible transformation. She certainly is not the media depiction of a birth mom – nor are the majority. She has defied her own odds and carved a life for her and her son. She will be the first to admit that the grief and loss are ever-present but that you have to be “more graciously accepting the successes that happen all the time that you forget about or you don’t notice because of what you lost.” 

Let me know what you think of this incredible transformation of one determined bad a$$ birth mom to beat the odds and the stereotypes. I know Niki will continue to use her transformative story and voice to educate. 

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