HUNTINGTON, West Virginia - Love drives Angela Davis all day, every day.
It’s an emotion that’s shown and not told, she believes. So finding jobs for parents, working with Child Protective Services, helping families with paperwork, tracking down housing — everything is an act of love for Angela.
Angela is the social worker at Lily’s Place, West Virginia’s only inpatient medical care facility for opioid-exposed newborns. The center helps babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome. Angela works with their mothers to help them overcome the trauma of opioid addiction. When a woman comes through the doors of Lily’s Place, Angela meets her with love.
So many people lead fairytale lives without even knowing it. “And some little girls are never a princess,” Angela says. “Never.”
Read more about Lily’s Place: Two centers of hope open for opioid-exposed babies
The women who bring their babies to Angela come in hating the choices they’ve made, hating the situations they’re in and hating themselves. After 19 years of sobriety herself, Angela knows more than her fair share about the kind of hate that echoes in your own head. Hate is such a strong thing, she says, and hate will eat you up if you let it.
“There is nothing I can say to them as they walk in the door that they haven’t said to themselves a thousand times,” Angela says. “Nothing. Nothing that their parents haven’t said to them, grandparents haven’t said to them, people on the street haven’t said to them. There’s nothing I could say to them. But the one thing I do say to them is, ‘I love you, and I care about you.’ And it’s something they haven’t heard.”
That love helps mothers battle the stigma that comes with abusing drugs while pregnant. The judgment from family, friends and even total strangers can deal just as much hurt as the drugs themselves.
“We have to get past the stigma of hating the moms,” Angela says. “Women don’t plan on getting pregnant addicted to drugs.” These mothers are choosing life over abortion and asking for help over pride, all for the love of their children, Davis says.
“They love their babies more than they love anything in this world,” she says. “And nobody knows how much they love their babies. That’s what people don’t get. Nobody gets it.”
Angela does. Is that the hardest part of her day, getting someone to let her love them?
“No,” she says. “It’s the easiest part.”
About this story
Rare Heartland Editor Gayle S. Putrich and Video Producer Allie Caren traveled to Ohio and West Virginia to visit the only two neonatal abstinence syndrome clinics in the United States. They listened to those whose lives have been affected by the nationwide opioid epidemic and learned how families and communities are coming together to aid the most helpless victims of the crisis.
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