Saving one baby (and mom) at a time

By Frank Lewis - [email protected]

The Stepping Stone House, operated by The Counseling Center, is celebrating 200 babies born to recovering mothers. Stepping Stone House is a residential treatment program for women; a treatment facility in Portsmouth, which specializes in substance abuse services. They provide residential long-term treatment options for those who enroll.

But a closer look at the celebration shows it is not about 200 babies born to recovering mothers. Instead, it is a story of one baby at a time being rescued from possibly being born addicted.

Meet Jaxon, a delightful four-year-old, born to Kathy Newman, one of the Stepping Stone House success stories. Kathy arrived at Stepping Stone in August 2011. She completed the program in December 2011, and went immediately into Level-2 housing, which is also part of The Counseling Center Transitional Living. Kathy became pregnant with Jaxon while she was in treatment, and it turns out Jaxon was more than a baby. He was an inspiration.

“That’s what influenced my decision to stay,” Kathy said. “The fact that my baby was conceived while I was clean and being able to see these other mothers that were pregnant and struggling with that their baby could be born addicted. I knew that I had this new accountability, this new life that was depending on me and my mind was clear for the first time in over 10 years. So I made the decision there that I was going to stay until after that baby was born. I was going to do whatever it took to get him here clean.”

What doubled down on Kathy’s stay at Stepping Stone House was the fact that she came with a four-year-old son already in hand.

“I had never really been a mother to him,” Kathy said. “At the time my mom was dying of cancer and she was the one who helped me care for him.”

That meant that Kathy Newman had to learn to be a mom.

“I had all these other mothers that were teaching me how to schedule my day around having this child,” Kathy said. “Here I was pregnant, and the support I got from the other women, the things that I learned from them was incredible.”

Kathy said the women who are in the treatment program have much more potential than they probably realize they have.

“I was able to see it in them before I was able to see it in myself,” Kathy said.

She said there were nutrition classes and a “Mommy and Me” class. A nutritionist from The Ohio State University taught the women basic ways to feed their children.

“The programs that our agency provides for us is incredible,” Kathy said. “I learned how to feed my child, the simple things that normal people take for granted – knowing what to feed your child – you don’t feed your kid Doritos and pop. You give them juice and you give them this kind of portion of food. I didn’t know that. That kind of stuff was indispensable for me.”

Mary Irwin, The Counseling Center Women’s Treatment director, Stepping Stone Outpatient Program director, sees that scenario on a regular basis.

“I think through previous success stories and a reflection on what her life used to be like, and an identification of what life could be like today if she were to enter recovery and recover from the disease of addiction,” Irwin said.

Irwin said she is fortunate to be able to see results with the people she works with every day.

“It’s very exciting,” Irwin said. “It gives you an opportunity to see that the work that we do here at the Stepping Stone House is effective and well received by the clients.”

There is also a translation in terms of taxpayer dollars with each success story.

“We do save taxpayer money,” Irwin said. “And when you think about the infants that were born to the recovery mothers here at Stepping Stone House, it can reduce the amount of time that the baby stays in the nursery at the hospital. Most of our mothers come home with their infant in hand and that’s not always true for those mothers who have babies born addicted.”

Kathy Newman has been clean for five years.

“It’s incredible,” She said. “I am grateful for so many things in this life. I went from being a client at The Counseling Center to being an employee at The Counseling Center. Now I get to help women do what I had to learn to do.”

Newman said she is in a job that brings her a constant reward of knowing she has, through her experience, been able to help others.

“It’s so fulfilling,” Kathy said. “I leave my job every day feeling like I’ve accomplished something more than just making a paycheck. I’m changing people’s lives.”

By Frank Lewis

[email protected]

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.