VANESSA is eight months pregnant – but knows that her baby will be born shaking, in pain and addicted to drugs… because the same thing happened to her previous two babies, too.
The 26-year-old, who is currently serving time in prison, is addicted to heroin – and has never managed to give up while pregnant
She knows that the baby girl she is carrying is likely to be taken away from her as soon as she is born – but that hasn’t made her stop using.
In new Channel 5 series Banged Up: Bad Girls Behind Bars Vanessa, who is an inmate at the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Centre, admits: “My one fear is having the baby here in jail.
“My daughter will be detoxing from the Subutex – the brand name for methadone which she’s taking to help – the medication I’m on.
“I wouldn’t be there to stay and comfort her. I would be there for the first two to three days, and then they’d bring me straight back here.”
With her uniform orange top hitched up, the mum-to-be – who is one of the ten per cent of female prisoners in the US estimated to be pregnant – is seen having a routine ultrasound scan by a visiting midwife
She tells the midwife that her eldest daughter has been adopted and the other is in foster care.
Me losing my kids was one of my darkest moments,” she explains later to the camera. “It’s not just you physically being there, it’s your mind being there as well.
“Like doing an open adoption. That killed me the most. I did what I thought was OK. The people that she’s with – they love her and will do anything for her. I’m grateful for that. I couldn’t ask for anything more. My youngest is in foster care.
“I didn’t want these things for my kids. I want my kids. But obviously that’s what addiction does to you.”
This time, however, she is particularly desperate for her baby not to be taken away from her.
When she first arrived in jail (her crime is not revealed in the programme) she had to spend at five days in the prison’s orientation unit detoxing.
“They are very needy and they’re not feeling good,” a prison staff member tells the camera, talking about how the inmates – and their withdrawing children – feel during detoxing.
“It’s flu-like symptoms and they have a lot of vomiting and diarrhoea. So they constantly need more clothing.
“It’s not a pleasant sight to see.
“The baby can be shaking, and crying all the time. There are so many different medical issues that come about when a baby is detoxing. It is really sad.”
Vanessa acknowledges that people judge her for taking drugs during her pregnancies, but says it’s not black and white.
She says: “I tell them until you walk a day in my shoes until you actually have experienced it please don’t say anything.”
Vanessa is put before a judge and asks if she can be released to a secure drugs rehabilitation centre – meaning she would stand small a chance of keeping her baby.
“The pain of losing a child is one of the worst things you can go through. It’s literally a piece of you that gets ripped,” she says.
“I just don’t want to live my life like this.”
Luckily, the judge takes pity on Vanessa and she is released into a secure unit where she will be able to have her baby while undergoing a drugs programme.
Only time will tell whether she’ll be able to kick the drugs – and keep the baby.