“Miracle baby” Haleigh Preston began her life in opiate withdrawal.
Her 31-year-old mother Linda Preston had been told she’d never be able to give birth — and with her years-long struggle with opioid addiction, she didn’t want to anyway.
When she became pregnant in early 2016 after spending about two years in the suboxone treatment program, Linda was elated at the news — in “total shock,” she tells PEOPLE. But “at the same time, I was terrified and worried. I know what it’s like to go through withdrawal and I never wanted that for my baby.”
Linda spent about eight years using opioids — prescribed to her after she had been in a car accident — “and it got to the point where I had to have it or I was deathly sick,” she says. “I’ve never dealt with street drugs or anything like that, but I know those have to be just as bad as prescription medication.”
Watch the full episode of People Features: Lily’s Place: Babies Born Addicted now on the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN or download the PEN app on your favorite device.
Linda knew what to expect when her daughter was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) — the tremors, the inconsolable crying, the light and sound sensitivity. The baby spent her first three weeks at West Virginia’s Cabell Huntington Hospital before Linda was able to transfer her to Lily’s Place — the nation’s first comprehensive facility for babies with NAS and their families —where nurses helped the new mother learn how to take care of a baby with the special demands of NAS.
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And as Linda grappled with the guilt of giving her baby such a dubious start in life, Lily’s Place social worker Angela Davis helped the new mother realize that “I can’t beat myself up over it,” Linda says.
Davis works with Lily’s Place parents to help them become healthy and sober. “We try to get them completely off medication, including suboxone and methadone,” she says. “We do this with the programs we’re involved with, and we continue to follow them after they leave here.”