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Addicts as Parents, Part IV: When Kids Matter Little

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This post is part of a collaborative narrative series composed of my writing and Chris Arnade’s photos exploring issues of addiction, poverty, prostitution and urban anthropology in Hunts Point, Bronx. For more on the series, look here.


Tiffany: Hunts Point, Bronx
Tiffany: Hunts Point, Bronx. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

Trust, No, One. Chest, wrist, wrist.

Right now she has Trust tattooed across her chest, and the wrists are to come. She has to save up for them, or find someone skilled enough to complete the task. Eventually. They’ll match her sister’s. Neither sibling, she says, has had reason to trust.

Tiffany likes wearing loud colors, being the most wild on the street, and drinking.

This day, she could barely keep upright, laughing, thin straps on her dress falling down.

This side of town, with all its industry, boasted truckers, uneven roads and emptiness.

As she walked, her face made sultry looks at nearby workers operating a forklift. Her shoes made grating crunches across the loose gravel with slides and missteps. There were many.

Tiffany had birthed a baby a month before, not the first, second, or third of her children.

When there was nothing else to do, she clicked through a couple of baby photos on her phone, inciting mandated oo’s and ah’s from her company, before coming to a nude series of herself. She showed those off too. A curl of tiny baby versus wide-open mom.

This baby was six pounds, eight ounces, a fine weight. It doesn’t seem like a drug baby at all, does it? Size, a full tally of health.

Tiffany again: Hunts Point, Bronx
Tiffany, pregnant: Hunts Point, Bronx. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

She repeated the weight as though the baby weren’t dependent upon drugs, as though his mom didn’t shoot opiates and smoke crack throughout her pregnancy, as though she, this moment, was listening for his breathing on a baby monitor the next room over, not as though she hadn’t seen him in weeks.

The baby’s with a relative, one she likely won’t see, like the rest of her children. But it gives her something to claim while living this life. A measure of pride. Look at her normalcy, her son.

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Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. babby 10:04 pm 06/26/2013

    This is very sad — to have children born addicted to drugs. What kind of mother would do that to her child? I realize that addiction itself has a lot to do with poor judgement & the loss of hope in her own life, but how dare she inflict that fate on an innocent child? Or in her case, apparently, many children.

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  2. 2. Tyler29 10:57 pm 06/26/2013

    Addiction comes in many forms. For me it started as a way to alleviate my back pain from years of construction work. As a male I could never TRULY understand the “motherhood” of childbirth but I do understand addiction. I can imagine that it never starts as “I know I’m pregnant so I better wise up”. It started way before that. Not that being addicted is any justification! But as a recovering addict I do understand how it could snow ball into this. We are quick to judge others who live differently from us. It makes “US” feel better when we do so. However, when I all comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what brain or “body” we inhabit, our life experience tends to lead the way.

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