One Night of Drinking, A Lifetime of Regret: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The bartender set the glass on the bar in front of [Kathy] Kidd-Wuest. She took a sip.

The drink was good and strong. Kidd-Wuest finished it and ordered another. Then another. She wasn’t the kind to get cut off; liquor made her sleepy and giggly, not loud or obnoxious.

The bartender kept them coming.

Kidd-Wuest had five drinks in all. They cost $2.50 a pop. That seemed a bargain. But 18 years later, Kidd-Wuest still is paying the price for drinking during the first five months of her pregnancy.

So is her son, now 18, who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.

This excerpt from Cheryl Sherry’s article, “Mother’s risks last child’s lifetime: Wisconsin’s tendency to binge drink key in high rate of fetal alcohol cases,” is part of a daring series on alcohol in Wisconsin by our local award-winning Post-Crescent newspaper.

The mother didn’t know that she was pregnant when she swallowed those drinks. “It was the worst feeling in the world, of pure guilt,” she said about when she learned she was pregnant. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a terrible affliction that is given so unnecessarily to thousands of infants. Something like 60% of them will end up in prison. The health and social impact of this dread disorder are staggering.

I have seen too many tragedies that began with alcohol. Accidents, death, disease, and many times children are the victims. Why not give up drinking today and stay in control of your body and mind?


Author: Jeff Lindsay

24 thoughts on “One Night of Drinking, A Lifetime of Regret: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

  1. How is this post dis-allowing you anything?

    You are already being allowed to drink responsibly. Nobody is stopping you.

    Ah, but wait. Maybe you don’t want anyone commenting on your responsible drinking. But then that would be attempting to stifle free speech, telling people what they should and shouldn’t say on their own blog.

    Isn’t writing on one’s own blog already “minding one’s own business” ? No one is forcing you to read Jeff’s ramblings.

    Seems like we commenters more closely fit the profile of not minding our own business, than the blog owners.

  2. Pouchg – If you were really drinking ‘responsibly’ Jeff’s post wouldn’t have struck a nerve.

    Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

  3. phouchg,

    If you want to drink responsibly, please, by all means do so. I believe that neither this post nor the article accompanying it is addressing you. But five strong drinks in one night is not responsible drinking, whether a woman or a man; rather, it is endangering lives of others, whether the unborn or an automobile accident or the lives of family ruined by such irresponsible drinking or submitting to the "evils and designs which do exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days" (D&C 89:4) who love nothing less than raking in their money at what ever cost to others.

  4. One of my clients, a twelve-year-old boy has fetal alcohol syndrome. Sadly, we also strongly suspect that he has an attachment disorder (primarily toward female care-givers) due to alleged physical and sexual abuse he received from birth to when he was 3 years of age. =(

    Alcoholism is rampant here in the UK; it’s all very sad.

  5. Exactly what is responsible drinking? Is that like responsible suicide? Or responsible smoking? Or responsible drugs?

    I don’t get this, sorry.


  6. Oh please, come on Sherry. How about this… responsible drinking is like responsible dounut eating. Just enjoy one or two every once in awhile. And if you’re too fat (i.e. can’t handle your liquor), don’t eat any.

  7. anon @ 3:27,

    Taking anything that impairs your body and brain from functioning properly is at some level irresponsible.


  8. Duncan Doe : ) Too funny! Good point; if we were all just “minding ou own business”, nobody would say anything -hence the fun of blogs with comments! Now, eat your dounuts responsibly!!!

  9. Yikes! I thought your column was excellent! AND so very true!!!
    Unfortunately, I don't like most of the comments….only NM & Bret,
    seemed to be okay !!
    LISTEN…My late husband & I drank for 30 yrs!!! Not this stupid BINGE drinking (?) and never DRUNK!
    Just with friends, associates, family & when our stress levels needed reducing, from 2 prior bad marriages!!!
    We paid dearly for that! We were hit with GRAND-MAL SEIZURES & will be for life!
    All Alcohol contains the power to cause severe health drama's!!! AND
    especially if you're carrying a precious baby inside !!!
    Don't be discouraged by these derogatory remarks !!! Obviously they are drinkers !!!
    Carry on with the words you are spreading!!!
    We must get the word out somehow !!
    For our Children & Grand-Children's sakes !!!

    All my thoughts & prayers are with you !!!
    God Bless !
    Sheila Joyce Gibbs
    ps: If you would like a copy of my story, just let me know!

  10. Hi All,

    I think this post is a bit misleading. Five drinks in the course of one night, while irresponsible, and probably foolish, is not going to lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. Five drinks in the course of every night over the first trimester of the pregnancy most certainly will. Don’t mistake me for condoning drinking while pregnant, I just think that the title of this post is misleading.

    Catholic Defender

  11. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” – Prov. 20:1

  12. I have to second Anonymous at 5:32 AM, July 28, 2008
    The title of this post is disingenuous or dishonest.
    One night of drinking did not lead to this case of fetal alcohol syndrome. This woman must have been a chronic drinker (as she admits to down in the bottom of the article). I do not know if the author of this Blog did not read all of the article or is ignorant of the issues surrounding FAS.

    Women should not drink in pregnancy!
    Men should be supportive and encourage women not to drink while pregnant.

  13. Actually one night of drinking MAY lead to FAS. The correct statement would be that it is not known how much alcohol it takes to cause FAS (one drink, many drinks,alcohol content of drink, blood alchol levels. etc). It also depends on the time during pregnancy, genetic factors,etc. It is known that binge drinking (as described above.) is more likely to cause FAS than a casual drink as there is a higher blood alcohol available to cross the placenta and cause various aspects of FAS. This is why it is recommended that no alcohol be consumed during pregnancy

  14. The article expresses the woman’s concern that the problem stems from that night. That night of drinking, according to the article, is what has haunted her and caused the lifetime of regret – whether her son’s FAS was mostly due to that or not. “It’s unclear whether a single drinking binge can cause FAS, but her night at Country Corners haunted Kidd-Wuest — so much so that she has not had a drop to drink ever since.”

    The reality is that people who binge drink even once probably drink lightly on many other occasions. Perhaps light drinking over several weeks played a bigger role than that one night of binge drinking. But the title of the article is not dishonest nor disingenuous – it seems to be that one night of drinking that causes her such regret.

    I also question the posters who flatly state that her night of binge drinking did not cause the problem. How do you know that? Even if you are a world-class doctor who has studied binge drinking, do you know that? Can you confidently state that an extreme dose of alcohol one one night could not possibly damage a fetus and cause FAS? It’s the extremes that cause so much of the harm in many cases involving substance abuse.

    You may find it unlikely that one night of heavy drinking was the problem, but the threshold dosage for FAS is poorly understood, and I think it would be foolish – even if you both have medical degrees – to assume you know what did or did not cause her son’s FAS.

    But again, the title of the post is about the lifetime of regret that the woman has had from that one night of binge drinking. That’s exactly what the article is about and well describes the feelings of the woman.

  15. This strikes me as similar to not wearing a seat belt.

    So much of the time you get from point A to point B and nothing happens. Seat belts might seems like an overblown caution until disaster strikes, but too many folks either never get a chance to learn from their mistake or have far too long to ponder the consequences… even if they weren’t driving “fast.”

    I once saw a car roll multiple times while driving (very carefully!) at 15 mph in a snow storm. All the poor fellow did was take his foot off the gas at the top of a hill, and next thing we knew he was off the road and rolling. The seat belt saved him a lot of knocks, if not his life.

    Better just to wear a seat belt when the car is moving and be done with it.

    (BTW, someone once pointed out that if you think a collision at 15mph is nothing, just try putting your hands behind your back and walking headlong into a brick wall to see how your face fares. That’s 3 mph.)

  16. Entire nations of people (France, Italy, Spain, etc.) wouldn’t think of having dinner without a drink of wine to go with it. Doesn’t seem to do them any harm.

    Really, if you think that alcohol is the root of the world’s problems, you either need to get out of Utah a bit or widen your circle of friends.

  17. What most of you are missing about fetal development is that certain things happen at very narrow times.

    It’s those very first few cells that get differentiated into specific portions of fetal brain or organ/gland tissue, which, if we had a “demon observer” to tell us, started at a very certain time on a particular day for that particular fetus.

    The problem with FAS is that if the mother’s (and hence the fetus’s) blood alcohol level is above a certain point, at that specific time when the first cells of whatever specific brain/organ/gland section get differentiated or “laid down” as a pattern, then that miniscule section of brain/organ/gland can then be “off kilter” and the rest of the cells, even if “laid down” after the blood alcohol lowers, are also off kilter.

    Hence, a pregnant woman doesn’t have to drink every day of the first trimester in order to produce a FAS baby. She really only needs to drink at a specific time on ONE day for it to happen. And we don’t know exactly what day that might be.

    As any serious drinker knows, it’s not how many drinks or equivalent ounces of 100 proof you have, but it’s the pace you drink that alcohol compared to the rate at which your body metabolizes it.

    Five drinks over a period of six hours might be enough to keep someone under the .08% drunk-driving limit. Five drinks spaced 30 minutes apart for a 300 pound 6 foot 4 inch tall person might still keep them under the limit. But five drinks spaced 30 minutes apart is pretty sure to put a 125 pound person over the limit.

    And again, we don’t know if the .08% drunk-driving limit is anywhere applicable to a threshhold that affects the creation of FAS babies. My understanding is that the BAC that can cause FAS is way under .08%.

    Serious drinkers also know that there’s a difference between downing a drink at once and waiting 30 minutes for the next drink; versus nursing a single drink for 30 minutes, and starting again.

    That person who nurses a drink for 30 minutes never gets the peak BAC levels that the gulper does.

    So “5 drinks in one night” really doesn’t tell us much about the BAC of the woman in question, anyway.

    What’s more important is that she unknowingly played russian-roullette, and had the critical level of alcohol in her at the date and time of that critical fetal development point which is believed to be the trigger for FAS.

    I’m sorry I don’t have ready references for the above about “critical development times”, but that kind of stuff is more detailed than what you’ll find in the kinds of newspaper articles such as the one Jeff referenced for his subject.

  18. The thing is, you could have easily made the same post about someone damaging their child by sitting in a hot tub at the wrong time, or riding a roller coaster, but these wouldn’t support your worldview that God has picked a certain activity enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people and outlawed it…just because.

    But if you think the Word of Wisdom is of critical health importance, let’s tackle coffee and tea consumption. Please explain how these are the root of all evil.

  19. The first 3 months of pregnancy is one of the most important stages of pregnancy. Alcohol and drugs should never taken during these stages, in order to avoid any deformity on the infant.

  20. Nice article. Its not that the blogger wants to stop us from drinking but trying to warn us about the Fetal alcohol syndrome.

  21. I was interested in your post about the child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. As an active member of the church, I used to believe that drinking alcohol was something we did not do in our church but I didn't pay too much attention to whether or not others chose to drink and whether I really had an opinion on that. Now as the adoptive mother of 6 kids with fetal alcohol, I defintely now have an opinion. To watch children and teens and young adults suffer to severely from something so preventable is heart wrenching. It is not known how much is too much adn that current thought is that it might be only 1 drink. It is not just binge drinkers and heavy drinkers who give birth to kids with FAS, it is often women who have no idea they are pregnant, who are in the early stages of pregnancy who upon learning they are pregnant would never think to drink. It is now my opinion that any sexually active woman in her child bearing years should refrain from drinking. The cost to the children is so difficult. They have mapped out now if a woman drinks what particular systems of the babies development in utero are affected. Yes some kids get the facial features of FAS and other kids do not and I often believe that is more difficult, they appear that all is fine, but have severe learning disabilities, chronic impulse control concerns , growth issues. It is just a sad, sad diagnosis. It is not someone's own business if they drink when it touches the point that another life is affected by your actions.

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