As this woman was going into labor, she noticed the nurses had started behaving strangely. When one followed her to the bathroom, she asked what was wrong. The nurse replied, “You tested positive.”
Maggie Downs, a writer from Palm Springs, California, was several hours into labor with her first child when a nurse confronted her in the hospital bathroom and told her that she had tested positive for methamphetamine. The mom-to-be almost lost her newborn baby after she tested positive for the illicit substance, but there was one huge problem — she never used the drug.
Having never used methamphetamines, Maggie was confused and joked awkwardly in response. “Well, I’ve always been a positive person,” Maggie told the nurse after being caught off guard, according to her account on Narratively. She even laughed at the absurdity initially.
Knowing that there’s been some mistake, she offered another sample, again urinating in a cup for drug testing without hesitation. But, the test came back positive again. Things began to spiral out of control from there. As she was enduring the pains of labor, she was told that she would not be allowed to breastfeed her child. As her husband spoke with the medical staff, Maggie recounted her diet during pregnancy as she wondered how this had happened.
“No alcohol, no deli foods, nothing raw, undercooked or smoked. The bulk of my produce was organic, my drinking water purified through a reverse-osmosis system. I used clove oil on a persistent toothache instead of visiting the dentist because I didn’t want any anesthetic to pass through my body and into the placenta. During all 42 weeks, the hardest drugs that entered my body were prenatal vitamins and puffs from my prescription asthma inhaler,” Maggie recalled — and that’s when it clicked.
Her inhaler was the problem. According to LabCorp, “Methamphetamine is available in two forms: ‘d’ and ‘l.’ The ‘d’ form is a prescription stimulant and appetite suppressant. The ‘l’ form is available over-the-counter as the active ingredient of the Vick’s inhaler and is a metabolite of certain prescription medications.” Both would cause a positive result. Still, this did little to help Maggie at that moment.
“The contractions are furious. I am furious. I am scared. My husband and my doula both hunch over their smartphones, searching for facts about asthma inhalers and drug tests,” she recalled. “I want to run away, but I’m belted down to a labor bed and attached to a bunch of machinery, caught somewhere between a sob and a scream,” she added. “My husband scrolls through pages of information about albuterol inhalers and drug tests. He shows his phone to every nurse who steps foot in the room. ‘See,’ he points at a page from Drugs.com, then flips to CBS News stories about false positives, archives of reports, message boards with anecdotal evidence.”
“You can take this up with CPS,” a stone-faced nurse told the soon-to-be parents since the incident had already been reported to CPS per hospital policy. That’s when a bolt of dread shot through Maggie as she remembered the pregnancy announcement she sent to loved ones and posted on Facebook months before. It seemed innocent enough at the time, but in light of her new circumstances, it might not seem that way to a social worker.
“Bryan Cranston, the star of ‘Breaking Bad,’ owns a movie theater in my town,” Maggie wrote. “When I ran into him at a film screening, I thought a photo with him would be the perfect way to announce my pregnancy and declare my love for the show, which is about a teacher-turned-methamphetamine dealer,” she continued. “On the announcement, Bryan Cranston has one hand on my belly. ‘Breaking Baby,’ the card reads in the style of the show’s logo, like elements in the periodic table. The bottom of the card modifies a memorable quote from the show: ‘I am the one who knocks up.'”
Eventually, Maggie was whisked away for an emergency c-section when her son’s heartbeat dropped to the point it almost stopped. However, a healthy boy, who Maggie and her husband name Everest, was born. Sadly, the drama surrounding his birth was far from over. Maggie was put through hell over the next three days in the hospital with her son as she recovered from surgery.
“When I change my son’s diaper for the very first time, there is a plastic bag covering his genitals, a band of tape cinching it tight,” Maggie recalled. “It doesn’t strike me as abnormal until the nurse peering over my shoulder shakes her head no,” she added, further explaining that the nurse then informed her that she didn’t think there was enough urine in the bag for an adequate sample.
“Of course. They have to test my child for drugs, and this is how it’s done,” Maggie realized. “It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen, this tiny baby part wrapped in plastic, this uncomfortable, squawking child. His skin is so silky and new, the plastic so crinkly and manufactured.”
Knowing she never took meth, Maggie insisted on breastfeeding her son, but the nurses were reluctant to hand Everest to his mother, calling her irresponsible. “This woman tested positive for methamphetamine,” nurses told one another during shift change. “She has been briefed on the risks associated with breastfeeding, and she refused our advice. She is breastfeeding at her own risk.”
Finally, a social worker visited her on the day Maggie was set to take her son home. He admitted that her son’s drug test was negative and that he didn’t think she was on meth. However, his hands were tied. “Just expect (CPS) to show up at any moment,” he warns Maggie as she and her husband take their baby boy home, NBC News 12 reported.
“The weeks that follow are dark,” Maggie recalled. “I don’t know if I would have experienced the same level of postpartum depression without failing those drug tests. But I do know most other mothers don’t spend their first few weeks with baby the way I do – the shades drawn, peeking out from behind the blinds, examining each car that drives past.”
She continued, “Every phone call, every knock at the door, every pop of gravel in the driveway sets my heart racing. Every night shreds me to pieces, wondering if my son will be whisked away by morning … It seems insane to think someone could take my child away, yet testing positive for meth once seemed insane too.”
After three weeks pass, the hospital social worker calls and informs Maggie’s husband that further testing revealed that she was not taking drugs. “My son is asleep against my shoulder, and I don’t want to disrupt him,” Maggie recalled. “Instead I walk over to the patio door, pull open the blinds, and for the first time in weeks, let the light in.”