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Pregnant and on Opioids? In St. Louis, There's a Medical Center for That 

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A screen shows Clemens' ultrasound at the WISH Center. - NICK SCHNELLE
  • A screen shows Clemens' ultrasound at the WISH Center.

Since then, she adds, "the whole family's been through hell. Because the first few years I tried to hide it from them. And then I just couldn't anymore. Because financially she drained me. Between buying drugs and paying for lawyers, I had to file bankruptcy a few years ago."

Even getting pregnant with Kylie didn't change things for Rio, not in a permanent way. Rio recalls that her physician at the time "didn't know much."

The doctor "knew the basics of addiction and pregnancy, but I was never monitored or prescribed medication through him," she says. "He did the minimum when it came to the addiction part of being pregnant."

In addition, Rio had to find a different doctor to get on Suboxone; her OB-GYN didn't handle it.

Her pregnancy allowed her to move ahead of the long waiting list of patients seeking prescriptions for the drug used to wean addicts off opioids. But after Kylie's birth, she ended up using again. Linda had to take custody of the little girl while she was in prison.

Rio knows she will one day have to explain her drug problems to her daughters.

"I mean, this is the one thing I get emotional about," she says, tearing up. "They say, 'Get clean for yourself.' But I did this for myself so I could take care of them because I'll be damned if they end up like me. I will be damned if these kids go through what I had to go through."

Opiates are big problem in Jefferson County, Linda says.

"I know a lot of people she went to school with who are dead, they're gone, they ODed," she says. "I actually think it's because there's not a lot for them to do down here. There's no place for them to hang out or go. In the beginning drugs are cheap. Because all there is to do down here is people get together, they drink, they have parties."

Linda says she didn't even mind the ten months that she took care of her granddaughter full time.

"I was just happy she was still alive," she says of Rio. "Because so many people that I know that she was friends with aren't."

After the ultrasound test ends, the Clemens clan follows Shyken to another examining room to talk over Rio's progress in staying sober and getting ready for the birth of her second daughter.

Shyken praises Rio for her compliance. "And there are some people who are not as easy to take care of as you are," Shyken says.

"She wouldn't have been a couple years ago," Linda says.

"I know," Shyken says, turning to Linda. "I know I'm reading your mind here, because I can do that, you know. I mean, you're probably less optimistic than Rio is."

"I never want to get my hopes up, you know," Linda says. "I have so many times."

"This is part of the dynamic. But there are family members who really sabotage you," Shyken says. "Either because they've been using or they've been hurt too many times."

"I try always to be there for her," Linda says. "I got her to come back here, because I read about it online and I didn't know where else to go. I said, 'You need to go back there. I will take you. You're going back.'"

"I was just overwhelmed," Rio says. "I honestly didn't think I could do it, and it's just scary, you know. You just have to think to yourself, 'If I could do half the things in my life, I could do this.'"

"I'm so proud of her, I can't even put it into words," Linda says. "I'm thrilled. This place is a godsend."

Rio turns to her mother. She collects her thoughts, thinking hard about what she wants to say. The words tumble out slowly, with difficulty, and her voice shakes.

"Mom's always been there for me. She's never left. She's never kicked me out. She's never told me I am not allowed in the family," Rio says. "She's never sat there and talked down on me. She just kind of accepted it."

Linda shifts her weight and looks on as her daughter sums up the past decade.

"Even though she was helpless and she couldn't do much until I wanted it, you know," Rio says. "She just kind of cradled me and tried to make sure nothing happened to me to the best she could."

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