An Oklahoma mother testified in Day 17 of the state's opioid trial against Johnson & Johnson, telling the judge she fostered and adopted three children who'd been exposed to opioids before birth.
Tonya Ratcliff has 13 children. Two are her biological children, but the others have all been adopted or are being fostered with her family. She said three of her children were exposed to painkillers and paid the consequences.
The state showed the judge an actual video of a baby's legs shaking uncontrollably, in withdrawal just days after being born.
Ratcliffe told the court she's dealt with that several times herself. She said every baby handles withdrawals differently, but she'll never forget the shaking and terrifying screams.
She testified the first five to 10 days are a nightmare as the baby tries to return to some kind of normal.
"They're hell on earth," she said. "And that's being polite about it. What happens to those babies is tragic, and it's nothing that you as a human being can do anything about besides hold them, love them, feed them, try in some way, form, or fashion to limit how comfortable they are or how comfortable they are not."
Ratcliff said the first baby she adopted will be 12 this month, and he was born exposed to opioids. She said even years after the withdrawal symptoms disappeared, he still deals with the fact that he was once addicted to a prescription painkiller.
She said her children who were born exposed still have fits of rage, academic delays, and even have a hard time with normal bodily functions.
"I think that so many people believe that exposure and addiction with these children ends after withdrawal, and I'm here to tell you that's not the case," she said. "My children are amazing children, and I believe I'm a good mom. But there are days that are so hard, so hard, that you question, 'Are you doing the right thing?'"
"My child didn't ask to be born an addict, but that's what happened to my child," she continued.
Ratcliff told the judge no one knows what the future holds for her children, but she knows their lives would've been a lot easier if they hadn't been exposed to these drugs.