Bringing a new life into the world is nothing less than a blessing, but it can also be stressful. New mothers in your ministry may not understand how stress and bad habits like smoking cigarettes may affect their babies. Amanda, a young mother who has been in the CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers campaign, faced a smoking habit that affected her pregnancy as well as her child’s health. While her story is a difficult one, prayer helped Amanda become the non-smoker she is today, and her faith and passion also propel her to help other women who smoke to quit.

Amanda picked up her first cigarette in fifth grade, and by age 13, she smoked every day. She would sneak cigarettes from her parents or buy a pack on the way home from school in her small Wisconsin town. Many friends and the older kids Amanda admired were smoking. “I thought I should smoke, too,” she said. By high school, Amanda skipped classes to smoke and realized she was addicted.

Amanda was working her way through college, newly engaged—and still smoking a pack a day—when she learned she was pregnant. “I tried hard to quit,” she said. “I would throw a $7 pack of cigarettes in the trash, [thinking] ‘I’m done,’ and by the end of the day, I’d buy another one.” The addiction had crept into every corner of Amanda’s life. She smoked when she was under stress.

Amanda was about 7 months into her pregnancy when things started to go wrong. She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Doctors delivered her baby by an emergency C-section—a little girl who weighed just 3 pounds. Her daughter was born too early, a danger for all pregnant women who continue to smoke. The baby spent her first weeks of life in the neonatal intensive care unit. The tiny, premature baby had a weak, soft cry—and was put in an incubator for babies who are born too early and too small. She was fed through a tube and received special care for premature babies.

Once home, the baby struggled to gain weight and got sick easily. Before her first birthday, she developed allergies and asthma, a serious lung problem that makes it hard to breathe. Breathing problems are more common in premature babies. Now, at age 7, the child takes four medicines on a regular basis.

“I feel a tremendous amount of guilt for my daughter being born early,” said Amanda. “I knew that smoking was bad… I didn’t think it would happen to me. I didn’t think I would have a premature baby. I didn’t think my child would have asthma.”

To quit smoking, Amanda focused on ways to relieve stress. “The stress definitely doesn’t go away after your cigarette. Whatever your reality is, whatever is making you want to smoke, that’s still there after you have your cigarette,” she said. Amanda used prayer, exercise, and distraction to handle her stress without a cigarette.

Health is a blessing, as is each new life in this world. And we certainly want our congregations to grow healthfully together, with our support. Encourage women in your ministry who are expecting to stop smoking and find other ways to deal with stress. Please let the women in your ministry know that they can always call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free help to quit smoking. They can also get resources and help at www.cdc.gov/tips.