The Secret Drug

My daughter, Jackie, was born thirty-eight years ago today. She lived 15 hours.

Between 1938 and 1971, millions of pregnant women took a drug that doctors and pharmaceutical companies have long avoided discussing, Diethylstilbesterol (DES). My mother was one of those women.

Prescribed as both a means to alleviate morning sickness and a miracle drug to prevent miscarriage, the drug was banned in the US after research proved it caused multiple cancers in the mothers who took the drug, and later, cancer, infertility, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies, and stillbirths in the babies who grew into adulthood, now referred to as DES babies, DES daughters, or DES sons.

In 2017, a French study added neurological disorders to DES’s long list of side effects.

Of 740 DES subjects studied, 83.8% had psychological disorders; 15.1% had behavioral disorders; 22.9% had schizophrenia; 34.4% had bipolar disorder/anxiety; and an unfathomable 85% of the 740 participants had attempted suicide.

Do you have a DES story to share? Email me at [email protected].

My story begins like this:

The House that Loved – by CJ Zahner

In Memory of Jackie

Momma would not remember the four words that hinted of upcoming hardship until thirty-eight years after the doctor uttered them: There is no heartbeat.

She buried that moment in time deep inside herself, unable to bear the fear that she’d never have a child.

She didn’t question what made her want a baby so desperately. Whether a woman is born with that ravenous desire, or whether the people, places, and things around her inspire such hunger.

She grew up in a fading industrial town where children dreamed, mothers prayed, fathers worked, and the winds blew viciously past the vacant buildings.

Like most little girls in that faith-driven town, Momma dreamed life was magical. She imagined the road ahead as flanked by long-lashed grasses, snaking in the wind to and fro like a cat’s tail. A mansion atop a steep, verdant hill punctuated that path, and she was sure, after God guided her to that castle, a prince would come rap his knuckles against its massive door.

She remained in that storybook world until she was twenty-seven.

Like others who lived in the middling city that kissed the treacherous Lake Erie shoreline, Momma believed if you went to church on Sunday and prayed hard enough, God granted your wishes, no matter what they were. He protected you, no matter where you roamed.

She grew up believing faith could move mountains.

For more information on DES, visit my website at 



 CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide GeneDream Wide AwakeProject DreamThe Dream Diaries, Friends Who Move Couches and Don’t Mind Me, I Came with the House. Zahner’s Dream Series novels were inspired by true-life experiences. Listen to her interview about her 9/11 a premonition here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here or her Online Book Circle podcast here. Read more about Zahner in Voyage Raleigh. Purchase her books on Amazon  and follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn.