Gabriella* was a 4-year old in when the sexual abuse by her brothers and a twenty-year old man started. At the age of 12, she was pregnant by the man who abused her and her mother kicked her out so she had no choice but to live with her abuser. That was when the domestic violence started. Her childhood wasn’t easy and being pregnant again, didn’t seem easy either.
She was referred to Family and Childcare Resources of N.E.W. as a high-risk prenatal client where she worked with a parent educator, Carolina, and shared more of her story. “Sometimes you hear from parents and you wonder- am I enough to help,” said Carolina.
After the first child with her abuser, Gabriella went on to have 3 more pregnancies with different fathers which brought her a lot of guilt. None of her children lived with her. Now pregnant again with the father of the baby in jail for domestic violence against her she considered an abortion. She did not want another baby.
Gabriella was in the hospital for an appendix surgery where she was able to get an ultrasound. The sound of her baby’s heartbeat helped her change her mind. It was still hard for her.
Carolina rang her door bell for the first time shortly after noon for their first visit. Gabriella, opened the door groggy, the house was messy and she looked at Carolina skeptically. Carolina wondered if Gabriella was going to let her in. Gabriella told Carolina she had been sleeping a lot lately.
Gabriella had been diagnosed with chronic depression. She knew she needed help but did not want to take pills out of fear of becoming a drug addict. Carolina talked with her about what chronic depression means and the difference between the medication she was prescribed and pain killers. Carolina asked Gabriella if her mother was depressed when Gabriella was growing up. Gabriella realized her mother was depressed too and she wanted to be different for herself and her daughter.
Gabriella took time to think about what Carolina said and started to go to a counselor along with taking the medication. “Her ‘Aha moment’ was when she realized that she has been a victim all this time, that all the abuse in her life had affected her in many ways, knowing she can start over was a relief for her,” said Carolina.
Gabriella’s life started to change. Her abuser got out of jail then tried to make contact with her but Gabriella changed her phone number. She was fascinated with the information about the pregnancy and baby’s development that Carolina brought with her. They talked about the future for the baby.
“Empathy is very powerful,” said Carolina. “When someone listens to you, magic happens.” Gabriella absorbed all the information Carolina brought with her and her excitement for the baby grew.
In early February, Gabriella gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She is continuing the visits with Carolina because Gabriella knows how important this time is in a baby’s development.
They are doing activities to help with baby’s development and Gabriella loves the black and white books just for her baby’s age. She knows for her there is an opportunity to change things for her baby.
The time spent with Carolina is important for Gabriella too. “This is the first time that I can talk about my life without feeling judged,” Gabriella said.
*Gabriella’s name changed for privacy of the family