Thriving, Not Surviving

When Samantha reached out to me she was a few months pregnant with her first child. She was inquiring about birth support and wanted to know what the birth culture was like in Germany. She eventually decided to birth her baby at home and felt that the support of her midwife right for her needs.
The circumstances for a vaginal birth were not present and Samantha ended up transferring to a hospital and having a cesarean birth.
The next time we spoke her baby was already three months old and she was having great difficulties recovering emotionally and physically from this experience. Her doctor recommended professional in-home support.
I began working with Samantha, planning, purchasing and preparing healthy meals. With guided imageries, she was able to reach deep states of relaxation and recover from exhaustion. She supported her cesarean wound healing with the pelvic floor recovery exercises I taught her. She began processing her birth experience in a safe, non-judgemental environment.
After only a few appointments, Samatha started opening up about her current household situation. I started receiving signals that there were deeper issues at hand.
“When my husband comes home I don’t know if he will say “hello” or shout at me.
Hmm. My curiosity and concern were piqued. She continued telling me that her husband had very poor emotional management and communication skills. She painted a bigger picture of very passive aggressive behavior and incrementally increasing physical aggression.
I was suddenly in a position I had only learned about during my family and postpartum companion training – an environment in which the new mother was emotionally as well as psychologically mistreated and in potential danger. The baby as well.
In moments of anger, her husband had grabbed and shaken Samantha with both hands. There had already been aggression shown towards the baby. The baby had been held in a physiologically damaging way and his panicked cries were ignored. The father had justified his behavior as a character strengthening experience for their child. In my opinion, the possibility of more extreme physical abuse was not too far off, I was greatly concerned.
But I had to maintain my professionalism and not over-step my boundaries. I started posing questions, which only Samantha could answer, supporting her to connect with her inner voice. She was feeling lost. Without her husband’s income, she would have no way to pay for food or housing for her and her baby. She was afraid that because she was non-German, that she did not have the protections guaranteed to German citizens.
I gave her the number of an English speaking counselor at the women’s protective agency. The following week I was relieved to hear she had received information about her and her baby’s rights. She told me that she was reminded that she could call the police any time she needed help and there was an emergency shelter if needed.
As the weeks passed, I witnessed a wonderful transformation, the dynamic in the house had shifted, and she was empowered to make decisions best for herself and her baby. She had somehow managed to negotiate her husband to move out of the apartment while she made plans for the future. They agreed that separating and eventually divorcing, as amicably as possible, would be the best for all involved.
Although it was one of the most difficult periods of her life, she experienced first-hand that reaching out for support from professional counselors, child services, family members and friends strengthened her. Informing herself empowered her to make difficult decisions and take needed hard steps. She was able to protect herself and her baby’s best interests. She stood in her newly acquired power and turned “surviving” into “thriving”. Another Mother Diamond was formed.
Enjoy watching.
See you soon, Goddesses!
Laurie Reinke
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