‘Why are you here today?’ politely inquired the dentist.
‘Ask Mother’s Heart’, his client bitterly spat back, as if somehow the staff at Mother’s Heart were responsible for the cavity in her tooth or the other multiple health issues for which the new mother required treatment.
Somphors, trained in social work and counselling at Mother’s Heart, has dealt with many women in her time. This client was angry, demanding and suicidal. And Somphors was giving her all.
Helping the mother to weigh her choices and make plans for her life, Somphors phoned, haggled and traipsed around businesses looking for work for this woman. When she finally found work with an ideal location and hours, the mother quit after just a few weeks. Nothing was good enough for her. She complained relentlessly.
Somphors spent sleepless nights knowing this lady was on a downward spiral. And then the woman disappeared.
The phone rang six months later. It was the same client requesting an appointment. Face to face with the staff later that day, she said sorry for being so difficult and how grateful she was for all they tried to do for her. She told them she was taking English lessons, looking for work, and learning independence – she and her baby together.
Thank you, she said, thank you.
Quite possibly, at Mother’s Heart this was the first time this woman felt safe enough to behave badly – really badly. Somphors and the staff bore this load without any promise of a hopeful outcome. And yet as this lady left the office, maybe…maybe a step had been taken for a safer future.
Somphors has learned some emphatic lessons over her time in Mother’s Heart. She reminds herself regularly that every person is different. She knows that change is made step by step. She has grown in confidence and is less likely to blame herself for her client’s choices.
She is determined to wear the shoes of these women and not take them off knowing that sometimes this means she will need counselling and care.
In a busy office, reflecting on this story, Somphors’ face lights up at the small achievements, yet giant triumphs made by some very vulnerable women and babies.