We Loved Her Well
When we write a story, we write it as if it has a beginning and end, when that isn’t really the case. Triumphs along the way are often followed by losses. The journey of healing, like the journey of faith, is frequently one of progress and setbacks. Sometimes we don’t see our hope satisfied. The miracle is that God remains faithful.
Vong had worked in a red light area selling ice and alcohol by day and sex by night. She had already had one baby who she gave away. Vong’s hard life had turned her to heavy alcohol consumption. She couldn’t cope without it. Four months pregnant and still drinking, the midwife and Mother’s Heart social worker had warned her that the alcohol would have negative effects on her baby. Vong cut down on the amount she drank but couldn’t give it up altogether.
Vong wanted to change her life and find stability as she entered motherhood. Mother’s Heart staff helped her into a local shelter where she could stay for the remainder of her pregnancy. However, Vong couldn’t stick to the rules. She would keep sneaking out to buy something to drink. Eventually, she had to leave.
After that, it was hard to find a shelter willing to take her. Vong became abusively rude if she went too long without a drink. Yet finally, Mother’s Heart found a shelter that was willing to allow her to have the few daily drinks that she just couldn’t do without.
From the first ultrasounds it was clear the baby was too small. Vong delivered at 9 months and her baby boy struggled from the beginning. Testing revealed that his lungs had developed properly but not his brain. Without a ventilator his oxygen levels dropped too low. Staff had prepared her for this outcome knowing that the level of her alcohol consumption would affect her baby, they just didn’t know the extent of it until delivery. After 28 days in hospital he didn’t improve. Vong had to make the hard choice to turn the ventilator off. Not long later her son died.
Even while mourning her son, Vong was determined to make a future for herself. She said, “I’m moving forward. I’m not going back. I’m going to make you all proud.” Vong had begun to take better care of herself and had moved into Mother’s Heart women’s group home. She went to two vocational training interviews, one for sewing, the other baking and was offered a place at both. She chose to learn baking. Everyday she would ride her bike to training and would smile as she told us that she had friends and people to laugh with. After three months of training she was able to graduate and was invited to become a staff member there. We all had high hopes for her and she had them for herself as well. She still drank in the evenings and on the weekends but usually went to work sober.
It was a surprise to us when she decided to leave MH group home and leave her job without warning to return to her old life. We don’t know exactly why she did it or where she is now. Some might call her story a failure, but we don’t. At the end of the day we can say two things 1) We loved her well (and she knew it) 2) She had choices. We also know her story hasn’t ended yet. Perhaps we wont be able to see the full fruits of the seeds of changes planted in her heart, but we hope that one day she will be able to see them.