“My job is to love this person,” says Natalie, an AmeriCorps member at The Elizabeth House. She is reflecting on her year of service, its’ meaning, its’ heartbreak and lessons learned. Natalie joined with fellow Corps member Christina for a podcast mini-series featuring moms and AmeriCorps members from each of the Maggies’ Place homes.
“No one would think we had the ingredients for a happy, healthy home,” she adds.
This particular podcast focuses on some of the difficulties faced by our live-in Corps; members of the Maggie’s Place family that choose to live in community with the mothers and babies we serve. It’s an intentional, and vital, choice that is at the root of the difference in our model, and our success in creating self-sufficiency. Everything is based on trauma-informed care, a model that encompasses the whole person including physical, social, mental and behavioral factors. There are five basic tenants to the practice: safety, transparency and trust, choice, collaboration and mutuality, and empowerment.
So, how does all this come into play when things in the house become difficult, like some months ago when Christina and Natalie dealt with the loss of an infant, baby Angel.
“I can’t handle that. I will be a failure for her,” was Natalie’s first thought when made aware of the situation. The baby had a condition doctors and the mother knew ahead of time, he could not survive. He would live only for a short time.
Natalie and Christina met with mentors and other members of their team to figure out how they could support her. But the question nagged at them: “How do you support someone through something so tragic?”
What they learned was that you can’t fix it–not even a little piece of it. All they had to offer was themselves, and the other mothers at The Elizabeth House. “We are your family and we will sit with you,” became their mantra and their plan. Natalie went to the hospital with the mom. She was there for labor and delivery. She held baby Angel for 71 minutes. She was there when he breathed his last. She attended the funeral. She feels a bond with the mother forever.
“She only had us. We all cried together. We talked to her. We thought we were helping her. She was helping us. It was then I knew this place is special.”
As for the mom, her grief was too big. She made the decision to move to a more structured environment with the additional help she needed. She is on the road to recovery.
“I will always remember this lesson,” Natalie says. “I thought I had to have a community that was like me. I found out that I have friends who have nothing in common with me and that we were able to make our home a place where everyone can feel safe and loved and supported.”
You can listen to the complete podcast here.