Maternal safety is about keeping pregnant women safe. It’s a big concern, given the potential risks to both moms and babies when relationships turn violent.
One Mother’s Story
“I need to keep my baby safe, can you help me?” the young woman asked us, with tears in her eyes.
She’d tried everything to get away from her abuser, she said. Been through the shelter programs. She’d changed her number. Gotten protection orders. Quit all social media. She even tried moving out of town a time or two.
Each time, though, he seemed to find her. Or she went back with him. (Same difference, she said.)
Child Protective Services ended up taking her other children. The State was concerned that she was unable or unwilling to shield them from the father who had hurt her, despite her best efforts. She was fighting to get them back.
The last thing she needed was another child. Shortly after he’d beaten her for the last time and she’d left him, though, she’d learned she was pregnant… again.
That’s probably not by accident, either. Women are often forced to become pregnant by abusive partners, as an act of control.
“I should’ve gotten a tubal after my last kid was born,” she cried. “I didn’t want this to happen again. Because I knew he’d try to trap me, I knew I’d end up having to leave. And I hate to sound awful but I don’t need any more children. I don’t want another reminder of him. It’s not this baby’s fault, though. I just need a family to take him in and to keep my baby safe. He deserves that, right?”
Extra Vulnerable: Abuse & Pregnancy
Women in abusive relationships are at the very highest risks when pregnant. The March of Dimes reports that 1 in 6 women have been domestic violence victims during pregnancy. It’s a problem that is prevalent worldwide.
In South Texas, this is a crisis, as well. The National Latino Network reports that one in three Latinas has experienced intimate partner violence. Silence often creates a conspiracy that protests the abusers, at the expense of victims and their children.
No mother should have to forfeit her child for adoption simply to escape abuse, and we told her this. There are programs and shelters to help violence survivors who are parenting, or wish to do so. Most communities have places that offer free counseling and legal services, in addition to emergency housing and medical referrals.
The young mother who had turned to Abrazo for help already knew all this. The problem was that despite all she had lost as a result of her abusive relationship, she knew she would likely go back to him, just as she’d done over and over again, and despite all the risks. “I know it’s crazy, I know it’s probably not going to get better, but I know myself. I know how I am,” she said.
It’s tragic, but it’s a story that plays out month after month, in cities and marriages and families across all socioeconomics. It’s one kind of tragedy when it involves only adults, but it’s a whole ‘nother nightmare when children are involved.
The Protection Adoption Can Offer
The frightening reality is that most parents who abuse their partners will eventually encounter anger and control issues with their kids. And children who grow up in homes where there is abuse or violence often repeat the same behaviors in their homes as adults.
Mothers making adoption plans through Abrazo aren’t required to be in contact with the birthfather. Unlike some agencies that put the burden on the mother to “get the dad to sign,” Abrazo takes care of all necessary legal details. This means the father deals with Abrazo directly and the mother’s privacy is protected by the agency. In Texas, an alleged father is not entitled to access to the child without a court order. With open adoption, he can have a separate and confidential relationship with the adopting family, if necessary. This way maternal safety is a priority. (And the mother’s well-being isn’t compromised by his participation.)
More importantly, Abrazo offers ongoing counseling and emotional support to the placing parent/s. This helps reinforce their intentions to seek out healthier relationships going forward.
The Rest of the Story
The mother in the account above was able to safely deliver and place her baby boy with the adopting couple of her choice. He is growing up safe and sound in a home where there is no fighting, no hitting, no shouting and no police presence. His birthmother now enjoying supervised visits with her children in state care. She’s even begun working towards a home health care certification. The birthfather is locked up at present, but his relatives still message the birthmom from time to time to ask her to visit and send him money. If she has already done so, she’s not told Abrazo yet… but that’s her business.
Because keeping children safe is Abrazo’s business, something this mother acknowledged in a recent text to the agency staff, which read simply :
Let’s make maternal safety and protecting expectant moms a community-wide goal.