Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy

by Mother's Heart
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Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy
Supporting Women through Crisis Pregnancy

Falling in love doesn’t always go as planned. In the province, Thida was having a lot of emotional difficulties. Pakun, a family friend was asked to take Thida to Phnom Penh for treatment.  While there, they fell in love and started living together.

With treatment Thida began to recover, but meanwhile the mothers of the couple wanted things sorted. Thida’s mom wanted them married; Pakun’s mum did not. She said Thida was crazy. There was a lot of arguing until Pakun’s mum gave an ultimatum - either leave her or be ostracized from his family. Pakun chose Thida.

 Thida’s mum put together a little wedding ceremony for the two and they were married. Meanwhile stresses continued among the parents of the couple. Thida’s father had angrily yelled at Pakun’s mom because she was so cruel to Thida.  This turned out to be the last straw for Pakun and he left, despite his wife being three months pregnant. Thida’s mental health deteriorated. She made her way to Phnom Penh with the idea of jumping from a bridge.

Thankfully she rang for help and was referred to Mother’s Heart. Distraught and crying constantly, Thida came to Mother’s Heart very needy, demanding and dependent. Yet, somehow the arrival of her baby changed what was happening for her. With guidance from her social worker, she cared for her baby well, becoming stronger and more independent.

Mother’s Heart staff continued to encourage and counsel Thida where she learned better care for her emotional health. When Mother’s Heart asked her what she would like to study, Thida replied  ‘hair dressing’. Mother’s Heart was able to find a local business where she soon began to excel at her apprenticeship. She learns quickly, and is talented at welcoming and engaging her customers. Thida’s desire is to work in Korea for a few years so as to be able to save enough money to open her own hair dressing shop in Cambodia.  To make this happen she attends Korean language classes every morning.

While Thida is in class and at the apprenticeship, her mum cares for her baby using formula provided by Mother’s Heart. Thida’s mum is grateful to Mother’s Heart after having seen how much her daughter has grown in confidence and stability. Thida’s own emotional growth has even helped her to better interact with other’s emotions. In a grumpy mood one day the salon teacher spoke harshly to Thida. Undeterred, Thida wrote her a sweet note thanking the teacher for her help.

Thida has worthy and realistic plans for her future and is taking steps to reach her goals. She still struggles at times with her emotions. But these occasions now are short and infrequent. Not at all like how they were in the past.

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Sometimes at Mother’s Heart we get to see our clients long after they are off the books. Soklone called in recently, bearing a basket of fruit for the staff and baby powder as a donation for other clients. What a different woman she has become, confidently in control of her life, assured as a mother and caregiver of her own mum and younger brother.


More than four years ago, Soklone became pregnant after going to a party with some friends. She’s not sure what happened, either drunk or drugged, but after the party she was pregnant. Her mother was very angry with Soklone. The two of them tried to press charges against the boy who hosted the party, suspecting rape, but dropped the charges when they received threats from the boy’s family. At the same time Soklones’ older brother died. Her mum blamed his death on Soklone, scolding her for being single and pregnant, and bringing bad luck to their family.


The two of them were referred to Mother’s Heart from another organization. Staff helped them find a room close to Mother’s Heart office and helped with food, rent, and medical costs. Soklone delivered two healthy twin girls.


When Soklone began cooking and cleaning training, she was very needy and demanding. She would say, “You have to help me. Can’t you see how hard my life is?!” Stressed at being a single mom, scolded by her family, haunted by suicidal thoughts, she took all her anger, hurt, and frustration out on Mother’s Heart staff – the only people who would listen.


Her social worker patiently listened to all her concerns and problems and kept encouraging her. She taught her how to be a good mum. It took a long time for Soklone to understand that she needed to start taking responsibility for the care of her babies and could not rely on Mother’s Heart for everything.


When Soklone visited, she apologized for her behavior while in our program. She certainly can see now how much Mother’s Heart has helped her. “If it wasn’t for Mother’s Heart I wouldn’t be able to stand today”. Soklone went from solely relying on Mother’s Heart, to taking on the full responsibility of caring for her twins, mother, and younger brother.


Her family is still hard to live with. Despite her support they still call her bad. ‘One day’, they told her, ‘she would end up in hell’. Her tart response was that living with her family was already hell. This is when she calls her social worker for help. She asked, “Am I really a bad person.” Her social worker responded, “Look at how far you have come. You are stronger and are such a good mom. You’re working a good job, your babies are doing so well, and you provide for your entire family. ”


Soklone has been referred to an organization that offers free counseling should she need more support. She also knows she is welcome to visit Mother’s Heart anytime.

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Suicide - when there is no hope and you are convinced those around you would be better off if you were dead. Srey Kuaj had reached this place. She was five months pregnant and her brother, who had raised her since their parents died of AIDS, was furious. She had tried to hang herself twice but her brother had intervened in time.


Srey Kuaj would have aborted if she could, but at five months it is illegal. Her brother wanted her to give the baby to another family once she delivered. Srey Kuaj was a minor, not very mature and there was no one to help her raise her child. She knew that her brother was right, but she wanted to keep her baby. 


Full of shame for herself, the loss of face for her family, and knowing she couldn’t even keep the baby, Srey Kuaj could only think of death.


It is extraordinary how the most tenuous connections can avert a crisis. A moto taxi driver on the street heard outreach workers from another NGO speak of the suicidal girl. He referred her to Mother’s Heart.


Mother’s Heart arranged for Srey Kuaj to stay in a shelter for minors, receiving counseling, and under observation in case she tried to commit suicide again.


When she delivered, Srey Kuaj herself fell in love with her baby and her brother soon felt the same way. They simply could not picture giving the baby away.


Mother’s Heart helped with medical costs, counseling, housing, and food. Rather than find work Srey Kuaj wanted to return to the province to live with her older brother where she was reintegrated into her community. Mother’s Heart continued food and counseling support for her there.


It was on the second to last visit by Mother’s Heart staff that Srey Kuaj revealed the baby’s father was back. He had been working in Thailand. Although from the same town as Srey Kuaj, she hadn’t wanted this known in case her brother made trouble for this man and his family.


Srey Kuaj and her partner began to repair relationships – with each other and with his family, asking their forgiveness. The family invited Srey Kuaj to live with them so they could help look after their grandchild. They were so pleased to see how healthy and big the baby was and, like Srey Kuaj’s brother, were full of thanks to Mother’s Heart.


Now, Srey Kuaj is rebuilding her life. Her partner works hard, wanting what is best for Srey Kuaj and their child. There is a wedding on the way. Srey Kuaj will be marrying her partner and Mother’s Heart staff are invited!


To Mother’s Heart Srey Kuaj says, “I would have killed myself if I had not had your support and encouragement. I thank you. I thank you so much”. 

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“This girl, see she’s a bad girl”. Even the people who love us can sometimes say destructive things. Chantee’s mother was trying to convince the other people in the hospital of Chantee’s character even as she’d taken time to attend the delivery and care for her daughter during her recovery in hospital. Never mind that the poor girl had just undergone a C-section to deliver her transverse baby.

 Life for Chantee had been daily insults since her mother found out she was pregnant. Her mother loved her but couldn’t over look Chantee’s misconduct. Chantee had become pregnant after a one-night stand with a young man she had met while working in a roadside shop. He had little idea of his responsibility. According to Cambodian culture, if one family member does something bad, they will bring more misfortune on the rest of the family. Because of this, Chantee’s mom blamed her for anything bad that happened in the family. She was furious. Being pregnant outside of marriage would bring misfortune on her and the rest of the family. Her relentless harsh words drove Chantee to move in with her aunt until the birth of her baby was imminent.

Mother’s Heart helped with her delivery, post-natal care, vaccinations and later formula while Chantee worked. A partner organization trained her to be a cleaner and she worked at that job for about a year while her baby was at Mother’s Heart daycare.

Mother’s Heart also helped Chantee mend her relationship with her mum, encouraging forgiveness. And Chantee worked hard to repair things with her mother. Their relationship improved enough that Chantee moved back home where her mum cared for her baby while Chantee worked in a well paid sales job.

The relationship with her mom was not the only restored relationship. Chantee has married her baby’s dad. After delivery he began to help Chantee out with some bills, showing an interest in the baby and making a life together. It took Chantee a long time to trust he was serious because he hadn’t proven so in the past. Her baby was over two years old when she decided ‘yes’ to marry him. Mother’s Heart was invited to join in their celebration and witness their mended relationship.

Chantee’s mother hasn’t completely forgiven her for getting pregnant, but Chantee chooses to show her love and to be a dutiful Cambodian daughter by helping her mom financially. Chantee continues to have a good relationship with her husband, secure well-paid work and their daughter is in preschool.

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Leakana came to MH almost at term. She was an amiable, fun loving, simple woman with a big personality. She was also a sex worker, addicted to drugs, HIV positive, and clearly stated that she did not want to change her life. Her boyfriend and the father of the baby was abusive and also her pimp, but she loved him and said she could not live without him no matter now abusive he was. She wanted MH to help pay for her delivery and that was all.

Leakana went into labor the day before Christmas. Staff were at a Christmas party and rushed to the hospital to see her. Leakana didn’t have money to deliver her baby and her baby needed to be on ART for six weeks to prevent HIV transmission. He also needed to be on formula instead of breast milk. She was given a choice. If she agreed to stay in a shelter for 6 weeks while her baby could receive consistent ART (decreasing his chances of contracting HIV) then MH would agree to pay for her delivery and provide her with formula. Leakana cried and cried. She only wanted money for delivery. She didn’t want to go into a shelter or come into MH program, be she reluctantly agreed to stay in the shelter so her baby received ATR and formula feeding. He was born on Christmas day.

MH reached out to her family but they wanted nothing to do with Leakana. She had been verbally and emotionally abusive to them, even stealing from them. They wanted no more of her. They didn’t want to take any responsibility for the situation she was in. Her mom was especially angry with her because Leakana had already sold her first baby.

Staff continued to work with the family, counseling them and reaching out to them. They also counseled Leakana as well. They helped her bond with her baby and taught her about responsibility as a mom. Eventually, through perseverance staff slowly repaired the relationship between Leakana and her mom. Leakana’s mom did not fully trust her yet so didn’t invite Leakana to live in her home, but invited her to live close in their community and paid for her to rent a room. Grandma got to know the baby and began to love him. She also started to forgive Leakana. After time passed, she invited Leakana to move into her home.  

But Leakana really struggled to remain out of the sex industry and away from her abusive partner, so she ran away with her him, taking her baby with her. MH staff feared for the baby’s safety so tracked her down. They found her in a drug den high on drugs. Her partner had left her so she wanted to move home. Once again staff worked to repair Leakana’s relationship with her family. But once again she ran away. This time she left her baby. Staff asked the family if they wanted to raise the baby or if they wanted MH to find another family to raise the baby. MH would continue providing formula for the baby. The baby’s first HIV test showed that he was HIV negative, but nothing is conclusive until a later test is done when the baby is 1 ½ years old. Leakana’s sister was not sure about what decision to make. She cared for her nephew but wasn’t sure if she could raise a baby who was HIV positive. She asked for some time to make the decision and started to raise the baby in the meantime. She soon fell in love with him as if he were her own. Staff asked her again if she wanted to raise the baby or put him with another family. This time she had an answer. She would raise and love him whether he was HIV positive or not.

The tests of the baby’s final, conclusive viral load just came back. He is HIV negative! The family is so happy. They would have loved him no matter the test results but they rejoice that he can live a long, healthy life. Even if Leakana has not been reconciled to her family, she has called to say that she knows her sister will be a good mom to her baby and love him like her own. She is happy that he will grow up in a loving home.

We hope that one day Leakana will make the decisions to leave her life and return home.

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Organization Information

Mother's Heart

Location: Phnom Penh - Cambodia
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @MHOCambodia
Project Leader:
Zarah Jane Rushworth
Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh Cambodia
$179,998 raised of $350,000 goal
1,011 donations
$170,002 to go
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