“You don’t have any kids do you?”
It was more of a statement than a question. Thirty seconds into our visit, while I was still standing awkwardly by the door waiting for her to direct me somewhere, and she already knew. Well, this will be an interesting visit, I thought. While I had talked to Ms. Adams many times on the phone, this was our first face to face visit, and it was taking place at her apartment. I could feel the color rising in my face as I smiled and shook my head no.
Ms. Adams directed me to a seat in her living room, where I sat down, introduced myself more formally and began discussing the program for moms and babies Ms. Adams had expressed interest in during our telephone conversations. I felt myself relax as I settled into and knew my face was almost back to its original color.
But not for long. Ms. Adams stopped me in the middle of our conversation to ask me about my age, why I have no children, followed by, “Aren’t you thirty yet?!”, and if I ever plan on having children.
I met Ms. Adams in February, more than six months after I started working at Catholic Charities, and she was the first person who directly approached me about my situation. Here I am, a Case Manager working with pregnant women and their babies and I have no children of my own, and no experience or expertise in this area. Yet I meet with clients daily to educate them on health issues and link them with resources. In most cases, the women I’m speaking to know more about what I’m saying that I do myself.
I was unprepared for Ms. Adams’ honesty when I walked into her apartment. She challenged me more directly than I had ever been challenged before, and made me question what grounds I have for coming to her home and talking to her about her baby. But through my visit with Ms. Adams, we grew to understand each other a bit better. Once she realized I wasn’t there to tell her how to parent her baby, but that I was there to support her, she eased into conversation with me, and shared bits of her life with me.
The progression of my meetings with clients often follows a similar pattern as my visit with Ms. Adams. My clients know our primary conversation is centered on pregnancies or babies, but more often than not, our conversations develop into so much more. As we sit together with no barriers between us, we form a relationship. We talk about their families, their past, their dreams, their future, their struggles, their lives. During these conversations, they trust me with a piece of their hearts, hearts that in many cases have been hurt and wounded. While I can’t mend their broken hearts or heal their wounds, I can listen, and be the advocate, and the encourager, the friend that they need in that moment. And I offer them my heart, with the promise that I will not create more wounds.
Even Ms. Adams was able to accept that offering of my heart, before making one last joke about me going home to my quiet house, with no children.
Chicago, IL 2011-2012