That's Life ( Pt 3 )
After taking the pram apart and placing it in the boot of her car, I climbed in the back seat with my son, explaining how nervous I was to my health visitor.
“I understand how you feel Jenny, it's a big step you're taking, but you need to take on board that I have you're son's best interest at heart, the longer you let this go on, the harder it will be to leave. You're son is only three months old and doesn't know any different, but as he get's older you will need to explain things in a rational way, which I don't think you'll be able to do if you're in a bad state of health and mind.”
I knew she was right, but needed it verified. My health visitor seemed so wise, as she talked to me, I became much calmer gazing down at my son, knowing now I'd made the right choice and not having others condemn me for my decision. The only thing to do now, was to be taken along on a wave of help from others and hope for the best.
As we drove up a street I'd never been before, we approached some huge, tall Victorian houses that stretched along a tree lined road. I couldn't believe it when she stopped at one of them and announced. “Well! We're here.”
“Really!” I declared. “Wow! I didn't think a refuge would sit in such a pretty area.” I said gazing around, expecting to be taken to some run down house, but though it was dark, the glow from the street lights lit up the houses and surrounding area, which I thought was so charming.
“I have to warn you!” My health visitor announced, looking me straight in the eyes. “You mustn't tell anyone, not even close family about this place. It's kept secret for you're own and others security. I hope you understand how important this is.”
I felt like I was joining some secret organization, the way she spoke with such dominance. “Of course! I promise I won't say a word,” I uttered. “I'll just tell my parents that I'm safe and not to worry.”
“Good!” She replied, as we took the pram out of the boot and lifted it up the many steps to the front door. “You'll need to get a lightweight pushchair if you're going to stay here for any length of time.”
Buying a pram was so important to me when finding out I was pregnant, it was the first thing I bought at the time, not considering the inconvenience it would be for getting around. “I haven't got a pushchair yet.” I said, feeling that money was going to be tight from now on and not knowing what to do.
“I'm sure the other women will be able to help you...they understand when new women come here, that they're desolate and unprepared.”
Well as we got to the front door, immediately it opened and two women helped us in with the pram. “Hi! You must be Jenny?” Said one of the women.
I smiled as she took me to an office, feeling slightly sheepish as another woman approached with a black eye and cut lip, two small children in nappies straddled along beside her. I felt uncomfortable and didn't know where to look. She seemed to ignore me and went straight up to what I discovered were the ladies who ran the refuge.
Looking down at the floor, I just had a gut feeling that this woman was going to be trouble, and that I would have to keep my distance from her, in fact she scared the living days out of me and I'd only just walked through the door. Frightened for my life, I approached my health visitor. “Will I be safe here?” I asked clutching my baby.
“Of course!” She voiced. “Don't worry, you'll find friends here, it just takes time to get accustomed to the environment.”
I wasn't so sure, but took her word for it. One of the woman's aid workers took me aside, while my health visitor held my son. I had to read and sign a form that said I understood and would abide by the rules of the house. She then told me that they would need to contact social services in order to prove that I deserved to be there.
I told her that although I wasn't being physically abused, the scars were in actual fact an attack on my mental state of mind which would be harder to prove, but my health visitor said she would back me up, so that was that, for the time being I was here to stay.
I thanked my health visitor as she had to leave, and said I'd let her know how I was getting on. As she left, I felt suddenly powerless to know what to do next, so decided to be carried along on the wave, as I was shown here, there and everywhere, first stop was where I would sleep, then I was introduced to some of the other women.
My room was small, with just enough space for a single bed and a small side table, a wardrobe faced the door and the pram stood beside my bed. There wasn't a lock on the door, It did worry me that anyone could walk in and take what they wanted, but at least I was safe and had a roof over my head which was my main priority. It gave me a feeling of being more in control than I'd felt in a long time, as I made my room as comfortable as I could.
The woman in the room next to mine was really nice and introduced me to her little girl who was adorable, we soon became great friends as she showed me around the house. On the ground floor was a large meeting room, then there was the office, and along a corridor was a lounge area where I have memories of watching Cagney and Lacey and Starsky and Hutch...Oh how those detective programs come rushing back as I write. Also there was a toilet as I remember, with a small kitchen area for the aid workers, that had a kettle, fridge and a tiny stove as I recall.
Back along the corridor was another door, which led to a kind of playroom come utility area, where people could do their laundry, this also led out onto a pleasant walled garden with a wooden climbing frame for the children, which I spent many a happy moment with some of the other mums.
There were bedrooms on the first floor, I think about eight in all, but they were all very small. Then there was another toilet. Funnily enough the huge kitchen was on the top floor, which I found strange, and would have thought it would be at ground level. The kitchen was where everyone congregated and chatted about their day. We had to take it in turns to cook, but nobody seemed to mind. Across the way were two bathrooms and yet another toilet. The girl in the room next to mine, took me under her wing, helping me out as much as she could, she even shared some food with me on that first night, which I appreciated a lot.
There was a cupboard down in the play area with loads of clothes donated, plus toys too. After wading through mounds of garments, I came up with a couple of tops that fitted me, some tea shirts that were long enough to wear as nighties. There was even an old pushchair believe it or not, that someone had left behind which they let me have. My friend gave me her nearly empty toothpaste and someone else gave me a toothbrush...I felt very lucky.
My first night I found it hard to get off to sleep with all the movement going on outside my room, though I wasn't going out there to find out what the noise was, it wasn't any of my business and to be honest I didn't want to know at this point in time. Feeling a slight panic, I checked on my son who was by now fast asleep, then pulled the bed clothes over my head, fearing there were women with demons inside them outside my door. But once I did go off, it was the best sleep I'd had in ages.
Luckily my son was a heavy sleeper too, and I actually had to wake him for his feed in the morning. The plastic bag of money still lay under his mattress, which I thought was the safest place to leave it for now. So making my way to the kitchen, my new found friend was already feeding her daughter. We chatted, as I made up my son's feed and planned the day ahead. She made it her mission to show me around and teach me what I needed to do next.
To be continued...