Our partners at Sunflower in St Petersburg are training mothers who grew up in orphanages to support and mentors younger mothers in the same situation. Sunflower helped Galina when her children were young. Now she is helping Natalia care for her baby son.
Natalia is bringing up her three-month old son on her own. His father left Natalia as soon as he heard that she was pregnant. Natalia made lots of preparations for becoming a mother and had already resolved the practical issues that she could foresee before he was born. However, she couldn’t foresee that she wouldn’t be able to sleep once he was born. We’re not talking the normal broken nights here, Natalia was too anxious to sleep in case “he suddenly dies, he cries all the time, he won’t eat, maybe he’ll die from hunger.” Natalia has no support because her relatives, who suddenly appeared when she left the children’s home, only visit when they want to borrow money from her. They have a serious alcohol problem and Natalia can’t count on them for help at all. She only has a brother who occasionally comes and helps her out financially.
Galina met Natalia when she was totally exhausted, both physically and emotionally. To start with she helped by looking after the baby so that Natalia could sleep. Gradually Natalia began to notice that the baby stopped crying and started to smile. She showed Natalia how important it was for the baby’s development that he had close emotional contact with his mother. She helped Natalia learn how to look after him, how to bathe him, feed him and massage him. Galina strongly suggested that she join the Sunflower group for more support.
In Natalia’s own words, Galina’s personal experience of Sunflower made a deep impression on her, how “important Sunflower was to her and how it changed her relationship with her children completely.” She is also grateful for all the help Galina has given her, “I realise now that if I had remained alone without any support I could easily have abandoned my child and given him up to a children’s home. You work and bring him clothes, food, toys, and nappies because you don’t think you have anything else to give. You can’t buy what Galya teaches me, not for any money – she teaches me to be my child’s mummy”.