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Gabriela, Female – 15 Months

When our clinicians first visited baby Gabriela in her home, she didn’t laugh and coo or engage with the adults in her life. Gabriela’s mother was a young, first time mom and had been referred to our Birth to Five program because of anger issues. She frequently became very angry, throwing things and arguing loudly with her husband, Gabriela’s father. She struggled to play with her daughter or even show affection to her.

In our Birth to Five program, clinicians often discover that a child’s parent has their own experience of trauma, which needs to be addressed so healthy patterns of caregiving and love can be established between the baby and the parent. Gabriela’s mother revealed to a therapist that she had been physically traumatized by her father as a child. As a teenager, she’d also been sexually assaulted by an uncle and molested. Her own pain and anger were creating a barrier between Gabriela and herself, but she wanted help. “I want to learn how to love my daughter,” she told her therapist.

The therapist worked intensively with Gabriela and her mother together. She taught her mother basic parenting skills such as how to engage with Gabriela, talking with her, showing affection and playing with her. And the results were rewarding! Gabriela eventually became responsive and connected to her mother.

After repairing the bond between Gabriela and her mother, the therapist worked individually with Gabriela’s mother to process her trauma. To learn to love and forgive herself, Gabriela’s mother had to accept that what she had suffered as a child, was not her fault.

Because of the support and counseling they received at VIP, Gabriela’s family has undergone real change. Gabriela’s mother now has a strong relationship with her daughter and her husband. Now Gabriela’s mother and father work as a team to raise their daughter together. And Gabriela is growing up with the affection of a mother who loves playing with her and taking her on walks. Not only has Gabriela’s mother has learned to love her daughter, she’s also learned to love herself.

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