Claire's Story (Chapter 1)

Updated: Apr 5, 2019

This blog will tell the story of Claire and her son Davy. It will give you a window into her thoughts, feelings, and behavior. She isn’t perfect. She will make mistakes. There will be times when people try to help Claire and you will be introduced to some great strategies that have been found to work in preventing mistakes that lead to violence. You will have an opportunity to share your thoughts about whether Claire can find a way out of the violence that has plagued her family for generations. You will have a chance to consider whether there are any steps you might want to take to help prevent interpersonal violence.

Claire's Story was originally published on the blog of Dr. Pearl Berman. You can read more here: https://pearlsberman.com/blog/

Claire's Story: She's Scared to Death

Part 1, Chapter 1 | By P. Berman, K. Hecht, & A. Hosack

I’m going to die. I’m going to die. No one cares. I am all alone.

Claire Caldwell is 15 years old and scared to death; she is a lone in a room on the maternity floor of a local hospital. The nurse briefly checked her out, said it was going to be hours before her child was born; without a backward look, the nurse had turned the lights off and told Claire to sleep. The contractions are so painful Claire wonders if she is going to die alone in the dark. The head nurse on the maternity floor noticed at admission that Claire was alone; this let off a red flag. Women who arrive with a family member or close friend are more likely to have a healthy delivery and more likely to have sought out prenatal care. The head nurse assigns Nurse Karin to Claire’s case and encourages her to check on Claire as frequently as she can to offer help if it is needed.

Nurse Karin checks on Claire about twenty minutes after she was admitted. She turns on the lights low, hoping Claire is asleep. When she sees the wide awake, “deer in the headlights look,” she comes into the room, wipes the sweat off Claire’ face and asks her how she is doing. Claire blurts out that her body feels like it is ripping open. Nurse Karin checks her out, agrees with the admitting nurse that there are many hours ahead and tells Claire that the pain she is experiencing is normal and to hit the call button if she needs help.

Claire doesn’t want Nurse Karin to leave, she still worries she is going to die. Maybe this horrible pain is normal, but that nice nurse can’t tell how bad the pain is. She also doesn’t know that Claire has never be able to do anything right. She just wanted love. She didn’t intend to become a mother. But of course, she couldn’t do anything right. So here she is, flat on her back, in agony, and deserving every bit of it.

Nurse Karin tried to check on Claire once an hour – it was hard to do; a lot of babies were being born today. She wondered where were Claire’s family members?

Learning Question

Why wasn’t there at least a friend with Claire?

Claire's Story: She's Scared to Death

Part 1, Chapter 2 | By P. Berman, K. Hecht, & A. Hosack

I am all alone. I will always be alone. No one cares whether I live or die.

Nurse Karin has checked on Claire almost every hour. She agrees with the Head Nurse-Claire is showing all the warning signs of a high-risk pregnancy; Claire had no expected due date, no family obstetrician or prenatal care, she is only 15, and there are no signs of family support. Nurse Karin kept checking at the nursing station, but no one had even placed a call to check in on Claire. Most babies at this hospital are born without serious hitches. Ignoring all the other factors, just being an adolescent can make her delivery higher risk. Claire's body is still growing- including the parts that are needed for pregnancy.

Nurse Karin visits Claire about twice as much as her other mothers. She has a heavy load today- lots of babies have decided to be born. Thus, frequent means maybe once an hour. Claire is alone most of the time and is scaring herself with her thoughts of dying. She is tensing up which is making the pains even worse. She wants to ask for help but figures no one would want to help trash like her. When Nurse Karin says she cares, she must just be lying because it is her job to “care.”

As Nurse Karin visits other mothers who have at least one caring person in the room, she wonders what kind of family Claire comes from. There are a lot of possibilities that cross her mind. Maybe Claire’s mother is single, has a lot of children to support, and can’t afford to take the time off work? Maybe Claire's parents fretted her to death during her pregnancy. They tried to always keep her at home to protect her. Maybe, Claire had sneaked away to go to a movie and now she wasn’t calling her parents because they would drive her crazy with their reminders that they had, “told her not to go out.” However, Nurse Karin is completely off track because there is nothing in Nurse Karin’s experience to prepare her for Claire’s family.

Gail and Bill Caldwell met in high school, dropped out, and got married the week before Claire was born. The Caldwells were hard workers but they had no preparation for the labor market. When they were finally offered jobs as laborers at a local farm, they took them and have worked there ever since. Despite working long hours, Gail and Bill could never earn enough money to get their income off the “poverty line.” The couldn’t afford movies or going out to eat. They could afford beer. They both became alcoholics before Claire could walk. They were sometimes putting things on the table for Claire to eat and sometimes passed out drunk in the living room and Claire would go hungry. Claire’s earliest memory was of her mother telling her how even as a baby, Claire had been demanding and useless.

Learning Questions

Are babies demanding? Why might Mrs. Caldwell have called Claire useless? Is there anything good happening in Claire’s family?

Claire's Story: She's Scared to Death

Part 1, Chapter 3 | By P. Berman, K. Hecht, & A. Hosack

These kids are a burden. No matter how hard we work, we can’t get a head. We hate this life.

Gail and Bill had their five children in quick succession. After their third child, they couldn’t stand living in their two-room apartment anymore; they could escape the sight of their children anywhere. It took a lot of searching, but they finally found a small house to rent that they could afford. All of Claire’s memories are tied to this old house, where there were lots of places to hide outside and in when she didn’t want her parents to know where she was. The house was in a rural community where every home was at least a mile away from everyone else’s. Thus, Claire and her brother and sisters had plenty of running around space outside. It also meant that neighbors never noticed how often the Caldwell children were home alone in the house. Neighbors did frequently yell at the Caldwell children for climbing their apple and pear trees and taking fruit without permission; they noticed how fast the fruit was eaten- but didn’t think much of it. The children didn't go to a pediatrician, so no one noticed the scars on the children’s backs from the discipline their father gave them.

Claire feared her dad and hated her mom. She wanted more than anything to find someone who she could love and who would love her. Once she started going to school, she saw some kids who got taken to the bus stop by their parents; they got hugs before their climbed the stairs into the bus. Claire always wondered if this was a shame put on for the driver or if these kids were good enough to be really loved. When Claire entered High School, she finally met someone who said nice things to her. Larry never criticized her clothes; his were from Kmart too. He hung out with her at lunch and didn’t laugh that she was on the “poor kid” food program; so was he. When they began to cut classes and hang out in the woods, he expected her to have sex with him. Claire didn’t complain even though it often hurt; she wanted Larry to love her. During sex, she felt closer to Larry than she had ever felt with anyone else; it must be love. She did anything Larry asked- she couldn't bear the idea of losing his love. When Claire realized she was pregnant, she didn’t tell Larry right away; she was afraid he would never want to see her again. Eventually, Larry did notice that she was pregnant; he didn’t get mad, but he told her he was too young to be a dad. He still sat with her at ate with her, but the trips to the woods were over. When Claire began throwing up at school, a teacher realized she was pregnant and called her parents. Claire came home from school, to find both of her parents sober and waiting for her. Her father kicked her hard in the stomach, saying he hoped she’d have a miscarriage. Her mother called her a “slut” and told her she’d have to “care for her bastard on her own.”

Claire’s only knowledge of God was that he wanted her dad to beat the devil out of her and that he might send her to hell for having a bastard. She began to pray to God at night. If this child she cared would just love her, she would do everything she could to reform her life and be a good person. Once Claire’s contractions started, her dad dropped her off at the local hospital and told her to call when it was all over.

Learning Questions

What does it mean to be a good person? What else might Claire have done that she considers bad?

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