From Client to Volunteer: Mary's Story

“I was teaching when I got laid off,” Mary shared as she began to tell her story.

Mary, formerly a client, now volunteers with Another Way Pregnancy Center (AWPC). “My goal was always to become a working mom. It was something I wanted to model for my kids. However, it was a lot tougher than I expected.” Despite many attempts, Mary could not find work. And in the midst of her search, she learned that she was unexpectedly pregnant. Her daughter, Emma, was born about two years after her eldest, James. Uneasy about having another baby, Mary and her husband recognized the difficulty of having children back to back. Her dream of being a working mom grew more distant.

“After Emma was born, James started to show signs of autistic behavior. He struggled with anxiety, new situations, and new people. On top of this, though typically a happy baby, Emma wrestled with colic and acid reflux.” The family began to struggle financially. As time passed, Mary and her husband made the decision that they were done having kids. But as Emma turned three and James five, Mary found out she was pregnant. Again, unplanned. She grappled with the fear of telling her husband because she knew it would upset him.

However, upon reflecting back on the moment when she learned of the untimely pregnancy, Mary smiled. “I can remember exactly how I felt in that moment. I should have been worried, but when I took the pregnancy test I was so excited! I had the biggest smile on my face. I honestly think it was God telling me it was going to be okay. At the time, I didn’t have many reasons to smile. Our house is about 1,000 square feet. There’s no room. There’s still not much room!” There were some things Mary needed to consider. The family didn’t have a car that would fit the baby or another room in their house. Where were they supposed to put another crib?

One day, as Mary was driving back from a friend’s house, she stumbled upon AWPC. “I had always heard about Pregnancy Centers from other people. I thought they were all Pro-Choice, so I was hesitant to walk in. But I went in one day and was absolutely amazed by the people. The smiles, the warmth. They were so genuine! I don’t usually like to leave my kids with anyone else...but I saw how loving Nancy was, and how excited the staff was to meet us.” Mary spoke about how she and her children were immediately embraced. “As I spent more time at AWPC, I thought, ‘Wow, they’re like my family. I miss them when I don’t see them.’”

Mary opened up about difficult days. She battled mixed emotions and anxiety, partly due to the fact that she had not yet told her husband about the pregnancy, for fear of what he might think or suggest. “He kept saying that having another baby could set us back. He was concerned about work. Our kids both needed us so much already. Financially we were barely making it on one income with two kids.”

But 15 weeks into her pregnancy, Mary mustered up the courage to tell her husband. She insisted that she didn’t even want to consider abortion. She assured him that she’d found a place where there were classes. She could learn from them. She could see people. She looked forward to appointments because even though she was anxious about the unknown, she felt comfortable there. “I told my husband about the many resources AWPC offered! My Client Advocate even went through helpful lessons on how to parent a child with autism, which were so helpful.” Mary exclaimed, “I thought that I had learned everything about pregnancy and parenting with my first two children, but there was always something new to gain.”

On top of this, Mary valued the positivity and support of the other moms she met at AWPC. “I found that they weren’t rude or opinionated.” Mary expressed that she has deeply valued her time with the AWPC family. “Not only was it good for me, but it was good for my children too. I know for a fact that coming here helped me not only keep and prepare for my unborn baby, but I knew that she was going to be loved. She was going to have everything she needed, and the same with my other two.”

As Lily, Mary’s baby, turned one, they came to the end of their program. However, Mary continued attending Parent+ classes, where she found support in building relationships with the other moms. But she realized that she needed something else to look forward to on those long days. Mary had battled postpartum depression. “When you don’t have a reason to brush your hair, you don’t.” In response, Alyssa, Client Services Director at AWPC, handed her a volunteer sheet. At first, Mary was unsure about what she could help out with, but Alyssa reassured her that they would find something she was happy to do, and good at. “Alyssa was so flexible! I gave her every excuse not to come,” Mary laughed. “I folded the form in half and never gave it to her.” But persistent and patient, Alyssa gave her another. And today, Mary volunteers regularly with us at AWPC and loves it! She is one of few women who have gone from attending Mom’s Group, to helping lead it.

It was evident that Mary has been deeply affected by the relationships she’s formed with AWPC staff, volunteers, and other moms. “I just love the people here. They bring out the best in everyone who walks in. You can see it in the moms and the kids.” And in the midst of all of it, Mary attributes everything to a gracious God who intentionally brought her here. “When I look at my experience and see how God worked through AWPC with me - how it all happened, and how I even ended up here...it’s amazing. I never would have chosen to come here on my own in a million years. What I heard about these agencies should have kept me away. But it was God - He wanted us to come here to meet these humble, loving people.”

And she overflows with thankfulness.

Olivia's Story

 It was early February last year when 17-year-old Olivia walked into AWPC for a pregnancy test. 

Positive.

Her pregnancy was not planned and she was scared, but the thought of a baby sparked a bit of hope and joy in her mind. She had yet to tell anyone that she thought she might be pregnant. Her talk with and AWPC ultrasound tech that first day eased her mind a bit as she processed the life change that had come so quickly. 

Olivia's first picture of her child - an ultrasound image from Another Way Pregnancy Center. 

Olivia's first picture of her child - an ultrasound image from Another Way Pregnancy Center. 

“It was like talking to my best friend,” she recalled about that first conversation at AWPC. Like so many mothers, that first ultrasound picture of her baby - just a tiny 6 weeks and 3 days - is a precious memento that she still proudly shows off. The first day she came in she signed up for the Earn While You Learn program and scheduled an appointment for her and her boyfriend - who still didn’t know about the pregnancy.

When she told him a few days later, he had a hard time accepting it. She says he didn’t tell her what to do, but said that he wouldn’t be upset if she got an abortion. But it was his mother that had the hardest time with the news. Olivia remembered her strongly pushing her for an abortion those first few months, with painful interactions and arguments. Thankfully, Olivia’s own mother was calm when she found out, and supported her by taking her to appointments. 

She was 21 weeks pregnant when the car accident happened. 

She was on her way to an EWYL appointment. Her car was totaled, and Olivia was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance with concerns for her unborn child.

Thankfully her baby boy was ok, but the car accident cause her to start dilating. It wasn’t enough to be of concern at the time, so she was sent home and continued preparing for her new baby with visits to the center. Her sweet spirit is evident as she speaks with gratitude about the center during this time. 

“I love [AWPC]. It’s just the greatest thing. Since my boyfriend wasn’t very supportive and my mom was neutral, I didn’t feel like I had a lot of support. But I knew I wanted to continue the pregnancy. They gave me the emotional and physical support that I needed - they provided so much for my baby. It’s a miracle. I know that if I didn’t have the support of [AWPC], my son wouldn’t have very much at all. I’m so thankful! And now I give back all the clothes to the center as he grows out of them.”

Her client advocate for the her EWYL sessions happened to be pregnant at the same time, so Olivia felt an extra layer of support and understanding as she went through her pregnancy journey. 

“[My sessions] were like going to a coffee shop and spending time with a friend. [My client advocate] understood what I was going through. It was so nice to have someone who was feeling what I was feeling and who could tell me about pregnancy from her perspective.”

She would need that continued support. On August 3rd, over two months before her little boy was due, she started having contractions. She went to the hospital where they discovered she had continued to dilate, but still not enough for them be concerned. She stayed overnight at the hospital to be monitored, but was sent home the next day.

But something still didn’t feel right to Olivia. The next day, at 30 weeks and 6 days, her water broke.

Friends rushed her to the hospital, but there was no NICU. She was transferred to another hospital via ambulance and after nine hours of labor delivered her 3 lb 9 oz beautiful baby boy, Michael. 

Baby Michael was in the neonatal intensive care unit for over four weeks after being born at 30 weeks and 6 days.

Baby Michael was in the neonatal intensive care unit for over four weeks after being born at 30 weeks and 6 days.

The process was overwhelming and stressful - ambulance rides, unsuccessful magnesium shots to try to stop the labor, and a baby who came out silently when he was first born. 

The last few weeks and months of development inside the womb are most crucial for lung development, so premature babies often struggle with breathing issues and are more susceptible to illness in their first few weeks and months of life. Thankfully, the nurses and doctors got him to cry and breathe quickly, and little Michael was immediately rushed to the NICU and incubated. By the nighttime on his first day they were able to pull his breathing tube out, but breathing treatments continued for the next week.

There was no rooming-in for parents in the NICU, so Olivia was discharged and sent home. She spent fourteen hours or more each day for four and half weeks while little Michael tried to grow strong enough to leave the hospital. As she recounts the anxiety and strain of that time, her devotion and love for her child is strong in her soft voice.]

“I didn’t miss a single day. I would usually get there around seven or eight every morning and leave at around eleven or twelve that night. It was my first baby. It was so hard to watch…During the first week a baby died in the NICU, in the bed right next to Michael. I couldn’t go home that night because I was so afraid my baby would die too. You weren’t allowed to sleep in the NICU, so I stayed awake the entire night.”

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Michael was able to come home in early September, still a full month from when he was originally due to be born. He was still only four pounds, and Olivia remembers it being terrifying those first few days. 

She came back to EWYL while Michael was still in the NICU to learn about newborn care, baby development, and receive support. When asked about what she would tell a young woman who found herself in the same situation, she speaks with clear determination.

“Go to the pregnancy center. Yes, you’re scared and you’re nervous, but you don’t need to be. There are people that are going to be there for you. Well, ok, maybe labor and delivery is a little scary,” she laughs. “But the people at AWPC will talk you through it all. They’ll give you the support you need to keep going.” 

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Baby Michael with his parents. 

Baby Michael with his parents. 

A Special Little Boy

By Kayla Benfield

Somewhere in our corner of the world is a beautiful little newborn baby boy named Zion. He’s a tiny thing; when I spoke with his mom and dad, he was only three weeks old. But there is no doubt that he is someone special. Zion’s parents, Raven and Martel, are a sweet couple. When asked how they met, they laugh together as they tell their love story. When Martel talks about Raven, his voice is full of respect for her. They speak gently with each other as they tell me their story.

The beginning was difficult. Before she knew she was pregnant she found herself so sick she ended up in the emergency room. It was there that she first found out about little Zion - she was six weeks pregnant, overwhelmed, and scared.

Her voice softens as she recalls this memory. “I was scared—I didn’t know what to do. What was going to be my next step? How was I going to tell my parents? I didn’t know if I wanted to keep him.” Martel chimes in with his own thoughts, saying, “I wasn’t expecting a child…we weren’t sure if we were going to keep him or not. But I’m glad we did.”

Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, commonly referred to as morning sickness, effects more than fifty percent of pregnant women. The name is misleading; symptoms occur day or night and can be debilitating to women in their first trimester of pregnancy.

Unfortunately Raven was one of these women, and found herself too sick to continue school shortly after she found out about her pregnancy. The physical and emotional weight of those first few weeks took their toll and she began to feel like she couldn’t continue the pregnancy. It was then that she made a call to Planned Parenthood to schedule an abortion. Planned Parenthood referred her to XYZ* Women’s Center, an abortion clinic in Detroit.

But God intervened.

By some miracle, the receptionist at the abortion clinic that day did not schedule her for an abortion appointment. Instead, she did something unheard of - she told Raven to call Another Way Pregnancy Center. To this day we don’t know why, or how. But we are so thankful she did.

Instead of sitting in an abortion clinic that day, Raven and Martel found themselves at AWPC waiting for an ultrasound. She was miserably sick and didn’t actually want to go in, but Martel encouraged her to come. She was agitated and annoyed, feeling nauseous and miserable as she waited for her appointment time. Why am I here if my mind is already made up?

Eventually one of our ultrasound technicians, Christine, walked her back for an ultrasound. Raven and Martel saw their child on the screen and her mind began to change. They talked with Christine for a long time - about pregnancy sickness, abortion procedures, fetal development. Christine encouraged her about her sickness, telling her that it would most likely subside in the next few weeks. But it was the tiny heartbeat of their son that kept coming back to the new parents.

Hearing Martel talk about that appointment, it’s clear to see the love and hope he had for his little boy. “I thought to myself, what would it be if we take our own child’s life away? Knowing he might be someone great one day! Let’s give it a chance and find out how to keep him. Once we went to AWPC and talked to Christine, she put everything into perspective. If God didn’t want this child here, he wouldn’t be here.”

For Raven, the kind words and seeing her sweet child on the ultrasound was all it took to realize she wanted to keep her baby. She left the appointment firm in her conviction, and was able to talk to her parents and convince them that she had made the right choice.

Shortly after their first appointment, Raven and Martel joined the Earn While You Learn program, working with volunteers Chris and Lilly. Raven started feeling better around the halfway point in her pregnancy and started going to prenatal appointments.

They speak with gratitude in their voice as they talk about their experience with EWYL. Raven says, “It’s so helpful. You learn so much. And it’s really calming—we just take time out to talk about what’s going on. It’s a beautiful program.”

When Martel talks about the Men’s Program, he mentions how he learned to be a father. “I learned a lot from Chris, how to be the right father for my kid. It’s encouraging to have someone sit down and listen, to motivate me - he made feel like I could do this, to not doubt myself, and to believe that I could be a good father.”

Throughout our conversation, Raven’s voice is tired but content. It beams as she tells me how special and unique her little boy is. I ask her what she would say to a woman who finds herself in the same position one day.

“It’s going to be hard. But at the end of it all—when you meet your baby, when you hear that first cry—it’s all worth it. I promise it’s worth it.”

* Name withheld to protect the worker. 

This story was adapted from our December 2017 newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here.

What's In a Name?

Guest Post by Cristin Woodsum

I already had six beautiful children: Frank, Eddie, Charlie, Josephine, Louis and Eva. And in 2015, my husband Jon and I conceived two children that we never got to meet: Max and Gemma. They are two precious souls that our kids talk about every single day. But losing them was really hard for Jon and me. It was a time when I had to coach myself, and have others remind me that, despite the deep grief I was feeling, coupled with the feelings of loneliness and brokenness, that God was still there holding me. Even when I didn’t “feel” it. Jon and I consciously put our pain at the foot of the cross, some times better than others, asking God to take away the hurt. And for what seemed like a long time, He didn’t. He let us feel the pain, the loss, and we had to choose to accept God’s plan as perfect and beautiful, even though it didn’t feel like either at all.

The pain did subside eventually. Jon and I felt like God was asking us to open ourselves up to having another baby. That meant the potential of pain again, knowing that God wanted us to trust his plan, regardless of what that was. It was scary, but we knew we were called to trying, even if it meant not being able to hold another baby we partnered with God in creating.

We found out we were pregnant in early September. We “knew” it was a girl and that we should name her Rose. LaRosa is my mother’s maiden name, and I thought Rose was a nice little wink and a nod to her, as well as a beautiful name for a rainbow baby. But there were other reasons Rose seemed like such a great fit. First, the baby was conceived on the feast of Saint Rose (sorry if that is TMI). Second, the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist Saint Rose Guild had been praying for us for this particular intention, on St. Rose’s feast day. Finally, a priest friend of ours informed us that after our family visited his new church, a sweet little lady asked who we were and to let us know that our family reminded us of her own. She told him to let us know that Rosie was praying for us. So, obviously Rose was the name, right?

Ha!

Imagine my surprise when we found out at The Big Ultrasound that our baby Rose was a boy! I was pretty disappointed. It wasn’t because that baby was a boy and not a girl. I love my boys dearly! I just felt confused by all of the signs I thought I saw indicating who this baby was, and it turned out not to be who he was at all. And even more so, after our two losses, for some reason our next baby’s name seemed so much more significant. I wanted it to have special meaning and no boy name jumped out at me as bearing any real significance. So we went back to the drawing board with the name search, and I prayed deliberately for God to help us to name this baby.

After a few weeks, I came up with Isaac. I liked it ok, but it felt a little uninspired. I mentioned it to Jon, whose best contribution up to that point was Cornelius and Gunther, and he liked it. I still wasn’t sold, but we tentatively agreed. The next morning, I was talking to my second-grader, Charlie, and mentioned that we were tossing around the name Isaac. Charlie grinned a huge grin and said, “I love that name! Isaac means laughter, because Abraham and Sarah laughed when they found out they were pregnant after they were sure they couldn’t have a baby!” 

Suddenly Isaac sounded a wee bit more “inspired” than it did before. I was diggin’ it.

The middle name was hard. Again, we wanted it to have meaning, but wanted it to sound good with Isaac too. And, let’s be real: not a whole lot of names sound good with Isaac! Then Jon and I remembered St. Francis Xavier, who was a super stud missionary, and co-founder to the Jesuit order. Isaac Xavier. Jon loved it. I liked it enough, but again, it felt a little uninspired.

The next morning, Jon asked me if I still liked the name Isaac Xavier. I told him that I liked it ok, but wasn’t sold. He said, “Well, I just realized, that if we did name him Isaac Xavier, his initials would be IX Woodsum, as in Roman numeral 9 (IX) Woodsum, and he is our ninth baby. I think that is a pretty cool shout-out to who he is. People will see us and think he is our seventh kid, but his name says he is our ninth.”

I stopped in my tracks. Isaac Xavier was the perfect name! Done! 

The day Isaac was born was a beautiful day. Jon and I took walks, talked, got some coffee, spent an hour at church worshiping our Lord, and gave birth to our beloved little IX Woodsum. The next morning I was reflecting on how good God was, and how, now as I was holding my precious little rainbow baby, that God was there when I was grieving with the losses of Max and Gemma. If I hadn’t lost them, I wouldn’t have Isaac...who was born at 6:12 (add 6+1+2, please…9!), and weighed 8 pounds, 1 ounce (8+1=9, if my math is correct). He is our precious little gift that God knew we would hold, even when we were grieving the loss of his siblings. And his name, and his birth stats shout out who he is as well. No one could have possibly have manipulated those!

We have a bit of a routine when we all our heading out somewhere as a family. Jon will go through a Woodsum Family Roll Call done by number. “Is #1 here?”

Frank replies, “Yep!”

“Number 2?”

“Here!” says Eddie…and so on.

We were going through our roll call this week, and Jon turns to me and asks, “When Isaac gets older can we call him number 9 instead of 7? I want him to know who he is and remember Max and Gemma in heaven.”

Needless to say, I agreed.

Everything about this new little man is such a beautiful reminder of God’s beautiful plan. When we were grieving, He knew He would let us know He never left us. We just had to trust Him enough to do it.

 

Cristin Woodsum is a mom to nine sweet children, seven here and two in heaven. She was one of AWPC's original social media writers.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Farmington Charity's New Sign Promotes Services for Pregnancy Choices

Another Way Pregnancy Center (AWPC) near Farmington Hills’ 12 Mile & Orchard Lake intersection installed a new road sign on December 27th. In addition to featuring updated information about the non-profit’s free services, the sign now features the organization’s name for its client services operations, “A Woman’s Pregnancy Choice.”

According to AWPC Executive Director Karen Jewell, the “A Woman’s Pregnancy Choice” name has already been used in communications with clients they serve since 2014.

“Too many times women assume there is only one way to solve the problem of their untimely pregnancy,” Jewell said. “AWPC’s services empower a woman with medical information about her pregnancy and resources to learn about all of her outcome options—without fees, pressure, or judgment. Women facing an unintended pregnancy deserve respect, support, and factual information on which they can determine their choice.”

The new name’s focus on giving more options to women facing unplanned pregnancies reflects the stories of women like Dona Tidwell, who came to the center several years ago in the midst of a difficult situation, received help both during and beyond the pregnancy, and now volunteers to assist other women at the center.

“I cannot even express how grateful I am for AWPC,” Tidwell said.  “They not only helped me with the needs of my babies, they helped me with issues I ran into with being able to continue schooling and my goals.”

Under the name “A Woman’s Pregnancy Choice,” AWPC hopes to reach even more than the 400-plus women and men who came to them for help in 2016.

AWPC was incorporated in 1984 to provide emotional and practical assistance to both women and men facing unplanned or untimely pregnancies in Southeast Michigan. They offer a variety of free services, including pregnancy tests, limited obstetric ultrasounds, parenting classes & mentoring, support groups, baby supplies and lay counseling. For more information about AWPC’s services, visit their website at http://www.answers4pregnancy.com.