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.