WOMEN WHO DECIDED TO PARENT

Jackie’s Story:

Jackie came to our site as an emergency intake.  Homeless and pregnant, she would sleep on a friend’s porch, and was even found napping in the local Walmart bathroom a few times. Jackie grew up in foster homes after she and her siblings were taken away from her parents when she was only six months old. They bounced from foster home to foster home until when she was 6 years old, Jackie and her siblings were adopted. Shortly thereafter her siblings were sent away to live in other placements due to severe mental health concerns.  When she was 11, Jackie recalls her adoptive parents telling her that they were getting a divorce. She lived with her adoptive father for a short time until she was sent elsewhere again.

Understandably, Jackie developed a great distrust and fear of the foster care system.  She got out of foster care when she turned 18, and went in search of her birth family.  Jackie found her biological mother and older sister. Anxious to rekindle a relationship and get to know the woman she had been kept away from her whole life, she moved in with her mother.  Sadly, Jackie quickly learned that her mother and older sister had severe and dangerous mental health issues. She bounced around from friends and extended family until she met a man who asked her to stay with him. After six months of living with the boyfriend, Jackie became pregnant. The boyfriend and his family promptly kicked her out of the house and refused to have anything to do with her. Again having nowhere to live and now pregnant with no support, Jackie seriously considered having an abortion. The last thing Jackie wanted was to give birth to a child and have it end up in the foster care system that turned her own childhood upside down.

Scared and alone, she contacted a previous foster mother with whom she had a close relationship. That foster mother located our site and had Jackie contact us. Upon intake, Jackie was still seriously considering an abortion because she refused to have her child end up in the foster care system. One of Jackie’s other fears was feeling like she was completely alone. Jackie benefited from extensive counseling with our counselor, and shared that, for the first time, she felt that she had the support to make the right decision.

Jackie was also apprehensive about keeping her child, as she didn’t feel like she would know how to take care of him. Through counseling and also through the support of the other mothers in the home, Jackie learned all the necessary skills to care for her newborn. While at our site, Jackie learned and polished up on several new life skills such as cooking, cleaning, resume writing, job search skills, and budgeting skills; all of which made it possible for her to start her new life as a mother.

Jackie eventually left our site with her infant son, John. She moved into an apartment with a friend who also had a young child. Jackie was looking forward to starting college to become a counselor or a social worker.

Amy’s Story:

Amy seemed more than a little upset when she first arrived at our center.  Our receptionist offered her a bottle of water as she filled out her intake paperwork.  That simple act of kindness calmed Amy down a bit, but she still looked worried and anxious as she feverishly filled out her paperwork.  She was eager to move ahead with whatever was going to happen next within our walls.  One of our counselors took her into a room to find out more about her situation.

Despite her anxiety, Amy was more than willing to share her story with anyone who would listen.  She knew she was pregnant, and offered that she was married, but the father of the baby was not her husband—he was just a “friend.”  She didn’t want her marriage to end, so she knew her only option was to have an abortion, and she actually had an abortion scheduled.  She only came to us to find out how far along she was in her pregnancy.  Amy’s counselor spoke gently with Amy, telling her that parenting and adoption were other possibilities she could choose, too.

They talked about what it would be like to tell her husband about the baby whom someone else fathered.  They talked about what would happen if he wanted to parent the child as his own, or if he decided to leave her because of her unfaithfulness.  Could she parent a child on her own if he left?   These were questions she had never allowed herself to consider.

When she came back the second time, Amy shared how her counselor’s words made all the difference in her decision.  Regardless of how her husband responded to the news, Amy decided to parent her unborn baby.  Our counselor was the one and only person she had confided in about her situation, and the counselor’s voice of reason made all the difference in the world to Amy.  This time when she came back, she was confident that she could parent whether her husband stood beside her or not.

Amy chose life for her unborn baby because our counselor was there to listen to her and to stand beside her as she made one of the most difficult decisions she has ever had to make in her life—a decision that will have significant ramifications for the rest of her life.  Amy’s baby is alive today because the funding and support we receive from Real Alternatives allowed our center and our counselor to be the support Amy needed so that she could choose life in what she believed was an impossible situation.  Thanks for allowing us to be difference makers!

Rebecca’s Story:

At age 29, most women are married and have children. However, my case was different. I was 29 and pregnant; without a marriage or support of a man. I didn’t know what I was going to do about my life. I found that most of the programs only help pregnant women who meet the age criteria (25 or under) and I certainly didn’t fall into that category. However, I later discovered a Real Alternatives – funded maternity home; this maternity home was different.

I went to the home for an interview with a counselor and she told me to be honest about my problems. I was afraid to open up because I didn’t want my problems to limit the chance of me getting in the home. However, I explained my situation to her and I still received housing. It didn’t matter what problems I had, or how old I was, they still provided me with care. It really lives up to its name as a crisis pregnancy home.

Ever since I joined the home, I have received housing and school programs to help me. I plan to pursue a degree in social work because of the counselors’ great influence on me. Just to know that others care has helped me turn my life around.

Liz’s Story:

I found out I was pregnant while I was attending my first year of culinary school. After the shock settled, I tried to think of what I was going to do. I knew my family wouldn’t want me to have the baby. I didn’t tell anyone. Then late one night, I was watching TV and thinking about the options that I thought I had. A commercial came on advertising the number 1-888-LIFE AID and explaining how they could help me during a crisis pregnancy. I decided to call the number and see what they had to say. The receptionist directed me to a Real Alternatives – funded maternity residence.

The first month was very difficult for me because I was still unsure of what to do. At this point, I told my family and they made it clear that they didn’t want me to have the baby. They told me that if I had the baby, they would not speak to me. My mind was going in circles. I was a little cautious because I didn’t know the people at the maternity residence that well, but they did seem nice. I kept wondering if the residence could replace my real family. After many talks and the support of the maternity residence women, I realized having my baby was the right choice. While I learned to love and support myself, I also learned that love and support would come from the residence as well. Because of their support and offers to help me through the hard times with my family, I was excited to have my baby!

On August 3, 2000, my baby boy, Karmon, was born. I love him more than anything. Karmon and I now live in an apartment, while I finish my training to become a certified nursing assistant.

Sara’s Story:

Last year I was 22 and called the Real Alternatives toll-free 1-888-LIFE AID hotline, convinced that I needed an abortion. My husband was in jail and I was raising three young children by myself. All of my bills were past due and the thought of having another baby was overwhelming. The toll-free counselor talked with me and explained that Real Alternatives’ service provider network is designed specifically to support women like me. The counselor shared a personal story with me explaining how things can work out even when the situation seems hopeless. The counselor offered to connect me immediately with a counselor in my area; however, I refused. I was assured that if I changed my mind, I could call back, and they would be happy to help.

Two weeks later, I called back. I had gone to an abortion clinic, but I wasn’t sure if I could go through with it. I remembered the invitation to call back to Real Alternatives and wanted to know what support and resources were available. I was relying on welfare and food stamps, but winter was approaching, and I had no heating oil. My most immediate concern was providing a warm home for my children. Even though I was still skeptical that help was available, I called back. They connected me with Harriet of the Catholic Social Agency (CSA) of Allentown. Harriet reported that a donor had just provided a large sum of money specifically intended for mothers with immediate needs to provide for their children. I immediately felt relief. With continuing support from CSA, my family and I were able to continue the pregnancy and ultimately welcome a new little success.

Alana’s Story:

I am a young college graduate and a recent example of a woman who was considering abortion. Unexpectedly, I became pregnant and received no support from the baby’s father. I questioned whether I could handle being a mother at all. Even though it was against everything I knew and believed, I seriously thought that abortion was my only real option.

Luckily, I turned to the Women’s Care Center in Erie, PA. I found a supportive counselor, Brenda, who also serves as the Director. Simply working from one visit to the next, I was able to sort out my feelings. Ultimately, I reached a decision, based in love, rather than fear and panic. I decided to have the child, instead of an abortion.

Recently, I returned to Women’s Care Center to thank Brenda for my precious baby. My baby’s life is of more value to me than anything else I could have imagined.

Camelia’s Story:

Two weeks before Christmas 2000, I came to Mary’s Shelter in Reading, PA. I felt scared and alone, even though there were ten other girls living in the shelter. A Christmas party had been planned for the residents, which included Christmas music, cookies, hot chocolate, and gifts to open. Thanks to the staff, we shared the joy and excitement of a “family” Christmas, and I knew this was HOME.

My daughter, Jazzmine, was born on February 23, 2001. I knew if I wanted my daughter to have a happy home, I had to be motivated to change my life. Mary’s Shelter helped me enroll in a wonderful educational program. It was not easy, but now I have my GED and a certificate in Certified Nursing Assistance training.

In December 2001, Jazzmine and I moved to Mary’s Home, which is an extension of Mary’s Shelter. It provides transitional housing for young mothers for an additional one to two years. Here I will continue to take classes while learning to be more independent and self-sufficient. I made a promise to myself and Jazzmine to be the best mother possible. Mary’s Shelter has filled me with hope and given back my DREAMS.

Irene’s Story:

At 13, my baby and I were living with my cousin, with no real future plans, before my placement at St. Vincent’s Mother/Baby Residence.

St. Vincent’s staff provided direction and helped me to set goals. My primary education goal was to complete assignments and advance to the next grade within three months. With the support from St. Vincent’s, I succeeded! I am now an honor roll student at Roosevelt Middle School, from which I will graduate in June. I will then advance to high school.

I was nominated by my school for a scholarship through the American Foundation For Negro Affairs (AFNA), a scholastic National Education and Research Fund Program. I was accepted due to my continued academic success. During the spring semester, I attended a Temple University program for AFNA scholars. On March 20, 2002, I completed the program with members of St. Vincent’s staff there to support me and assist me with childcare.

I have become a good mother and cooperate fully with the program at St. Vincent’s. Because of their help, I am a friendly, goal driven, and determined individual. I have learned to manage my time, maintain excellent school attendance, keep regular doctor appointments for my baby and me, attend Parenting Education Programs twice weekly, stay in contact with my family, prepare and take my son to day care, and keep on top of my other responsibilities at St. Vincent’s. I am planning a career in either nursing, teaching, or law.

A Grandma’s Story:

My 18 year old daughter, independent and hardworking, had found her way into the working world. She was young and full of spirit when she met a guy that promised her the sun, moon, and the stars. However, after a sudden turn of events fell upon her, she discovered that the promise was going to be broken. My daughter became pregnant and the father showed no desire to support her. Not only had she become pregnant, but the apartment which she was sharing with her aunt, had come up for eviction. I didn’t have any room in my tiny apartment to take in my own daughter. We were desperate until we found the number to a Real Alternatives – funded maternity home.

As a mother and soon to be grandmother, it was hard for me to hand over my own child; but what else could I do? I stood by her decision to keep the baby and offered her nothing but unconditional love.

Throughout the next few months, I started to notice a remarkable change in my daughter. This future mom had goals: getting her driver’s license, getting involved in the New Direction program, working carefully on finding a home, and making a decision to further her education.

After my daughter left the maternity home with her baby, she entered herself into transitional housing. Now, three years later, she is living in the same apartment complex as me and attending her last semester at the local community college, while raising her joyful, opinionated young son. My daughter has provided a stable and cheerful environment for her son and will continue to grow because of her own determination and Real Alternatives help.