For a long time I have toyed with the idea of doing some topical series – posting 3 or 4 musings back to back on the exact same topic. The difficulty is that knowing my brain, I wouldn’t last very long doing that because I have thoughts at random and when I get those thoughts, I feel like just writing them down as I come. Thus I have developed this page so that I can start my topical series and add to them whenever I feel like it without losing their position on the page and getting everyone all jumbled and confused (mainly myself). So, please check back here periodically to see what I have come up with.
If there is a certain topic you’d love to see me address for my topical discussions please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
FIRST TOPIC – MY INTERNSHIP AT A PREGNANCY RESOURCE CENTER
Do to the confidential matter of the work that I did, all names and identities have been changed and each identity is actually a composite of many people. Also the name of the organization has been changed to Wild Flowers (this is not it’s really name).
My First Entry – Simply a Visual or Something More?
We are alone in the counseling room and a shocked expectant mother has just found out that her pregnancy test has come back positive. Feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment cloud her mind and she tries to swallow the bile that is rising in her throat. She sobs, “I never wanted this to happen. How could this happen to me? What did I do wrong?” 23 year old Jennifer is a victim of rape by a man who is not her fiancé. She had a child with her previous boyfriend, Jeremy when she was 16 and shortly thereafter she broke off her relationship with him because her father requested she never see him again. She had decided to raise the child on her own with the support of family and friends who made a point of showing their disapproval towards the action but still loved and cared for her little boy enough that they took him on outings every so often.
Her fiancé, Evan also voiced similar frustration and anger as he was not the father of the baby inside Jennifer’s womb. Evan was a devout Christian who came from a staunch evangelical background and had made a commitment at the age of 16 that he would not engage in physical union before he was married. Now, at 25 years old, he was angry that someone had done this to Jennifer especially after she seemed like she had learned from her first pregnancy. Evan had evangelized to Jennifer and they were both now attending church together regularly and Jennifer had even expressed an interest in not being physically involved with Evan until they were married. Now they had just heard the shocking news that she had been a victim of rape and that her virginity had once again been severed, it seemed like she would be having another child, and soon.
We gave Jennifer sometime to digest what had just happened and then offered that she could come back into the centre at another day, she agreed to this and came back the next week. When Jennifer came back she had already been to see a doctor so it was determined that she was now six weeks pregnant. At this point, her initial shock was gone so we were able to talk about some of her options when it came to this baby that she had not expected nor wanted. She right away pointed out that she would either put the baby up for adoption or raise the baby herself with the help of her parents and her fiancé who she was planning to marry one year from now. She was very adamant that she would never abort her child and made sure that we understood this – she was very angry and defensive on this fact, but we did not see warning flags because we thought it was due to her new commitment to the Christian faith and to her fiancé’s influence. She came in again in a week’s time and at this point assuming that she was still planning on raising the baby, we asked her if she would like to see a visual model of what the baby looked like inside her womb. We have these life-sized replicas of prenatal babies that are even made of a substance that feels very similar to how the soft cartilage of a baby would feel and all the parts of the baby are visible in the same way they would be in an actual baby. Jennifer eagerly replied that she would like to see the life-sized replica so we gently took out a seven week model baby and placed it in her hands. The baby was even smaller than her palm.
We saw Jennifer’s eyes light up as soon as she held the baby in her palm. She sang to the baby, cradled it, cooed to it, and ticked its tummy. She spoke softly to it telling the baby she loved it and would always take care of it. Tears streamed down her face as she held the baby close to her chest. Even after twenty minutes she just did not want to let go of it. Eventually, about half an hour later, she handed the baby back to us, tears still streaming down her face and as if she just wanted to hold on to that baby forever. I had never seen such an emotional reaction before to someone holding a model and I wondered why this was.
A week later, she showed up at our door and asked to speak with us. We were doing some paperwork at the time, but readily agreed to meet with her, so we closed the door and listened to her talk. “You would never believe what that did for me” she said, hardly even able to get the words out of her mouth. “When I told you I didn’t want an abortion” she said chokingly, “it was because I was seriously considering having one. I knew this was wrong because I am a Christian now, and I knew my fiancé would be angry if I aborted the child. I knew he would rather help me raise him or her. But I was too scared to tell my fiancé my thoughts and I don’t have a good relationship with my parents. I didn’t want this child, it was not my choice, and I didn’t even know the guy who got me pregnant. The first time it was my choice, this time it was bad luck. And my fiancé probably doesn’t want to be a father yet either. But…” now she was really breaking down, “When I saw that model, I realized that that child was a living being and that I had no right to take his or her life. From this point on, I have decided to commit my life to raising this child and to being the best mother I can to him or her.”
Tears streamed down my face as well as I have never heard such a sincere and honest confession and someone who desires to serve God so much.
** Due to the confidential nature of my work, all names in this story have been changed and this story actually is a composite of a few different people that Wild Flowers comes into contact with**
My Second Entry
Pregnancy Through the Eyes of a Grade Seven Student
One day while I was working with the Pregnancy Resource Center, I helped out with a grade seven presentation at a public school where we taught the students about abstinence, being able to say no, and what healthy relationships look like. Here are some reflections on how it went over.
I show up to the school and get mistaken for a student in grade eight. I wonder how this will go over. Eventually though it does get settled and I am in a classroom full of grade seven girls and boys who roll their eyes at sex-education and really do not want to be there. I introduce myself, and tell them why I am here. I say that I was private schooled in both elementary and high school so I never even got sex-education and I explain to them that I wish I would have known what I know now. I tell them this material is important, and again they just stare at me and roll their eyes as if to say, “yeah, right, you’re probably getting paid to say this stuff”. I move on to talking about where the pregnancy centre is located and then my partner starts into the actual material.
We go through what risks we take when we do not practice abstinence and after talking about physical, emotional, and relational outcomes we ask the students if they are more likely to be abstinent. A boy shakes his head. Tyler, has been very active in all of our discussions today, but there seems to be something about him. It seems like even after we have told him what could happen he could care less. Later, I see him and his girlfriend holding hands as they walk home and I wonder what his relationships will be like five years from now.
We show a picture from the T.V. show “Two-And-A-Half Men” and ask them what kind of messages media is giving them about sex. Most of the students are not even aware that media plays a role in how we think and perceive sexuality, but they seem to know all about this T.V. show that up until this point I thought only college students watched. I was shocked when we asked them how many had seen episodes and about 85% raised their hands.
Next we hand out pieces of paper and ask them to write on the front of the paper all of the goals they have in life. We give them some examples such as what career they want to have and whether they hope to someday have children. As I walk around the classroom bending over the desks I notice a lot of blank pages and a lot of blank stares. I sit down next to some of the students and ask them what is really important in their life. They shrug and say they don’t know. One girl pipes up to the girl next to her and says, “I thought you wanted to be an athlete”, the girl just slumps lower in her desk. I tell them it is okay, and they can write whatever is important to them; they can do whatever they want even if it seems unbelievable. They give me a look like they’re not going to buy it. By the end of the exercise, some students have jotted goals down, and Stephen is pushing his paper at me because he wants me to read it. On it he says he wants to be a black belt in karate, I tell him that is a good goal and make a fake karate chop on the table, he laughs. My partner walks past Tyler and asks him what his goals are, he says, “trust me, you don’t want to know what my goals are”. My partner insists that she does, she wants to know what really matters to him. He writes the word “sex” on his paper and hands it back to her.
We show the students pictures of a foetus at conception, at twenty-eight days old, and at seven weeks old. The students respond that the pictures look like seahorses and aliens. We tell them that is what they looked like when they were still in the womb, they respond with “eww”.
Then we get the students to flip over their papers. We want them to write about who is in their support network. Again, there are many students who just have a circle with no names and I try to get them to really think about it. After some pressing and suggesting they eventually fill it in with their parents and a friend or two. Andrea says that she doesn’t have to worry because she will be on the pill. A few more say that they are children of a teen pregnancy and so what is the big deal if they get pregnant in a year or two.
We ask them if everyone is “doing it”. We give them some options. “Is everyone doing it in grade eight?” Most shake their heads, only a few nods. “Grade nine” about half and half. “Grade twelve” most nod, only a few skeptical ones. “First year college”, now the entire class is erupting in nodding. We tell them it isn’t so, they challenge us on that fact and say it’s not realistic to wait.
About an hour ago we had given each student a Hershey’s kiss and told them that they weren’t allowed to eat it until the seminar was over. The students told us that was really hard to do and kept asking us over and over if they could eat it. We told them we wouldn’t stop them but they wouldn’t learn as much. Responses like “but it’s too hard, I can’t wait” and “we don’t want to learn anyways” were common.
I think back to my day with these students and my heart goes out to them. I see so many people at the centre who are not much younger than me and they are pregnant – sometimes for a second or third time and I wonder what their motivation was. Sometimes I see Mennonites, people who might have gone to the Mennonite highschools (just like I did) and I wonder, “If they would have had all this information, would they still be in this place?” Every time I go to the schools to talk with the students my heart reaches out because I wonder, “How many of these students will go home and forget all about this or pass it off as if it was nothing and get themselves or their girlfriends pregnant in one year, two years, five years?”
I look at the messages media is sending these students and realize that it is no wonder they have these conceptions of dating and relationships – as if nothing bad could happen. These students are getting bombarded daily with messages like sex is fun, it’s no big deal, and it’s purely physical, so they think it isn’t realistic to wait and as a result they feel that our role as a resource center is not necessary. Yet I see from my fellow co-workers and their commitment that it is indeed a necessary ministry. I see from the way that they treat our clients and their students that they deeply care about these men and women and that they are always there to support them regardless of what they have done. I see all of this and I realize that that is also why I am here this summer. I am here to be someone that people can trust and rely on and someone that people will feel comfortable with. I can’t stop someone from risk taking, but I can make sure that they know all the risks and if I am able to encourage just one student that there are indeed people who will support them and that they are able to reach their goals then maybe, just maybe that will be one young person who decides that they are able to keep abstinence after all.
Third Entry – A Mother’s A Mother No Matter How Young
People come into the Pregnancy Centre for many different reasons, sometimes it is because they are hoping that we can offer them an abortion or a “quick fix” for a mistake that they have made and are upset when we cannot, other times they are simply hoping for information on dating, parenting, or relationships, but most of the time they are mothers just like any other mothers. They are mothers who care for their children, who have hopes and dreams for them, who want to see the best for them and take care of them. They are mothers who might not have gotten this role at the ideal time in their life, but they are proud of their little ones nonetheless. They still take joy in watching the eyes of their children light up, in seeing their child crawl for the first time, say their first word, or take their first clumsy step. They are mothers and they are fathers who have made a promise to their child to always be there for them. These women are often misunderstood by society and have been called some not so nice names, but they are perhaps some of the bravest, most mature, and hardest working women out there. They have the courage to press on when no one else believes in them and the strength to continue their education when there are so many other demands pressing in on their lives.
Wild Flowers has taught me all about these brave young women and they have helped me to see these women in a different light. Instead of believing that I am there to give them resources, they have shown me that these girls have the strength they need and just need to know how to tap into it. They have taught me to be non-judgmental and to evangelize in a way that encourages people to come to us and share with us some of their deepest and darkest secrets. Wild Flowers exists as more than just a counseling centre, a clothing cupboard, or a place that offers pregnancy tests, but rather we exist as an outreach of the church in which we hope to be Christ’s hands and feet. At Wild Flowers I have met some of the most committed people who are so passionate about this cause that they will give it all they have including working longer hours than what is expected of them and going above and beyond their call to duty. The women that I worked with are truly women of character and zeal and I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to work in this capacity and hope to be able to continue volunteering here in the future.
A mother is a mother no matter how small
This is something society just doesn’t seem to “get”
We talk about these girls in the news and on T.V. shows
We call them names that bruise their soul
When a girl is not dating we make a big fuss
We may exclude her or treat her like dirt
When a girl finds a guy and gets involved with him then suddenly she’s a “slut”
There’s no way to win
We mock a girl’s virginity, I mean, who would ever want to NOT have sex
Yet when a girl “does it” suddenly she’s less than second best
Suddenly this girl is down on the ground
She’s the source of gossip, and the talk of the town
It sometimes feels that these girls have nowhere to go
Their moms and dads are angry, and their church is enraged
Suddenly they’ve gone from having confidence to being scared
Their life has turned upside down on them, where should they turn
They know that drugs and alcohol will only increase the spurn
They are rejected; sometimes their boyfriends will ditch them
They feel it’s all their fault – in some ways they’re caught in the middle
They don’t know what to do, they’re crying out in fear
They wish they could take that night back
Anything to get rid of all their tears
The church preaches that every sin is a sin – no matter how great or how small
That they are just like Jesus and that they answer the call
To accept everyone
Yet I’ve seen it again and again, where that really is not the case
Eating an extra cookie isn’t so bad, but having sex is way too great
It’s okay to accept the widow, but not the single mother
The person who’s unemployed, but not that 14 year old lover
Thankfully these girls are not alone
It only takes a place where these girls can feel at home
Where these girls can know they’re cared for and where they are welcomed
Sometimes it’s just a simple word or that simple smile
When they’re in such shock and the Wild Flowers’ staff goes the extra mile
Wild Flowers teaches that a mother is a mother no matter how young
They have the abilities and the skills they need
But when they come to us we teach them to tap into themselves just like they would tap maple trees
The mothers that come to Wild Flowers are just like other mothers not any different
They love their child, they’ll do the best for them
They have hopes and dreams for their baby and will always protect and care for them
That child has a name and a personality, as similar, yet different from their mother’s
Yet with different needs
These mothers have made a promise to be there for their child
Wild Flowers is only there to make these plans possible for them
They still laugh when their child takes his first steps
And cry when their child falls and gets her first cut
They’ll still kiss that spot better even when it’s a simple bruise
And they love the sound of “Mama” and never get used to how it sounds
They love the feel of their baby’s hair
And the softness of their skin
And the peacefulness of their baby having a rest
Some days it’ll be a challenge just like for any other mom
But these girls have something about them, that I think I should explain
They are young, but they’re mature
They may not be done high school, but they’re wise
They have the courage to keep persevering and the grace to always try
Society may continue to call these girls vicious names
But to Jesus a child is a child just the same
These girls are full of strength and surprise me every day
The way they are able to carry themselves, and keep their circumstances at bay
They give the best to their children, even though that’s hard
They are role models to their children at the same time that they are growing up themselves
And when the world says it’s hard to do all of it at once
These girls prove that it is possible
So thank you girls for showing me all that you have inside of you
Your spirit, your valour, and your ability to keep your hobbies
Your love, your caring, and your maturity
The fact that you’re not like other kids, you don’t think “the world revolves around me”
And no matter what anyone tells you, you have that special gift
To make people stop and wonder how you have risen above
But you know it’s only through Christ that this has all been possible
And thanks to Wild Flowers for showing me this truth
For showing me and teaching me that
A MOTHER IS A MOTHER NO MATTER HOW YOUNG
On The Last Day of My Internship I wrote Wild Flower’s this note for their newsletter:
This summer [May-August 2010] I was blessed with the opportunity to do an internship through Tyndale University College and Seminary in North York, Ontario at Wild Flowers. As a second year student working towards my Bachelors in Religious Education degree, this internship exposed me to several scenarios which I might otherwise not have been able to have. As I learned skills in working with clients, understanding pregnancy and counseling related issues, interpersonal and communicative skills, and administrative skills I was able to gain confidence. I believe that each opportunity I was exposed to will provide a springboard in helping me to continue to discern my calling in a ministerial vocation and to continue to be receptive to God’s leading in my life. I would like to thank the board, staff, volunteers, and supporters who contribute their time and resources to this wonderful ministry and pray that God will continue to bless them as they reach out to clients sharing with them the Good News of Jesus Christ.