Previous Pregnancy Pro-Life – Arlington Catholic Herald

Previous Pregnancy Pro-Life - Arlington Catholic Herald

Shawnte Mallory didn’t want to abort her third child. But once she announced her pregnancy, the baby’s father left her. She lost her job and had to leave her apartment. She moved in with her parents, and her mother quickly scheduled her for an abortion. “Of course I didn’t want to have an abortion, I love my kids,” Mallory said. “But at that time, my back was against the wall. I didn’t want the responsibility of having to deliver a struggling child and not knowing how I was going to feed my other children.

Then Mallory found Mary’s Shelter, a maternity hospital in Fredericksburg. When she arrived in 2014, she felt at home. “It was very warm, it was very welcoming, I had never experienced anything so beautiful,” she said. “I was able to be in a safe place and be able to give birth to a child and also have my other children with me. They didn’t even know they were in a shelter.

In light of the leak regarding the upcoming Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade, TV shows, editorials and social media have been abuzz with speculation about the future. If the power to legislate restrictions on abortion rests with the states, the procedure will still be allowed in Virginia. In states where abortion becomes heavily restricted, there may be more pregnant women in need of help.

Within the boundaries of the Diocese of Arlington, there are more than a dozen pregnancy resource centers and several maternity homes, such as St. Margaret of Cortona Transitional Housing from Diocesan Catholic Charities and Borromeo Housing Inc. in Arlington. These organizations and their supporters have been helping pregnant women, their unborn babies and their children for years. They are ready to continue this work, no matter what.

“We will continue to answer calls, serve women and do whatever we need to do,” said Kathleen Wilson, Founder and Executive Director of Mary’s Shelter. “We’re going to meet whatever comes our way.” Over the years, Mary’s Shelter has grown from one apartment to four apartments and three houses within walking distance of each other, including a recently purchased eight-bedroom house. The growth of the organization is due to the support of local churches, donors and volunteers. “The needs are not being met,” she said.

Mothers who come to Mary’s Shelter each face different challenges, Wilson said — abusive partners, mental health issues, drug or alcohol addiction and immigration issues. If Roe is overthrown, there will always be those crisis pregnancies, said Wilson, a parishioner at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg. And if abortion is made illegal in Virginia, women may still feel pressure to have abortions elsewhere. “The same needs that bring a woman here now will be there regardless of the verdict,” Wilson said.

Often mothers also need help after leaving Mary’s Shelter. “We give scholarships to those who leave and then return to study. We make Christmas for them, we make Easter for their children. We paid so much rent to help people or found donated cars for women who left,” Wilson said. “I think sometimes I spend more time with former residents than with current residents.”

Mallory’s stay at Mary’s Shelter only lasted a year. Life hasn’t always been easy since she left, but she now lives in an apartment with her five daughters and works for a church in Washington. Wilson is still in her life. “She’s actually like (a mom to me), she’s always there for me, she doesn’t give up on us,” she said. Partly inspired by Mary’s Shelter, Mallory dreams of opening her own shelter.

“My pastor just preached last night, (saying) everything we’re going through isn’t for us, it’s to help somebody else,” she said. “That’s all I really want to do is help people who are going through (homelessness). I know that’s where God is leading me.

One hour from Mary’s Shelter in Orange is the Regional Center for Reception and Education Paul Stefan. Evelyn and Randy James, parishioners of St. Patrick’s Church in Fredericksburg, founded the maternity ward in 2006 in honor of their sixth child, Paul Stefan, who died 42 minutes after birth. The house, formerly a hotel and an assisted living facility, has several bedrooms with attached bathrooms, a kitchen, a library, a gym and a closet where mums can buy clothes and baby supplies. They hope to open the third floor to residents later this year and help others open similar homes in the future.

It’s rewarding work, Randy said. “The women who come here mostly aren’t shown love,” he said. “Many of them don’t know Jesus or God, and we have the opportunity to change that in their lives. Like Mother Teresa (says), how do you change the world? One person at a time.”

Danielle Nicholson arrived at the home in 2012 while pregnant with her daughter, Lei’Lani. She stayed for five years. “Before I found out I was pregnant, I partied a lot. I drank, I did drugs, I sold drugs, I lived a very difficult life,” a- she said, “I knew the moment I found out I was pregnant that I had to change my life.”

Nicholson has accomplished a lot since then. She lost over 200 pounds and maintained a lower weight. She earned a bachelor’s degree in theology. She now lives in an apartment with her daughter. To stay on her own, she sometimes takes on a few jobs, including serving as a waitress and working for Culpeper Human Services as a foster worker. “Living at the Paul Stefan Home has made me the professional that I am because I am incredibly passionate about the well-being and safety of children. I want all the children I care for to know that they are meant to be loved and supported,” she said.

Nicholson credits Evelyn with her parenting skills. “I wouldn’t be the mother that I am without Evelyn James. I didn’t know how to raise a baby, but she taught me how to raise a baby, a toddler and a young child and showed me what it was really like. love. Evie not only helped me raise my child, but she continued to raise me. She gave me tough love and all the lessons I needed in my life.

Brooke Cumings lives in Paul Stefan’s house with her twins, Aiden and Gabriel. She was able to raise her babies and plan her next steps: finishing her bachelor’s degree and finding a job as a technical writer.

“I came here very broken and very defeated and I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “The people here have really helped me a lot. I never thought I could find the hope or even the passion in myself to take care of my children. God brought me here for a reason.