This December, little Kingston will celebrate her first Christmas.
A year ago, however, Kingston’s mother Elizabeth was having a less-than-ideal holiday.
She first suspected she was pregnant on New Year’s Eve, an unplanned surprise that left her in a quandary.
Elizabeth wanted to carry her baby to term, but she was concerned: How would she support herself? Could she handle being a mom? How would she pay for the medical expenses?
To add to her anxiety, Elizabeth wasn’t getting along with the baby’s father.
But when the 28-year-old went to Collier Pregnancy Center, her hope was restored.
Upholding the ideal of the sanctity of human life, Collier Pregnancy Center and its sister clinic, the Ft. Myers Pregnancy Center, work to offer accurate information and loving support to women in crisis pregnancies like Elizabeth.
All services provided by the centers are free, and include initial assessment, confirmation of pregnancy, counseling, ultrasound and connection to assistance and other community resources.
Although geared towards encouraging abortion-vulnerable women to bring their pregnancies to term, any assistance offered towards any unplanned pregnancy helps support that goal.
“Sometimes, they’re very young,” says registered nurse Mary Doherty of their typical clientele. She says that nearly 75 percent are unmarried, and often they’re not even in a relationship.
“Some don’t have a mom to give them advice. They’re from other places, with no extended family nearby,” Doherty adds.
“Sometimes they come in and already have an appointment with an abortion clinic,” says Fred Fischer, the center’s director.
The ultrasound becomes the key tool with an abortion-minded mother.
“Almost all mothers want to see the baby”, Fischer says. “Something happens in a mother when she sees the child in her.”
Sometimes, not a word is needed. Doherty relates a time when an abortion-minded girl came, got an ultrasound and saw the baby’s shadowy form with one hand raised, as if waving hello. No one needed to say anything to convince her to carry her baby to term.
The national statistics on abortion are startling. In Collier and Lee counties there are more than 3,000 abortions each year, according to the center. They estimate that the lives of approximately 350 babies are saved every year with the help of their services.
Fischer is a retired high school teacher who decided to do something more important with his life.
“What could be more important than saving the lives of babies?” he asks. “This opportunity really touches my heart.”
When asked if he had any pro-life experience, he replies, “I just raised four kids. Does that count?”
The Pregnancy Center supports the women who decide to give birth in many ways. Doherty explains just a few of them.
“We teach baby care – lots of them are first time mothers,” she says.
At their Mommy and Me class, expectant mothers are taught how to eat right, how to breastfeed and what to avoid while pregnant: drinking alcohol, doing drugs or visiting the hot tub.
They explain the stages of labor so the women know what to expect. Parenting classes are offered, as well as life management classes.
The Center also provides critical links to other programs such as Women, Infants and Children, child support enforcement, DNA testing, Medicare, housing and group homes.
After their babies are born, the Center gives the new mothers clothes, diapers and other necessities donated by local churches. The nurses follow up with the girls they counsel, making sure they keep doctor’s appointments and continuing to encourage them.
Elizabeth says her story would have ended differently if she was younger.
“If I were 16 it could have been a different story”, she admits. “I was scared, but inside a little excited.”
“Neither of us was ready,” she says of the child’s father. “There was so much pressure. We fought a lot.”
In addition, her family is in another state, and she didn’t know how they would react.
When she came to the center for help, she received the affirmation that she needed.
“I needed to hear that I was able to do this,” she says.
When she saw the ultrasound, she says, “I was amazed that there was this little life in me, this little peanut.”
Elizabeth learned about the Center from a friend who had used the services previously. The counselor at the Pregnancy Center helped her prepare for the pregnancy and understand what was going on in her relationship. They explained that a man becomes a dad when the baby is born, but a woman becomes a mother as soon as she’s pregnant.
Now, Elizabeth says, her family is tickled about the baby.
“Grandma – my mom – is ecstatic,” she says, and the baby’s father is turning out to be a great dad.
And the college graduate with a degree in performing arts is now considering returning to school – this time for a degree in nursing.
“I was inspired by my delivery nurse,” she explains.
To other women with unplanned pregnancies, Elizabeth has this to say: “[Baby] Kingston is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. I never thought I would feel this way …
“We underestimate ourselves,” she adds. “We can come through for ourselves and our child, even when we think we can’t. Kingston is the most amazing thing. … I wish I could share this feeling with everyone.”
For more information, please visit CollierPregnancyCenters.com.