When a girl or woman has an unplanned pregnancy, she often goes into a state of shock and confusion. Multiple feelings appear, including fear, anger, guilt and responsibility. Then many questions flood her mind: Why did this happen to me? What can I do? Should I keep the baby or terminate the pregnancy?
A 20-year-old Malaysian girl with an unplanned pregnancy came to the Pregnancy Crisis and Support (PCS) with her mother in desperate search for help. It was her first baby and she was planning to terminate the pregnancy. The main reason: The father of the baby had left her when he found out that she was pregnant. She did not believe that she could work and go through the pregnancy, and she had no savings. Plus, she did not believe that she could bring up this baby all on her own. She was already 20 weeks pregnant and, as such, she knew she did not have long to decide whether to keep the baby or not. To make matters worse, she had a history of drug abuse and faced deportation back to Malaysia. She did not feel comfortable with the decision to have an abortion, but she couldn’t see any other way out.
A Para Counsellor referred her to PCS and she came in to see its Befrienders. Her eyes were opened. Suddenly, she was not alone. Kind and caring strangers took time to speak to her, advise on the choices that she had in a more structured and informative way, and advised her of all the different forms of support that PCS and other pregnancy support agencies could offer.
When she learned of the support that was available to her, she decided to keep the baby. PCS befriender Sarah Low brought her to a gynaecologist, who gave her a pro bono scan. Seeing her baby on screen made her more convinced that she should keep the baby. PCS also supported her with some basic food vouchers to assist with nutrition, which both our client and her mother were very grateful for. But most importantly, the client felt supported and found friends willing to listen and to journey with her.
While she now lives in Malaysia, PCS befrienders continue to keep in touch with her and await the good news of the new bundle of joy and blessing.
Sarah is herself a beneficiary of the courage of two mothers who carried their pregnancies to full term and then gave their babies up for adoption. She says: “Our children have been a source of joy and blessings for my husband and me. I applaud the courage of moms who also understand and support the sanctity of every single human life and dignify their existence by keeping their babies to full term. Yet I recognise the very tough and often sad decision to give their babies up for adoption and for a better chance in life”. Sarah’s children, a boy and girl, are now teenagers.
In 2015, Sarah first learned about PCS from her parish bulletin and knew she had to offer her services.
Today, she is one of 30 Befrienders working at the PCS Centre at Agape Village in Toa Payoh. Together, they man a 24/7 hotline and a help desk, which works Monday to Saturday to help pregnant girls and women in need.
Always available for anyone in need – 24/7
“The first thing we do when we receive a call is to listen, and listen more,” Sarah explains. “We then invite the caller for a face-to-face meeting. This is important as we can really reach out to the pregnant girl or woman in need much more effectively face-to-face. Anyone in need can also message (WhatsApp) or email us.”
A support network that cares
Every Befriender is trained to listen and allow the girl or woman to share her underlying challenges and struggles. This will help the Befriender to cater to the specific need of that individual. Help might also come in the form of a referral to another agency that is better suited to help them in certain areas. Most of these agencies work on a pro bono basis for PCS referrals. This could be for counselling, shelter, medical and gynaecologist support, and after birth, fostering, adoption, financial and other support.
“First we find out why they are calling and what options they are thinking about taking with the information they have already,” Sarah explains of the process when someone calls the PCS hotline. “Once we know their circumstances and the reasons for their current choices, we first let them know that they will be supported during the pregnancy and even after they give birth. We let them know that they have options. Termination is not the only solution and we help these mothers in need realise that there are other viable options available to them. We assure them that whatever decision they make, we will support them.”
Handling requests for termination
When a caller is thinking of terminating the pregnancy, the Befriender will try to find out the reason for the decision, knowing that it could be that the mother doesn’t know or feel that there are other options out there. Each woman has a different reason for her hardship, be it a lack of family support, financial issues, failure of the relationship with the baby’s father, and perhaps other reasons.
However, if the mother is insistent on going ahead with the termination after counselling, the Befrienders do not judge and let them make their own decision based on all the facts in front of them.
While PCS believes firmly in the love and respect for life, if the mother decides to terminate the pregnancy, the PCS Befriender will continue to journey with the girl or woman, and even refer her to the Family Life Society counselling services on a pro-bono basis, and also a healing retreat called Rachel’s Vineyard, which deals with post abortion healing of the pain, loss, guilt, anger and other emotions that often come with abortion.
“We honour their choice,” explains Sarah. “We don’t condemn or judge. Once their decision is made, we try to make sure we give all the help they need throughout that journey. Of course, when a child is lost, my heart breaks, but I know we have to consider what the mum is going through. It’s a double-edged sword. I’m sad if the baby is aborted but the mum’s health and well-being is also important.”
Always there when needed
PCS supports and journeys with all pregnant woman who reach out, no matter what race, religion, age or socioeconomic status, from the time they realise they are pregnant, right until they return home after delivering their baby. Beyond that, they also provide diapers and formula milk for the baby, and various forms of support for the mother, including nutrition. Where needed, PCS will refer the client to another help agency. Some examples are shelters, fostering and adoption agencies, Catholic Welfare Society, St Vincent de Paul and some Government help agencies.