A very young man in a black jacket, maybe a teenager, sits alone texting and waiting on life-changing news in the warm taupe and green-hued lobby of New Hope Pregnancy Care Center, which ministers to mothers-to-be and sometimes dads-to-be in crisis pregnancy situations.
Starting in January 2011, New Hope plans several events to mark the silver anniversary of its existence. During the coming year, staff members will be sharing as many stories as possible from individuals, couples, parents, grandparents and even children of former New Hope clients who have benefited from the New Hope outreach, which is supported by donations from area individuals, churches and businesses.
“We hope to bring back clients from over the years,” stated Yaunna Higgins, executive director of New Hope. “We would love to hear from you. Former clients, she said, may call Deborah McFarland or Higgins at the center or e-mail their story to firstname.lastname@example.org. “We’re hoping to start client stories for publication,” Higgins added.
Although further details are forthcoming, an Open House is planned for the center Feb. 27 with the entire Cleveland community invited as a gesture of thanks for citywide support for New Hope. Other events planned for 2011 include the annual Walk for Life, as well as “cardboard testimonies” to be presented by former clients whose lives have changed for the better because help was offered without judgment. An event at the local mall is also planned.
Higgins said, “It’s awesome to know (crisis pregnancy) is not a political issue. It’s an issue of the heart. Are you going to judge them or love them with the love of Christ—and help them?”
Rather than judge, staff members at New Hope provide counseling, encouragement, guidance and practical items like maternity clothing, clothes and equipment for babies, diapers, food items and much more. The free services also include pregnancy testing; a 24-hour help line (423-479-6683); options counseling; adoption education and referrals; pregnancy and parenting education; referrals to other community agencies; One Life, One Choice: Healthy Lifestyles Education and an abortion recovery support system called H.O.P.E (Healing of Post-abortion Emotions).
As the center’s brochure states, New Hope “offers accurate information concerning life-affirming options to women, men and families experiencing unplanned pregnancy, focusing on adoption and parenting.”
Also offered is information on “Five Reasons You Need the ‘Piece of Paper,’” which cites statistics and provides documented information about why marriage is better than living together, especially if a child is entering the picture.
As Higgins recalled past years at the center, she noted: “We used to have a ‘typical client.’ We don’t anymore. Now we get (clients) from 14 years old to 41 years old, of all nationalities and ethnic and financial backgrounds.”
“They all come in SOS — Scared to death, with overwhelming pressure and Strengths they don’t know they have,” Higgins continued. “We try to help them know they’re stronger than they think—and that they’re not alone.
“The hardest part (for the client) is when she comes here for pregnancy testing,” Higgins explained. Waiting on the results of the test, the director said, “is very hard and painful. There are many tears.”
“New Hope is not going to manipulate you,” Higgins went on, “but we will tell you that over 50 per cent of women have said, ‘If someone had stood with me, I wouldn’t have aborted.’”
Higgins pointed out that in half of client cases, the father of the child is not involved at all. But, “Some dads come.” Staff members tell women that even if they are not interested in the boy or man involved, “he’s the father of the baby.” There have been cases, Higgins noted, when the dad wanted help but the mom refused.
If a woman chooses to accept help during the pregnancy process, New Hope stays involved until the baby is a year old. The mothers are taught parenting skills so “they can invest in their own child ... so they are stronger and more equipped, more confident and less intimidated.”
Once in a while, an older married woman comes to the center for help. “Some are married. They thought (child-rearing) was done and don’t want (the baby). In such situations, Higgins said, some husbands are “not happy at all.” One such woman told Higgins: “I could not have walked this walk without you.”
When New Hope counsels younger people on the advantages of marriage for pregnancy, they are sometimes met with resistance. “They don’t see the advantages of marriage,” the director remarked. They think, ‘Why?’ It’s typical of clients to say, ‘I’ve never seen a good marriage. My mom and dad never made it. They’re divorced. I’m fearful.”
The New Hope counselors help the fearful with encouragement. “Because you’ve seen failed marriages doesn’t mean you can’t succeed,” Higgins says. “There are reasons for the piece of paper. We expose them.” For one, she commented, marriage strengthens resulting children emotionally. “We mentor, but not in a dogmatic way,” Higgins said.
“We teach how to know a healthy relationship. Many of them don’t know ... we are a Christian organization, but we also know our boundaries. You have to earn the right into people’s lives.”
As Higgins recounted stories about people the center has helped, her eyes got misty and tearful. Her passion for her work showed as she wiped her eyes. She described a phone call she got from a former client who had come to the pregnancy center years earlier in crisis, but had since gotten married, found a good job with a leadership position and had another child.
The lady told Higgins, “You missed the fact that many of us couldn’t have made it without you.” The woman had gone to her company to gain support for New Hope. The company donated $2,000 and is a regular contributor now.
A relative of a former client called one day and said, “You helped my sister. She’d be in jail today if it weren’t for New Hope.”
Higgins also emphasized New Hope’s post-abortion counseling. “We deal with a post-abortion culture,” she said. “When abortion became legal in 1973 ... it (became) a form of birth control ... shame used to be a deterrent, but now (unplanned pregnancy) is acceptable. The reality of parenthood doesn’t hit. (Marriage and pregnancy) are not sacred to many people. We try to bring value to the sanctity of life. If this generation doesn’t honor life, we will have diminished life.”
In counseling women who’ve already had abortions, Higgins said the woman “has to see that in many cases, she has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We have group support settings. The hardest part (for the woman) is forgiving herself and starting again.”
Some women who’ve aborted think they will be punished and never be able to have children. “We bring it into reality,” Higgins said. While women are told the truth about abortion, they are also told that “it’s not the unpardonable sin.” Higgins said, “We re-direct the heart to their (heavenly) Father. We absolutely do have success in the healing of post-abortion. They can come back to the Lord. He is not selective in His forgiveness. If He can forgive lying, thievery, unfaithfulness, He can forgive abortion.”
To experience forgiveness, Higgins said, women must believe that “Jesus’ blood is enough.” As part of the healing process, the lost baby is named and a service is held in Chattanooga, “giving the baby dignity. The scar will be there,” Higgins commented, “but the pain is lifted.”
Higgins got involved in helping with crisis pregnancies when she was a teacher in Alaska many years ago. She taught eighth grade and kept seeing students in crisis pregnancy situations. “I kept thinking, is there something more I can do?”
Eventually, when a loved one’s baby died after only three hours of life, Higgins said her resolve to help strengthened and she became more committed to helping babies live and their mothers thrive. “I saw life in a different way,” she recalled. “It’s been a God journey.”