WCareNet Pregnancy Center was called to assist hen Shawnte Mallory (22-year-old mother of 2 and one-year-old daughter). She wanted an abortion. The nurses told her that she didn’t have an appointment.
Mallory felt like the world was collapsing around her, even though she had already confirmed the appointment. She had lost everything at once — her job, her car, her home, and her good health. It seemed like the only choice she had was to get an abortion.
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However, she was referred to a different place by a staffer.
“It was a lady that was in there, she’s like, ‘You don’t want to have an abortion, do you?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t,'” Mallory recalled. “But, I don’t know what I should do right now.”
Mallory was finally able to move into Mary’s Shelter in Fredericksburg (Virginia), a maternity home providing food, shelter and fellowship for mother and child. The women who live there must lead a healthy lifestyle, care for their children and get an education.
Kathleen Wilson, Mary’s Shelter’s executive Director, stated, “We give women three year here, sometimes more.” “The idea is that they and their children, who we love … can go on, and counseling, housing, educational, or employment goals can be a real and sustainable reality for them.”
Wilson stated that the shelter has grown from a one-bedroom home to four homes with 24 beds, 17 years after its inception. Wilson said she is amazed at the diversity of people who have come to her shelter, from all walks and backgrounds, in an effort to improve their lives.
Mary’s Shelter is the most popular choice for people who are in abusive relationships or don’t have a place where they can live.
“Most of them, they don’t really want to do that,” she stated. “It’s just these traumatic events in their lives for many of them, but for them to even call us, you know, it really shows … that they’re reaching out in some way.”
Mallory stated that she felt at home the instant she stepped inside Mary’s Shelter.
Mallory shared that “it changed my life to being able to have a child, to feel safe and not feel rushed, as well as to be with all my children,”
Mallory found that chores were the hardest part about living there because she had never experienced this “foundation”. She was not judged, even though she had different experiences and came from different backgrounds.
Mallory stated that it was sometimes difficult to accept someone being around you who is loving and supportive of your well-being.
“Shifted my entire life”
Danielle was a party girl from a young age. She also drank, smoked, and used drugs. She claimed she had physical parents but it wasn’t the family of two that children should have.
Danielle explained that she had suffered abuse, neglect and sexual trauma in her childhood. At 20 years old, “I was a rebellious young girl.” All of these negative, wonderful things were against me. But, as a young lady, I didn’t know how or when to live my life.
That is, until she got pregnant — something that “did not sit well” with her family. In September 2012, she arrived at the Paul Stefan Foundation’s Locust Grove, Virginia pregnancy care homes. She said she felt a profound lifestyle shock as she wasn’t used to being expected to respect authority or pay attention to basic instructions.
“I was pregnant, and had lived with my mother my whole life,” she stated. It was extremely, very difficult and shocking. It was also very humbling. But, the fact that I was about become a mother just changed my entire life.
Randy James, one the founders and current president of the Paul Stefan Foundation, stated that the home is designed to help women “regain the dignity of their bodies” and become fully functioning members in society. James’s father died just a few years after James was born. The foundation was established 17 years ago and has provided support for 300 women and children. The foundation recently converted an old hotel into a regional centre, where eight women now live.
James said that “every woman who came here was in a tough place before they arrived here,” James added. They just need a helping hand to show them that there is hope. You can get back on the horse, ride it, or just keep your eyes open for what’s next in life.
Similar to Mary’s Shelter, the Paul Stefan homes require the mothers to follow simple but strict rules, with a curfew in place and weekly seminars and prayer meetings that they must attend — a situation which many women initially push back on.
James pointed out that many women do not like having to be told what they should do and where to go. Danielle nodded in agreement. “They find it really beneficial over time. We have to continue working with them to make sure they understand the importance of structure and rules in their lives.
He stated that Mother’s Day was the busiest for Evelyn because she receives all of Wilson’s calls from former tenants to thank her, even those who have left on bad terms.
James stated that “They realized they didn’t get it while here” but that once they leave, they will get it.
Mallory is a mother to five daughters and lives in Washington, D.C. Mallory is now part of Pathways to Housing’s mental health outreach team. This organization aims to end homelessness. She stated that she dedicates her life to sharing the love she received at Mary’s Shelter.
“Sometimes, you are put in a box that says that having children will end your life. Or that things get difficult and that you won’t be able to achieve the things you want.” She explained. “And just being around Miss Kathleen and Mary’s Shelter … it just gives you a different perspective on life and how to raise your children and how to love others, and how to love yourself.”
Mallory, a mother, said that she had promised herself she would be there and healthy for her children. This was something that her biological mother didn’t do.
Mallory explained that there were times when it was difficult to feel like I had a purpose or a reason for being here. “So, I got pregnant with my oldest, and when I had her, I was just like, ‘Wow. This is what true love looks like. It has changed my life.”
Danielle, whose daughter was also born in July 2012, received several college degrees including a bachelor’s and is currently pursuing a master’s. Danielle, who has been working as a special education teacher at her local high school for five years in child welfare, is now retired.
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Danielle says she can see the whole picture and doesn’t remember anything negative about her time at the Paul Stefan homes.
Danielle stated, “This home saves moms’ lives.” “Just to be allowed to have your identity and to be shown that it is worth it, that you are dignified and worthy of respect, that you are a good mother. It saved my life and that of my child, and it has made me very successful 10 years later.
Original Location: “Shifted me my whole life”: Two Virginia moms reflect on how maternity hospitals saved their lives and those of their children
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