SUMMERVILLE—In October, the national observance of Respect Life Month includes many high profile, public events.
People hold up anti-abortion signs along roadways as part of Life Chains, pray outside clinics during the 40 Days for Life campaign, and take part in other activities that bring the pro-life cause to the public square.
The proof that their message is getting through can be found in the quiet service of hundreds of people who work behind the scenes to make sure women facing crisis pregnancies are able to choose life for their babies.
The diocesan Family Life Office, led by Kathy Schmugge, mobilizes to help whenever they hear about moms in need. Other advocates include volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers, members of parish pro-life committees, and regular people in the pews.
It is people like this who helped Courtney, from Summerville, when she discovered she was pregnant in late 2018. (Courtney’s last name is being withheld for privacy).
“I went to the emergency room because of an illness and found out I was pregnant,” Courtney said. “I naturally was freaking out because this hadn’t been anything I had planned for. The ER doctors told me ‘Well you know you have options to deal with this.’ I knew what they meant and I told them I didn’t want to hear it. For me, ending the pregnancy was not an option.”
At the time, she lived with her mother and worked as an electrician, a job she had to give up because her pregnancy was considered risky because she was in her late 30s. She had no supplies for a new baby and didn’t know where to find another job.
A member of St. Theresa the Little Flower Church, she thought people would be judgmental when they found out. Instead, she said, friends in the young adult group in Charleston were positive and encouraging. Another friend who worked for the diocese put her in touch with Schmugge, who immediately went to work finding supplies for the baby.
“I thought people were going to be judging me, and instead I got the message ‘God is calling you to be a mom, and now we’re going to get moving and you’re going to do it,’” Courtney said. “It wasn’t what I had been expecting and it was awesome to have great encouragement and know people were praying for me.”
As her pregnancy progressed, things started to fall into place for her. She found a job teaching English online, which would allow her to work from home. Then, during a women’s retreat in January 2019 she met women who offered help and support, and encouraged her to join the women’s guild at St. Theresa the Little Flower.
“The guild members were women who were older, many with grown up children, and they were all so welcoming and positive when they found out I was pregnant,” Courtney said. “They threw me a baby shower — a full-on spread with tables of gifts. Others were asking me if I needed help, if I would need a babysitter. I couldn’t believe the love and acceptance I was shown.”
Because of the help she received from people of all ages, Courtney had a successful pregnancy and gave birth to her daughter, Mary Sofia, in April 2019.
In return, she is motivated to reach out to other women with similar experiences. She recently heard about a young mother in Summerville who needed a car seat and other supplies for her baby, so she immediately prepared a donation box of things she had at the house. Courtney is also working with the Family Life Office and others to secure more help for the young mom.
“I love it because things have come full circle — I got help when I needed it and now I’m able to help someone like me,” she said.
Courtney said she truly believes that all the people that reached out to help her were sent by God. She encourages other women facing crisis pregnancies to realize that even if they feel overwhelmed, there is always hope and there are plenty of people and organizations ready to reach out to them.
“It might feel like you don’t know where to go and that you are all alone, but you really are not,” she said. “You don’t’ have to feel like you are doing this alone because there is help available. I started out not knowing what to do and I ended up having the best pregnancy because of the people God brought to me. My story shows how people in a community can exude God’s love and mercy.”