Patriot Ledger Newspaper, Ariticle Published Mother’s Day 2012

FAITH AND THE MATERNAL INSTINCT

By Suzette Martinez Standring

The maternal instinct is fierce, but it can be overruled by fear. Soon Meredith will be a mom, but few want her to be. At 25, she is homeless and had struggles with substance abuse. The man who fathered her child is twice her age, unemployed, and a drug addict. Over and over she heard ³get an abortion,² but Meredith said, ³Itıs easier to say that when you donıt carry a child. There is a living being with a beating heart inside of me.² Last December Meredith had been in sobriety for almost two years when she discovered she was pregnant by a 49-year-old man she met in AA. ³I liked him because we had similar interests. You meet guys who are 25 and they are not even men yet. They play Nintendo, theyıre womanizers, and out drinking all the time. He seemed steady.² But he wasnıt, and began sliding back toward addiction. Meredith, newly pregnant, took action, ³I left him to protect my baby.² Pregnancy unleashed new feelings in her, hope and a desire to do right by her baby. But she had no support on any front. ³I cried every day. I was completely overwhelmed, and I needed a place where I could think clearly.² She fled to the Womenıs Center in New Bedford where a counselor previously had helped her with substance abuse issues and post-traumatic stress disorder connected to incest. Meredith was advised to seek refuge with Friends of the Unborn in Quincy (FOTU), a Catholic shelter open to any homeless, pregnant woman, regardless of belief. ³She told me about this place and said that it was spiritual in nature.² There she found compassion and twelve other mothers-to-be. The women and their babies can stay for two years at FOTU, rent-free, as they receive education toward becoming self-sufficient. ³Youıre involved in GED, parenting, and nutrition classes. You take Bible class and your self-esteem grows. You learn and practice and you feel better about yourself. The main focus here is yourself and your baby, and thereıs time to think about your future.² FOTU wonıt accept state or federal funding which would prohibit Bible study, which is essential to a strong spiritual foundation, according to founder Marilyn Birnie. Operating for almost 30 years, it is the only faith-based shelter of its kind in Massachusetts, and operates solely on donations. Often pregnant girls are abandoned by their babiesı fathers, and thrown out by their families. Meredith feels vulnerability and terror drive many women into having abortions they really donıt want, yet feel they have no choice. Meredith said, ³I needed a safe place to clear my head and come to terms with the fact that I have a living being inside of me, and to figure out the best future I can have for this child.² Raised in Mattapoisett, she graduated from Old Rochester, and later, from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She was working toward a masterıs degree in childhood development were derailed by substance abuse. Today she is sober and determined to attain her advanced degree someday. When Meredith saw the 16-week fetus during an ultrasound, she recalled. ³I started bawling, it was unreal. He looked like a little man, he had fingers. Before that, at two months, he looked like a little cashew. I fell in love with him.² Her resolve to follow through for a better life for her son is strengthened by her faith. ³I ask for help. Only God is in control, and that brings me a lot of happiness and peace.² Carrying a child feels miraculous. Meredith knows firsthand how her own maternal instinct and God are transforming her life, despite what many believe to be unlikely odds. She credits FOTU for offering a safe haven to grow mentally and spiritually to be a good mother. ³I now put God first. You have to love yourself to love somebody else. God comes first. Then itıs me and my baby, and now I feel I have the strength to love him.

SUZETTE MARTINEZ STANDRING

Syndicated Columnist, GateHouse News Service

Award-Winning Author, The Art of Column Writing

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