The Light of Hope in Tampa

GST perfect matchRecently, The Guiding Star Project added another affiliate to the Guiding Star Family. LifeChoices Women’s Care, a pregnancy resource center, signed an affiliate agreement with us and will be transitioning to become Guiding Star Tampa. LifeChoices recently held an event and the executive director, Ana Hidalgo Stooks, gave a speech that so beautifully articulated the vision of Guiding Star and we wanted to share it here with you so that all of those who didn’t have the ability to be in Florida that day could still benefit from her inspiring words.

Last year [Life Choices Women’s Care] celebrated our 5th year anniversary with many milestones. We nearly doubled the amount of client visits; a total of 837. Those numbers don’t even account for the babies, toddlers, children, fathers and the family/friends that often come with a woman when she visits us.

2014 was an exciting year! We extended our hours of operation to meet our client needs and added an additional registered nurse and sonographer to our team. One of the highlights of the year was that we were able to expand our Women of Worth Earn While You Learn program to better support our ever growing Hispanic clients.

Because of the generosity of all of you who have been our ministry partners, we were able to purchase a Spanish curriculum. We call the program, Mujeres de Valor. We also were able to purchase a Fatherhood curriculum and are slowly generating interest with dads.

Our ongoing work with young and new moms, led us to realize that their needs were beyond just being able to carry their baby to term. So many of them carried with them the fears that they couldn’t or wouldn’t be a good mom, that they didn’t have the support to provide for their children, that they weren’t equipped to do it alone, or that they weren’t in the best relationship with their spouse or father of the baby. We realized that all moms need help whether their babies were unplanned or planned, unborn or born. I am sure many of you can relate.

So we expanded our services to work with them on their fears and insecurities. Many were not raised by their own mothers, and some were raised by many different maternal figures. So many of our moms did not have healthy role models and were never exposed to a nurturing mom or a dad as they were growing up. They definitely don’t have healthy male figures in their lives. One client shared that from the time she was 4 until 16 when she left her home, her mom had 7 different boyfriends.11059793_1009802942382310_1480760538637670257_n

We know that God is calling us to create a culture of life beyond just helping a woman choose life for her baby. God is calling us to help restore the dignity of the woman. We know that all of this woundedness has contributed to women choosing abortion for their unborn babies.

The Guttmacher Institute, which was once the research arm of Planned Parenthood, reports that 60% of women who are having abortions are already mothers. This alarming statistic opened our hearts to helping moms beyond their 9 months of pregnancy and the first year of their babies’ lives.

Here is the testimony from one of our moms:

My name is Vanessa, and I became pregnant with my SIXTH child when I was 31 years old. Just 2 years earlier I was told it would be very difficult for me to get pregnant, because I had a ruptured fallopian tube due to an ectopic pregnancy. So this was a bit of a shock. I was in the 4th year of a relationship with my partner Sergio that was, at best, challenging. And we had my four kids from prior relationships plus another baby that was his.

He was working and going to school. I was home with the kids. We were ALWAYS broke. When I found out, I was pregnant; the first thing that ran through my mind was abortion. Abortion was something I had considered in the past but never went through with it.

This time however, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Not one I could see anyway. I was on the verge of a break up, I was broke, receiving no money from the 2 fathers of my first 4 children. I couldn’t afford daycare to work, and now I had this pregnancy… I was COMPLETELY HOPELESS.

I was so broke in fact, that I went to LifeChoices Women’s Care just to get diapers for my two youngest kids. I was introduced to their Earn While You Learn program to earn “mommy money” so I could get diapers.

There were posters all over with messages about there being ways other than abortion. And I thought to myself, “Yeah right”. Over the last few weeks I thought about nothing other than abortion. I was feeling depressed and hopeless. When I asked Sergio for his thoughts, he would just say he didn’t want to influence my decision. He didn’t want to say yes and have me blame him for going through with the abortion, and he didn’t want to say no and have me resent him and the baby for having another child.

After a few weeks of weighing my options, I decided to have the abortion. So I went to the abortion clinic. I paid $150 towards the total cost which was $300. I had an ultrasound and my pregnancy was measured at 8 weeks. I was told I had 4 weeks to come back to pay the balance of $150, and have the procedure. So I did just that.

I took the next 4 weeks to gather the other $150 dollars, and accepted my decision. All the while I was going to LifeChoices to participate in the program and get diapers for my other two kids. I never told them I was pregnant.

So 3 days before the date deadline they gave me, I went back to the clinic. I paid the other $150, they did bloodwork and gave me pain medicine. Then I went to the ultrasound room.

After a very nervous look on the sonographer, I asked what was wrong. She told me, my then, almost 12 week baby, was measuring 14.5 weeks…. I was stunned… I was speechless... I spoke to what I thought was the doctor… She explained that the baby’s head was much larger than expected at the gestational age.

She explained that I had some choices to make. I could go through with a second trimester abortion, or I could continue the pregnancy. However if I continued the pregnancy, I would have to see a doctor immediately, due to the size difference in the baby’s head. She was concerned there may be a problem.

I left the clinic that day, feeling unsure, and lost! I had no idea what I was going to do… Now, not only was I going to have a baby, but I was going to have a baby with possible developmental problems.

I sat down that night and I decided that this baby was given to me for a reason. That he or she had already overcome so much to exist. There’s no such thing as coincidences, and it was no mistake that this little human was growing inside of me… At that moment, I accepted my role as this tiny baby’s mother.

However, the issues of money, stress, parenting, providing, just MAKING IT were all still VERY real issues. That week I went back to LifeChoices Women’s Care, and began a program that would change my life in so many ways… and frustration in a constructive way. Each time I go the lifecoaches encourage me to set a weekly goal for myself. I still need to get my GED and the ladies always nudge me to keep working on it.

I have made such beautiful friends at LifeChoices! These ladies have been there for me through my ups and downs. Two and a half years ago, I saw NO WAY OUT! I SAW ABSOLUTELY NO LIGHT at the end of the tunnel! And I considered aborting a child who now I couldn’t breathe without!!!

LifeChoices came into my life and showed me that the light was there… I just had to let go of my anxieties, and take it step by step! To be bold and courageous! Today, I am 34. I am the, stressed, overwhelmed, HAPPY, LOVING, WHOLE mother of 6 AMAZING kids!

Vanessa is not alone. We keep encountering moms who already have children contemplating abortion. Let me read to you a text that we received from a client just last Monday:

Hi there. I was wondering if I could come in ASAP…today or tomorrow. I have the abortion pill and before I go through with it I would like an ultrasound. I know I won’t see much at this time, but maybe just seeing “something in there” it will help me make a decision either way. I came to see you with my daughter…and decided against abortion with her thanks to you!

Praise God that Belinda did come in and saw her little 8 week old baby via an ultrasound. And even though she told Jeanice, our sonographer, that she wouldn’t go through with taking the abortion pill, we know she needs more than a pregnancy test and an ultrasound. She needs to hear a weekly message that “She can do it! That she is beautiful! That she is and will be the best mommy for this baby and for all of her children!” We encouraged her to keep coming. She scheduled her second appointment for today, and I can share with you that she missed it. Please pray that she does come back and that she continues the journey of life for her baby. Belinda is not the only woman we have encountered who has wanted to abort her second or third child.

Moms keep sharing with us that, for them, the hardest part of being a mother is not the pregnancy or the first year, it is the second and third year. One of our moms who attends our monthly Mommy Support Group meetings shared:

I can totally understand how some moms contemplate having an abortion when they find out they are pregnant so soon after their first baby.  It is not easy having one right after another.  Coming here has helped me to focus on how to be the best mom for my toddler and be ready for the birth of our 2nd. 

Having the support of the ladies at LifeChoices has made this time in my life bearable.  Each time I come I am more confident that I can do this.  I am sure many moms can’t handle this and decide to end their new baby’s life. 

Traditionally, pregnancy resource centers have helped women choose life for their babies, and supported them through their pregnancies. Some centers will also support new families through the first few months post partum. We know that God is calling us to go beyond the traditional. We need to offer services to families that Planned Parenthood and the Abortion Industry wouldn’t think of offering.

Abby Johnson and Ana Stooks.

We are honored tonight to have with us Abby Johnson who worked for Planned Parenthood for more than 8 years. She believes that comprehensive pro-life women’s centers are the best way to drive Planned Parenthood out of business.

Since we were introduced to Abby’s work in 2012, LifeChoices Women’s Care has been expanding our services and offering women services beyond pregnancy testing, limited obstetrical ultrasounds, and options counseling.

We have been offering healing to those men and women who regret their past decision of an abortion through our HEART program. Unlike Rachel’s Vineyard which is an intense weekend, the HEART program is delivered over a 8-9 week period. Last year we saw an increase in men seeking healing from past abortions. One sought healing from multiple abortions.

In partnership with Linda Holt, a certified Creighton Method practitioner, we have been offering Fertility Care/Natural Family Planning classes to our clients and to couples desiring to conceive. One of our recent Mommy Group participants shared with us that she and her husband tried to conceive for years, and within two months of doing NFP they were successful and just gave birth to their baby girl.

In addition to these partners, we are also collaborating with a midwife practitioner so that she too can be trained in NFP and begin providing fertility care to her clients and ours too. We are also starting to work with area doulas, lactation consultants, and an occupational therapist.

We want to be a Guiding Star! We want to create a holistic, comprehensive center that provides support for natural means of family planning, pregnancy support for unplanned and planned pregnancies, fertility care, childbirth, breastfeeding, and family life.

We are so excited to partner with the Guiding Star Project to become the first center on the east coast with this vision of creating a Guiding Star Center that provides pro-woman, pro-child, pro-life care.



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