Happy Mother’s Day to Julias everywhere . . .

After a dozen years, it still doesn’t get old.  Every Mother’s Day, I am reminded of the women Lighthouse has supported to make brave choices – choices that have changed their lives and their children’s forever, for the better. I smile when I think of how their first courageous choices – which seemed nearly impossible at first – resulted in joy and more life-enhancing choices for themselves and those around them.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I am grateful that Lighthouse is able to offer free life-affirming support to women facing unplanned pregnancies.  Some of our confidential services include pregnancy testing, medical confirmation of pregnancy, STD testing and relationship support for women like Julia.  Here is the story of Julia’s pregnancy journey, shared with her permission:

Hi, my name is Julia.  I came to Lighthouse in 2011 after googling free pregnancy test center sites. 

Being an unemployed recent college graduate and newlywed, I was worried about how having a baby would burden me with responsibilities I wasn’t ready to handle.  I thought this unplanned pregnancy would throw my plans for a foreign service career out the window and possibly keep me unemployed for several years.   

I admit that I did consider abortion so I liked the fact that the Lighthouse website reached out to undecided, unprepared women like me and that it was free.  When I finally made an appointment to get that free pregnancy test, I met Marissa, who provided me with the free resources available to not only test for pregnancy but also to care for the baby afterwards.  My husband and I were amazed at how much easier and more possible giving birth became, just by knowing that an organization like Lighthouse was ready to support us every step of the way to delivery and even beyond childbirth. 

How could we resist the love of God we received through Lighthouse?  Lighthouse had given us our first picture of Brian taken at 6 weeks, and that was enough to cancel out any thought of abortion.  My first visit was followed by phone calls from Marissa, who continued to care and provide me with resources that prepared me for childbirth.  So then, my husband and I benefitted further from watching videos on the childbirth process and bringing home some items for Brian like baby clothes, toys and a washtub. 

In this way, Lighthouse became an example to us and our parents of how Christian love builds families and communities.  Please pray with us that like Lighthouse, we, too, will be able to touch and improve the lives of others around us.  Thank you.   

This Mother’s Day I am also thinking of and praying for another young woman named Julia. She bravely placed her son in the arms of a loving adoptive couple.  She sacrificed much to give her son the life she believed he deserved.  Placing her child into the waiting arms of an adoptive couple took a great deal of courage – no matter how much sense the decision made.  May God fill her life – and yours – to overflowing with peace and love this Mother’s Day.

When Sex isn’t Sexy

While most television shows and movies include casual sexual encounters, rarely are the lovers (and I use that term loosely) shown getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs, for short).

Some consequences of uncommitted sex make it to the big screen.  Unexpected pregnancies have become an expected plot twist, thanks to movies like Juno and Knocked Up that center on the concept of an ill-timed conception.  The emotional drama after a relationship turns sexual or a sexual relationship ends makes for interesting viewing (think 500 Days of Summer, Friends with Benefits, or Vanilla Sky). But STDs seem to be the unspoken, unexpected consequence.

It’s not that surprising.  Unplanned pregnancy leads to a little person who’s quite easy to love, after the initial shock wears off.  Emotional drama is related to the bonding that occurs when neurochemicals are released during sex.  This bonding process heightens the excitement.

But STDs don’t have any positives to weigh against their negatives. They’re not cute – or sexy.  Talking about them won’t make you the life of the party.

Having sex with multiple partners will likely result in a sexually transmitted disease.  Consider the odds – each new partner exposes you to whatever STDs or infections their partners may have had – and to what their partners were exposed to, and so on.  One random hook up may expose you to the infections of more partners than you can or care to count.

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) calls the all-time highest spike in reported cases of syphilis, chlamydia, and Gonorrhea “alarming.”  According to the CDC, more than 1.5 million cases were reported in 2015, a 6% increase from 2014.  Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the highest reported STDs among young people aged 15-24.  Those are the reported cases. Many cases are untested and unreported.

Although these diseases affect both men and women, women face the most serious health consequences.  Your sexual health matters not only for your overall wellness, but also for your future fertility.  Undiagnosed STDs causes more than 20,000 cases of infertility each year.  If you are sexually active and have new or multiple partners you should be tested annually.  If you are pregnant, it is especially important to be tested for gonorrhea early in your pregnancy.  Untreated gonorrhea may cause miscarriage or premature birth, and may be passed from mother to newborn baby during vaginal delivery.

At Lighthouse, we offer free screening for chlamydia and Gonorrhea.  If you do have a positive test result for an STD, it is important for you to tell your partner and for both of you to be treated.  If you or your partner has an untreated STD, you can pass it back and forth to each other during sex or transmit it to others in the future.

Health officials recommend using condoms to prevent spreading sexually transmitted diseases, but even when used correctly they don’t work 100% of the time – especially for an infection like HPV (the Human Papilloma Virus) that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact.  Plus, condoms don’t protect you from the broken heart which may result from your casual encounter.

Limiting yourself to one partner for life is the only sure-fire way to avoid the un-sexy side of sex.  Commitment is good for your emotional and physical well-being.  In the end, nothing is sexier (or healthier) than committed love.   # # #

Every crisis contains an opportunity – even an unplanned pregnancy

Crisis.  Gut wrenching, knee buckling, breath-sucking, life-changing personal crisis. We’ve all been there. Usually we wonder what to do next or how we will ever overcome the unexpected problem.  We had plans and dreams . . . and suddenly those visions are gone and even our day-to-day living seems threatened.

When life-changing obstacles threaten our plans, most of us don’t – or can’t – see the potential benefit of the ordeal.

The Chinese language has two words that mean “crisis.”  They mean danger and opportunity.  This translation reminds us that in every crisis event we not only find immediate panic but also the potential for a positive outcome. We will survive, but not without change and some loss of life expectation.  Perhaps we experience the loss of a job, a relationship, a loved one, or a life goal.  How we see the challenge and move forward amid the fear of it helps us to reach the other side – safely.

If you’re facing an unexpected pregnancy, you may be anxiously wondering what your next step should be.  How will you tell your parents?  How will your partner react?  How will this pregnancy impact your life?  How will you continue to work . . . or go to school?   You have time to answer these questions.

Be patient and allow yourself to be in the moment and to fully understand the options that are available to you.  Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center offers valuable resources – free of charge – that are vitally important to resolving this crisis.  Has a doctor confirmed your pregnancy?  Lighthouse offers medical confirmation of pregnancy, at no cost, to determine whether you have a viable pregnancy and how far along you are.  Knowing this before making your next step is critical.

Learning your options in a supportive atmosphere where you won’t be judged, and you can slow down and think through ALL your options is important. In the heat of the crisis, abortion may appear to be an easy solution, but it’s an irreversible decision with risks and significant consequences.

The feelings you are feeling are temporary.  Just ask Elainie Gonzalez, Lighthouse’s Paterson Center Assistant, who can easily relate to someone facing an unexpected pregnancy.  She was that someone the first time she walked through our doors.

Elainie vividly remembers her first ultrasound and the fear and anxiety she felt as she arrived to her appointment.  The Lighthouse nurse recognized Elainie’s high level of emotion since she had seen similar reactions in other mothers in crisis.  Elainie recalls the calming words the nurse used to reassure her:  “Your situation is temporary.  You don’t know where your life will be a couple of years from now.”

Elainie remembered those words and the support she felt that day as she chose to make a birth plan that included single parenting.  Her son turned three recently, and is the light of a full life that includes a job she loves, a supportive church community, and her own apartment. Two years after giving birth, she answered the call to work at Lighthouse and now helps support other mothers facing unexpected pregnancies.

Elainie’s crisis contained an opportunity to discover strengths and abilities she didn’t realize she had.  Because she slowed down, found support, and made an informed decision, she not only survived the crisis, she is thriving after the crisis.

Today’s crisis might be tomorrow’s blessing. Only time will tell.