Getting Past the Fear of Pregnancy

One of the most common things we see in women who come to our center is fear. Fear that their lives will be derailed by pregnancy; fear that their loved ones and friends won’t accept them; fear of being a bad parent. More than anything, these women are afraid of the unknown. That’s why it’s vital to get past the fear of pregnancy before you make any decisions or choices. Here are a few tips for how.

Getting Past Fear of Pregnancy

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Hope to be married someday? Stop hoping and start dating!

I recently heard that 85% of Americans hope to marry someday, according to a study by Rutgers University, which also found that 82% of female high school seniors say that having a good marriage is extremely important to them.  Whether you are a high school or college senior, or even a senior citizen, a good first step to marriage is a date.

A date, what’s that? – all but the senior citizens are asking.  If you are clueless as to how to begin the dating process, consider the following helpful tips posted on the Love & Fidelity Network’s blog recently. (Click here for the entire article: http://www.loveandfidelity.org/2016/02/18/3-tips-bring-dating-back/) The author describes herself as “now happily married, having survived college dating (despite the scariness).”

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A Lifetime of Love

My first Valentine’s Day as a married woman, at the ripe old age of 22, I had a major meltdown when stores began to close and no flowers appeared. It was a Saturday night in the days before supermarkets sold fresh (or what passes for fresh) flowers.  In desperation, my husband bought the next best thing:  a vase from Macy’s that would hold flowers the following Valentine’s Day when he would be older and wiser.

Thirty years later, I still love gifts of flowers (and I even got a bouquet a few days early this year, to mark the anniversary of our first date!).  But my idea of what counts as an expression of love has changed. For the better, I think.  My friend, Anne, says it best in her poem, Love, which is reprinted here with her permission.  (For more of her thoughts, check out www.anneethompson.com.)

Love

No more,
Do I carve big hearts in the sand.
Neither do I scribble our names entwined.
Nor do I keep your photo’ under my pillow.
Nor chant your name like a rhyme in my head.
I do not whisper about you with friends,
Nor blush when I hear your voice.
I do not loiter in the places you may pass,
Nor practice smiles for you before a mirror.

Yet still,
My heart thrills at the sound of your laughter,
And I watch the clock when your arrival is near.
I am content when I manage to please you,
And I watch your face when you drive or read.
I learn every wrinkle that creases your smile,
And I bend to your moods as they change.
For though time may mellow and age us,
My love for you remains
The same.

by Anne E Thompson

Thank you, Anne.  And thank you, Fred, for living love, instead of buying it.

A Gift That Keeps on Giving

This Christmas season as I scanned my Instagram feed, I came across a photo of my friend Abby’s son in front of a big tree in her workplace.  It warmed my heart to think of how her life has been changed for the better by a pregnancy decision more than five years ago.

When I first met Abby, she was attending a college in Massachusetts, and had come home to make a decision about an unexpected pregnancy.  It was a difficult decision.  Continuing with her pregnancy meant she might be the only pregnant student at her school.  It might mean lost opportunities.

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Can you picture how amazing you are?

Lighthouse believes that each person – little and big, young and old – is an amazing and unique creation of a loving, artistic God.  We also believe that each of us was created in the image of this God – which means that it is our privilege and responsibility to reflect His good qualities to the rest of the world.

The Old Testament book of Psalms uses the words “fearfully and wonderfully made” to describe us.  How often do you think of yourself as wonderful?   Probably not often enough.   Most often, most of us only see the way we don’t measure up to airbrushed images in the media, or to others’ pictures on social media, or to the image we wish we saw in the mirror.

Life is short; don’t spend yours trying to be someone else.  After all, there is no one better at being you than YOU!  You have been fearfully and amazingly made.  To share the best version of yourself with others, try pausing each day to appreciate – even celebrate – who you are.  When you look in the mirror, look for what’s special about you – not what you want to change!  Try picturing yourself as God’s dearly loved child – the way a new mom thinks her baby is the most beautiful creation in the world.

Saturday, December 12, from noon to 4 pm at our Paterson Center (75 Ellison St), Lighthouse is partnering with New Destiny Family Success Center and a group of volunteer photographers for an event called “Help-Portrait.”  The event is open to all residents of Paterson.  Help-Portrait provides participants with some food and fun, a mini “make-up” session, and a professional-quality photograph.  The printed portrait you take home is a gift – meant to remind you that you are God’s gift to the world.

Yes, you are God’s gift to the world.  And so am I. The sooner we believe it, the better off our world will be.

What movies and sit-coms leave out when it comes to sex

Couple Close UpThere is little left to the imagination in most movies or television shows when it comes to sex.  But STDs get little or no airtime.  Sexually transmitted diseases are like the “he-who-must-not-be-named” character who never appears on screen.

This isn’t surprising.  STDs don’t have any positive qualities.  They are not like an unplanned pregnancy that may be poorly timed and challenging to deal with, but results in a small human being, of infinite worth.

But STDs are a real part of the story of modern sexuality and worth talking about – mostly because they can cause significant and sometimes lasting damage.

STD rates are at an all-time high, according to a just-released report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  New national data shows that cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are climbing in the U.S. and have reached an all-time high.  The report shows that though rates of these sexually transmitted diseases fluctuated over the last five years, all three spiked in 2014. The center called the increases “alarming.”

The volume of chlamydia cases last year was particularly alarming.  Nationwide, there were about 1.4 million cases, the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the CDC.  (For prevalence rates from the report, click here.)  “STDs are a substantial health challenge facing the Unite States,” the CDC report summary says.  “Each of these infections is a potential threat to an individual’s immediate and long-term health and well-being.”

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are common and curable diseases, but if untreated can cause serious problems such as infertility in women.  Officials estimate that undiagnosed STDs cause 20,000 women in the country to become infertile each year.  I have also read reputable sources who believe chlamydia can negatively impact fertility even when treated.  This is one of the reasons Lighthouse provides free testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea. We want women to understand and appreciate the fragility of their fertility, and take steps to protect it. (We also offer the free testing to men because they are part of both the problem and the solution.)

Health officials recommend using condoms during sex to prevent the spread of these diseases. But condoms are not 100% effective – even when used correctly – and they are 0% effective at protecting you from a broken heart.  There is another way to protect yourself from the negative consequences of sex:  limit your sexual activity to one partner for life.  Trust someone with a whole-hearted commitment, before you entrust your physical and emotional health to them.

Abstinence before marriage doesn’t sound very sexy.  But it definitely deserves our attention.

The Difference a Dad Makes

In New Jersey, a father cannot legally prevent an abortion, but he can prevent his child from being placed for adoption by withholding consent. Given these realities, what role can a father play in an unplanned pregnancy decision?

A typical guy might feel he is being supportive by telling the mother of his child, “I will support whatever choice you make.” But is that really support – or more pressure on an already conflicted woman? Now she is left to guess and stress about what this man really wants, how much he cares about her, and whether he will resent her and the baby for changing the course of his life.

What if a father had the courage to speak up? The following account is fiction, penned by Jan Ellison in her novel “A Small Indiscretion,” but I’d like to think it’s closer to the truth.

At the clinic, we went to the window and gave them my name. They didn’t ask for his name, only his money. It was my ordeal, apparently. It was my child. Did I think of you as a child? At least a part of me did. … I could not persuade myself that the life inside me was not a life. I could imagine a baby growing readily enough. A fetus that, uninterrupted, would grow eyes and eyelashes and limbs and fingers and toes. It would open its eyes and they would be blue, like your father’s.
In the clinic that day, I didn’t say any of what I was thinking out loud. I sat next to your father and filled out the forms and turned them back in at the counter.
We didn’t have long to wait. They called my name and I took a step forward. I gave your father a weak smile.
He stood up. He took me by the elbow and sat me down again. He spoke in a low, tender voice, the voice I had until then heard him use only in bed. “You know what?” he said. “I think we could handle this.”
“Handle what?”
“Having a baby. Getting married. All that.” . . . .
“But do you want to?”
“I do. I really do. If you will.”
We left the clinic. …
“Will you marry me?” he whispered.
He kept his forehead crushed against mine, and his face was so close to my face, it was as if I swallowed the question as soon as he posed it. I felt our held breaths as the words burrowed down inside me, where you were burrowing, too, so small but so certain, and where, right beside you, an answer had already been waiting.
“Yes,” I said. “I’ll marry you.”

At Lighthouse, we believe the role of a father is invaluable. That’s why we have men on our staff devoted to helping fathers be responsible, involved and committed dads, as well as loving partners. Please contact us for free assistance if you are facing a difficult pregnancy or parenting decision.

New Paterson Location Now Open

Lighthouse is pleased to announce the opening of our newest location at 75 Ellison Street in downtown Paterson. This 2,600-square foot center began serving the public on August 24, 2015; operating hours can be found on the “contact us” page of our Lighthouse website.  Walk-ins are welcome during our operating hours, but we suggest calling ahead for an appointment (862-257-3820) for the best service.  The Paterson Center offers the same free, confidential services found at our other two locations – plus Steps for Life and additional programming provided by RENEW Life Center. The city’s main bus terminal is located one block behind the center, and parking garage #10 is located next door.

If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you don’t need to face it alone.  We look forward to serving you.

Once a Mother, Always a Mother

Mothers’ Day arrives at the height of spring’s beauty, yet it often brings painful memories and conflicted feelings.

Some of this pain is straightforward and simple to understand. To put it simply, moms can be a pain at times. I know and I am. Although my four children are technically all adults (as is my husband), I still feel the need to offer them frequent safety advice and other wisdom. I worry because I am a mother. I second-guess my decisions, because I am a mother.

I am becoming my mother, and that worries me. When I began working at Lighthouse, my 81-year-old mother drove to our house to cook dinner for us. Nine years later, I am driving her old Saturn to a nursing home to fill out her menu. Some days I can’t live with her, but I know it will be hard to live without her.

A more complicated but understood pain connected to motherhood is pregnancy and infant loss. There are few tangible reminders of the child. And grieving a precious little one is more difficult without the usual rituals that accompany an older person’s death. The tinier the person, the greater the loss for words. A recovery guide at Lighthouse, “Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy,” speaks to this pain.

Arguably the most complicated, least understood pain related to this Hallmark holiday comes from abortion. I say “arguably” because each termination decision is as unique as the woman experiencing it.

Trudy M. Johnson, a licensed counselor who specializes in understanding abortion grief and has personally experienced it, believes that the most common feeling immediately following an abortion is relief. “Unfortunately, Johnson says, “this sense of relief is not always permanent. Sometimes a deep feeling of sadness will set in immediately.” Because an abortion decision can’t be taken back, she believes many women stuff down the sadness in order to move on with life.

Johnson feels this potent mix of relief and sadness is a recipe for confusion and emotional shutdown that can reinforce the isolation and silence of post-abortive women. Her antidote for this is to provide a safe place for women to grieve an abortion loss.

At Lighthouse, we have post-abortive women with open arms, loving hearts, and listening ears, ready to mourn with and mentor others on the path toward healing. Just like a mother would do.