Pregnancy counselors offer hope ... and more
The young woman came to Essential Pregnancy Services (EPS) in Omaha earlier this year feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, seeking a pregnancy test, dreading the answer and considering an abortion.
Then she met Elaine Boyce, a member of Christ the King Parish in Omaha and a volunteer client advocate at EPS since 2002.
Boyce told the young woman something she once heard and took to heart: "your nightmare is someone else’s dream come true."
And she told her about the three children she adopted and raised.
How the two sons and daughter brought such joy to her and her husband’s life. And how grateful she felt to the mothers who had given her the gift of motherhood when they chose adoption for their children.
Adoption is one option Boyce and other client advocates, including Fran Traynor, a member of St. James Parish in Omaha, discuss with clients – in nonjudgmental, helpful ways, often relying on their own faith to do the best they can for each person who walks through the door.
Parenting is another option, and EPS offers several programs to support that choice, such as life skills classes in cooking, finances and raising children.
Because many women hear about abortion but don’t understand the full impact, EPS also presents the facts about the procedure, including physical and emotional risks, said Connie MacBride, manager of client and volunteer services at EPS.
Other services at EPS, which has two offices in Omaha and one in Bellevue, include pregnancy and STD testing and free ultrasounds. The agency also makes referrals to other agencies in the community that provide services it does not offer.
At the EPS office in Omaha’s Benson neighborhood, a boutique in the lower level offers maternity and baby clothes and other items clients can purchase with tokens earned by attending classes or consistently going to doctors’ appointments.
The goal is to offer factual information and support to the client, MacBride said.
"We aren’t here to pass judgment," Boyce said. "We are here to help and to listen."
As client advocates, Boyce and Traynor are trained to help with pregnancy testing and counseling, including such topics as sexually transmitted infections and abstinence. They are two of 20 client advocates.
Counselors also ask clients about their faith, Boyce said, and if they are open to it, she will suggest they stop in a church for some quiet reflection on challenges they face and choices they have to make.
"We ask the client if they have any beliefs but we don’t try to push any one faith or religion," Traynor said. "It’s more to remind them that if they do have a faith it’s something they can turn to in their time of need."
Challenges can be many in women’s lives, Boyce said. For example, some are in college and afraid of the impact their pregnancy could have on their education; others are as young as 14 or 15 years old. Sex often is treated as mere recreation, and the consequences are not considered, she said.
Boyce and Traynor said they rely on their own faith to help them serve with compassion and humility.
Both are members of faith and service organization Catholic Daughters of the Americas. Boyce regularly attends Mass and prays for the clients she meets, while Traynor often spends an hour praying before the Blessed Sacrament and attending Mass before she goes to EPS.
"Right before I meet with the client I say a silent prayer to the Holy Spirit to guide my words," Traynor said.
Helping anyone in need
MacBride said officials at the center reach out to everyone who seeks help, but in the case of the young woman with whom Boyce shared her own story of adoption – and in other cases, too – they don’t always know the full impact of their counseling.
Traynor said she wants each client to know they are cared for.
"I have a real empathy with the people who come here seeking services and feeling like they are at a loss with no support," she said. "That’s what we are here for, to help them feel like they are not alone."
WANT TO HELP?
Essential Pregnancy Services has three sites in the Omaha area:
6220 Maple St. and 3029 N. 93rd St., both in Omaha, and 908 W. Mission Ave., Bellevue
Volunteer opportunities include:
Resource room volunteers
Front office receptionist
For more information contact Connie MacBride, client services and volunteer coordinator at: 402-554-0121.