Janelle Sahr, an ultrasound nurse at Essential Pregnancy Services, shares with an expectant mother the heartbeat and early images of her developing baby. ELIZABETH WELLS

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EPS offers options, support to women in unexpected pregnancies

When Nyadoer learned she was pregnant with her second child, abortion seemed the best option. While she had already chosen life with her first pregnancy and was making things work after that child’s father disappeared, she worried about how she would provide for and raise two children if alone once again.

“I was freaking out, trying to figure out what to do. I was unsure about the father’s relationship in all of this. To be very honest, abortion was a real solution,” she said. “It turned out the father wasn’t a fan of aborting the child. When it came down to it, I struggled too. I didn’t want to have a future of regretting this.”

The opportunity to have a free pregnancy test led her to Essential Pregnancy Services (EPS), where staff also helped her learn she had options. Eventually, through their material assistance, parenting and adoption education, and mental health services, she saw another way.

Nyadoer chose life. She left consideration of other options, such as adoption, until after the baby was born in early February, when she chose to parent the child herself.

“EPS lifted an emotional burden when I felt like abortion was the only option. It gave me the freedom to explore other options … helped drown out the noise of the expectations and opinions of others.”

LIFE-AFFIRMING, HOLISTIC SERVICES

EPS, a crisis pregnancy center in Omaha, has been offering life-affirming, holistic services, free of charge, to women experiencing unexpected or under-supported pregnancies since 1973.

Although EPS employs a number of Catholic professionals and supports the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life, they serve women of all faiths or no faith in a non-judgmental way, extending God’s love and mercy to all without reference to religion.

With three service locations in Omaha and Bellevue, the organization’s range of options and support services for women continues to expand.

Its free pregnancy test and up to three ultrasounds in the first trimester of pregnancy lead many women to their door, said Sue Coffey, LIMHP, counselor manager at EPS and a parishioner at Christ the King Parish in Omaha.

“The first appointment is usually the most emotional. When they hear the heartbeat, it is a reality check,” she said.

“Often, when a woman comes, she’s in a state of crisis,” said Cheryl Hove, one of EPS’ ultrasound nurses and a registered nurse for over 26 years. They are often scared, isolated and confused, she added.

“There’s a lot of chaos,” said Hove, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha. “Our role is to simply walk beside them, make sure they are informed about the choices before them. The ultrasound gives them the facts about how far along they are and if their pregnancy is progressing. Some don’t progress.”

While most of the women who come to EPS are contemplating abortion, 83% chose life, according to EPS’ annual Impact Report.

The facts help ease some of the strong emotions, Hove said, but having a human connection, slowing down and learning about other EPS services offers them options. This leads to hope and strength.

“We also have to hear her story … how can we help ease her burden? If they can’t see a path forward, how can they choose life?” she said.

EPS calls the initial consultation the “pause,” said EPS executive director Laura Buddenberg, a parishioner at St. Leo the Great Parish in Omaha.

Education to understand what is going on within the woman’s body, her child’s growth and the abortion process provides this pause.

“In a moment of pressure, a woman can seek a permanent solution to a temporary situation or (what she may consider a) problem,” she said. “We help offer enough time for women to sit and think about what to do.”

HELPING WOMEN THRIVE

These women, and those experiencing a lack of resources or family support for their pregnancy, also learn what resources are available to help them emotionally, educationally and materially.

Hove said the Life Services department at EPS “is offering material and emotional support as well as community resources to help women who choose life to thrive.”

Thriving is what another client, Whitney, intended to do with her life and is now accomplishing thanks in part to EPS. The nursing student, who thought she was in a permanent relationship, was stunned by her baby’s father’s lack of support when she became pregnant.

“EPS did my pregnancy test and ultrasound. They gave me information. They let me know I wasn’t alone. They provided me with places I could find resources,” said the now wife and mother of two children, with another due in March.

She earned “Baby Bucks” by participating in positive activities such as parenting classes, going to doctor’s appointments and continuing her education. Baby Bucks are redeemable in the EPS Boutique for needed items. “I was able to use those points to get diapers,” she said. “The first pregnancy I needed help in every aspect.”

The boutique, located at the EPS location in Benson, offers essentials such as maternity and baby clothing, diapers, car seats and other needs.

Whitney’s second pregnancy was with a different father, who is now her husband. While he was deployed in the army and she finished school, EPS again helped her with material needs and mental health services.

Her situation continues to evolve. While she graduated and is working as a nurse, her husband is now in school. She said she appreciates EPS’ continued mental health services because she has not had to choose between her mental health and paying bills or buying groceries.

LOVE IN ACTION

Life Services’ Director April Stockdale said EPS is working to establish a culture of life through its services, by helping expectant mothers, such as Whitney, in several areas of need.

“Through Life Services’ programs, we are supporting the brave women who choose life well beyond the moment of decision,” Stockdale said. “When she chooses life, we walk long-term with her,” building relationship by helping meet her basic physical and emotional needs.

“We see it as love in action. Ultimately, this is ministry. Jesus didn’t meet people and leave them hungry. He took care of their physical needs and allowed that to become acts of service.”

The Life Services’ Community Connections program includes a social work team who provide referrals for community resources through other organizations with which EPS maintains partnerships. One partner, Catholic Charities’ Food Pantry, allows women to place a food order and schedule pickup at the EPS Boutique.

In addition to material needs, EPS offers mental health counseling with masters-level counselors through its Behavioral Health Services.

Women seeking mental health services often face barriers including the cost, plus the transportation and childcare needed to attend sessions, so EPS offers free counseling, with sessions available by phone if necessary.

Hove said these counseling services more fully support life by going deeper with women to address core, personal issues or areas of dysfunction.

“If she gets rid of her pregnancy, she still has underlying issues,” said Hove. “We help her with these issues so that abortion doesn’t have to be another wound on her heart down the road.”

Another area of assistance, Educational Services, offers online and in-person classes ranging from parenting and physical health to meal planning, healthy relationships and the adoption process.

“We need to look at the whole woman … all the old cycles that carry through generations,” said Stockdale. “If we can support one woman to make these changes, that’s a legacy effect in the family.”

PEACE AND HOPE

Denise Ingram reached out to EPS in March of 2020 for the first time. She had three school-age children when she and her life partner, Christopher, thought she might be pregnant.

“I was unsure. I didn’t know what to do or what to expect,” said Ingram. “Did I need extra vitamins because I’m older?” She worried about how life would change with children in school and possibly another baby to care for.

Denise Ingram, right, introduces Robin, her youngest child, to Cheryl Hove, the EPS nurse who performed the ultrasound in March 2020 that introduced Ingram, experiencing an unexpected pregnancy, to her daughter for the first time. ELIZABETH WELLS

Turning to EPS for information and an ultrasound, she met Hove, who helped Ingram address each of her fears.

“She is one of the most amazing people. I was a hot mess,” Ingram said, adding that she felt a genuine sense of caring and left with information and resources, as well as a sense of peace and a feeling of hope. “The feeling of not being alone is so amazing.”

Then in October 2020, Christopher caught COVID-19 and died. Ingram was devastated emotionally and scared. She worried about how she could meet the needs of their three children, let alone bring the fourth into the world.

EPS was there for her then, too.

“Sue (Coffey) would call me all the time and ask me, ‘What do you need?’ We laughed, and we cried together,” said Ingram, who delivered daughter, Robin, on Thanksgiving Day.

Ingram represents a significant population served by EPS, Coffey said. “They are in a situation they didn’t expect. They want to choose life, but the reality of trying to provide for her family is overwhelming. She’s doing an amazing job raising those kids. They are first (priority) to her. She works hard for them but doesn’t qualify for assistance.

“She would have to quit her nice paying job and work fast food to get the state aid she needs for them to survive.”

Coffey said Ingram has chosen to keep her job because she is building a foundation for her children, to provide an example and instill in them a good work ethic.

“These are hardworking single parents … EPS helps them at a time when they don’t have enough to cover all the necessities,” said Coffey.

Ingram said it has been hard to ask for help, but sometimes it is the right thing to do.

“My Christopher was wonderful,” she said. “He never missed anything, and I knew I had to stand. It was and is a horrible shock. Losing Christopher was one of the toughest things but bringing Robin into the world was one of the best.”

 

EPS Facts

Essential Pregnancy Services (EPS) is a crisis pregnancy resource whose mission is to provide life-affirming, holistic support to women experiencing an unexpected or under-supported pregnancy. It offers, in a non-judgmental atmosphere, cost-free services and material support during pregnancy and beyond, inspiring women to choose life for their unborn babies.

EPS helped more than 2,000 clients through more than 15,600 total services during fiscal year 2020-2021, ranging from material assistance, education and parenting help to professional mental health counseling and other resources. All are essential in not just saving a baby from abortion but supporting the women and families choosing life.

Founded in 1973 in Omaha, they operate from their Benson location (6220 Maple St.), at Maple Village (3029 N. 93rd St.), and a third location, 908 W. Mission Ave. in Bellevue. EPS recently signed a lease to be a tenant in Catholic Charities new campus at N. 93rd St. and Bedford Ave. This new location will house EPS’ ministry/administrative offices and the Boutique. Dates for the move are yet to be determined.

Over 90% of EPS’ funding comes from donor contributions. Their annual fundraising dinner and auction, GLOW (Giving Life through Our Works), is Sunday, Feb. 27, at the MidAmerica Center, 1 Arena Way, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Cocktails start at 5 p.m. with dinner at 6 p.m. For more information or to register, go to one.bidpal.net/glow22/welcome.