Living Mercy

Struggles as a pregnant teen now allow nurse practitioner to better help her patients

Angelina Giles looks at the patient before her and recognizes the look on the young woman’s face.

It’s a mix of panic, shame and the guardedness of someone facing an unintended pregnancy, of not knowing what to do next or how to manage this life-changing situation.

Giles – a family nurse practitioner and executive officer at Sancta Familia Medical Apostolate in Omaha – would consider women and girls in this situation as being “abortion-vulnerable.” They don’t know what options they have and might think abortion is their only choice.

Giles recognizes their struggles and fears because she faced a similar situation, when she was 18 and learned she was pregnant as she was about to enter her first year in college.

She said that when she shares that history with her patient, Giles can see  “the walls come down.” The patient before her knows that she is heard, that her caregiver understands her struggles and won’t judge her.

Giles, a member of St. Mary Parish in Bellevue, also knows that as the young woman looks at the ultrasound image of the baby in her womb and hears a heartbeat, “her maternal instincts kick in” and she begins to fall in love.

Giles has shared her story with patients and occasionally at schools, but this weekend, on Aug. 12, she will speak to an audience at the 13th Annual Breakfast for Life, hosted by Essential Pregnancy Services (EPS) and the EPS Auxiliary. Registration for the event has closed.

EPS is dear to Giles, who turned to the organization when she faced her crisis pregnancy in 2009.

Because of the help she received at EPS, she went on to become a family nurse practitioner who supports pregnant mothers in their needs. She also became a registered provider in the Abortion Pill Rescue Network and is trained to halt the effects of abortion-inducing drugs for mothers who began the procedure but soon regretted that decision.


Giles said she never really considered abortion during her first pregnancy. But the world around her pushed back: You won’t be able to go to school or have a career if you have your baby.

Even friends she had considered “very Catholic,” friends she looked up to, asked if she was going to get an abortion.

“Am I crazy for wanting to have this baby?” she thought.

Giles was at that point when she visited the EPS location in Bellevue with her boyfriend, Sean, who was just a year older than her. 

Angelina and Sean saw their baby through an ultrasound, tiny but perfect and formed, with a beating heart. 

The ultrasound reaffirmed and cemented in Angelina’s mind that she wanted to have the baby, but she also knew her journey was about to get harder.

For Sean, the EPS visit “helped with the nerves.” He said he was able to see “that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“And you know, someone can not only survive an unexpected pregnancy, but thrive in it,” he said. “And I think that’s what we did. It definitely brought us closer together.”

The two teens eventually married.


Angelina had received a scholarship to Creighton University and decided to continue with her plans to go to school there. She was able to live in a dormitory that first semester. The second semester she moved in with her boyfriend’s family – her future in-laws – and still went to classes.

Angelina and Sean said they weren’t sure how his parents would react to the news of her pregnancy. As it turned out, they were surprised but supportive. Instead of being emotional, his mother was practical, saying “OK. Let’s make a plan.”

That support and approach was a relief, Angelina said. “It felt like a thousand tons were taken off my shoulders.”

She had the baby during her next semester at Creighton, finishing her mid-term exams three days after giving birth.

Angelina and Sean lived with his parents for a year or so, as they both managed full-time school and full-time jobs.

In 2011, they struck out on their own, buying a house and getting married at St. John Parish on the Creighton University campus.

“When we were married, we were dead broke,” Sean said. “We paid for the wedding ourselves, so we had basically no more money. We paid the next month’s mortgage with our wedding money.

“So we’ve come a long way, right? It wasn’t easy, but we were fortunate.”


Next came more children and college degrees for the couple as they continued to work hard.

Angelina earned an undergraduate degree from Creighton and a master’s and doctorate degree from Clarkson College in Omaha. Sean earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from Bellevue University and now works for the Air Force as a civilian.

Besides their oldest son, now 13, the Gileses have children ages 10, 9 and 7. And soon Angelina will give birth to a fifth child.

She said she didn’t understand how God was working when she became a mother as a teenager, but she felt His presence and reassurance, encouraging her to take things a step at a time, trusting Him.

The Gileses know they are an exception, that they stayed together, married and could continue to build a life together.

“We beat the stats,” Angelina said. “We are so blessed in every aspect of life.” Accepting the gift of their first child “led to more and more blessings.”

“We’re obviously very fortunate,” Sean said. “I want people to be hopeful that they can persevere and make the best of a difficult situation. But I also recognize that in some ways we’re definitely an anomaly. And I attribute that to faith, that’s the first thing; a good support system; and just a ton of perseverance, especially from Angelina.”


Angelina landing a place at Sancta Familia was a boost to their faith – and was the result of a mix-up, a clerical error, she said. As a student she had been assigned to the wrong place for clinical studies and needed to find a substitute within a week or be forced to drop her class and delay graduation.

A college dean suggested Sancta Familia, “and they were so gracious,” Angelina said, allowing her to work there for the 50 hours she needed that semester.

“I just loved it so much and knew there was something so different about that place and the way they practiced medicine that I just kept going back as a student.

“Then I was offered a full-time position after I graduated.”

Angelina decided to enter the Catholic Church because of her experience of working at Sancta Familia.

Before becoming Catholic, she said, she identified as being Christian but wasn’t practicing any specific faith.

“I always believed there is a God. And I always felt like He was there for me,” she said.

She had gone to Mass with her husband each week and had her children baptized in the Catholic faith. But after working at Sancta Familia, Angelina said, she knew she wanted to fully participate in that faith.

Sean was a lifelong, pro-life Catholic, but for a while had stopped practicing his faith. Looking back now, he said, he can see how God was always there – especially as he and Angelina struggled through tough times.

“I didn’t rely upon Him like I should have,” Sean said, “but He was definitely working. There’s no way He wasn’t. We don’t get from where we were then to now. I’m just glad that we were able to – especially me – reacquaint myself with my faith life.”

His wife’s conversion reinvigorated his faith, he said.

“There’s always challenges,” Sean said. “Having that faith back has been wonderful. It’s something we can rely upon.”


Angelina said she finds herself sharing her story more and more with her young pregnant patients to let them know that she supports them and will be their advocate and their babies’ advocate.

Their situation might be difficult, the nurse practitioner said. But later they will see that “God’s timing and His ways are perfect.”

Her experience brings her full-circle, she said, “from being in such a vulnerable spot to being here for women who are also vulnerable.”

Angelina said she’s prepared to walk with them, support them and help them trust in God’s plan.

Her story is a rough one, she admits, “but I wouldn’t change it for anything. It has led me to this moment.”

And she’s grateful for places like Sancta Familia and EPS, where young women can go for help.

Pregnant girls and women facing difficult circumstances need to talk to someone they can trust and who can help them as they move forward, she said. They need to find a health-care provider who offers life-affirming care and options other than abortion.

And they need faith.

“Trust in God,” she would advise, “and get the resources you need.”


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