Sarah sheds tears when she thinks or talks about what she and John would have done to their fourth child if she had known she was pregnant sooner. She walked into an Affiliated Medical Services Abortion Clinic in Milwaukee last September to get an abortion after an at-home pregnancy test confirmed that the weight she gained and symptoms she experienced, despite taking birth control and getting what she thought were periods, meant a baby was on the way.
That day, she walked out of the abortion clinic in shock, holding in her hand the number for Milwaukee Birthright Inc., a nonsectarian organization that offers assistance to women in distress because of the difficulties of unplanned pregnancy. Sarah, who was raised in a Catholic family and attended Catholic grade school through the sixth grade, said she was open to giving up the baby for adoption, but her husband wasn’t.
“I feel horrible for what we would have done to him. I mean, I feel horrible, because we can’t provide like we should, but we try, you know, we try,” Sarah said in an interview with your Catholic Herald, explaining that she and John, who had been laid off at the time, were struggling to support their family before it unexpectedly grew. “I mean, obviously, he’s here for a reason – he’s here for a reason and we wouldn’t change it.”
John and Sarah continue to lean on each other for support.
“We’re behind on our mortgage, and we haven’t paid our electric bill in like four months,” said Sarah, who stays at home with two of their four children, while John puts in 60 hours a week in a factory where it’s “hot and dirty.”
“He normally only gets to see the kids for like an hour, but, you know, he’s happy … he has no choice, because I can’t work yet and even if I do go back it’s like day care will suck up all the money that I make,” she said.
Sarah called Milwaukee Birthright and talked to Veronica Ceszynski, the organization’s executive director for about 15 years.
Since Sarah and John weren’t planning on expanding their family, they got rid of a lot of baby clothing. What was left over, they were forced to throw out when it was soiled by the sewage that filled the basement in the flooding.
“We even got rid of our stroller…” Sarah said. “Then, (Veronica) helped me contact a car seat clinic to get a car seat and helped me (with a) referral for insurance,” since John was called back to work after being laid off, and insurance coverage won’t begin until this March.
Sarah met with Ceszynski for about an hour and then visited again before the baby was born to pick up some clothing.
Veronica Ceszynski said Milwaukee Birthright Inc., 2025 W. Oklahoma Ave., Suite 125, Milwaukee, needs volunteers age 18 and older.
Ceszynski said it’s one way that the organization that relies on financial gifts for support, offers assistance to women in need. When someone calls asking for help, Ceszynski said she or one of the about 10 volunteers learns the woman’s needs. She noted that the top requests women have are for pregnancy tests, which are done in the office – space donated by Wheaton Franciscan – using kits provided by St. Francis Hospital’s lab, and requests for layettes.
“What we need to see when somebody calls for a layette – we want to see their Social Security card, photo ID and a pregnancy statement if the baby hasn’t been born and a birth announcement if the baby has been born,” Ceszynski said, explaining that parishes and organizations like the Christ Child Society and the Milwaukee Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, have baby showers for Milwaukee Birthright.
The organization offers a free emergency hotline service 24 hours, seven days a week, and when volunteers aren’t available, Ceszynski is available.
“I was sound asleep one morning and she woke me up, said, ‘I have an abortion appointment in a half an hour, what can you do instead?’” Ceszynski said, recalling the story of a woman who today is a good friend. “So, I told her to cancel it until the next day and we would spend the next day talking, which we did, and now her son is into his 30s and he’s married and has a child and I’m a Birthright grandma.”
Women can get free ultrasounds, or baby clothing if they are in need like Sarah. While Milwaukee Birthright doesn’t hand out adult clothing or furniture or provide counseling, it has resources to share.
“If we don’t have something, we know where to refer people to get it,” said Ceszynski, whose favorite part of her work with the organization is “interacting with the clients.” Ceszynski said the most challenging part of her job is trying to get the women “to understand the dangers of abortion.”
Ceszynski, a member of St. Eugene Parish, Fox Point, said they don’t push religion upon the women who come to Milwaukee Birthright for help, but will talk to them about faith if they want.
“We try to lead them gently toward thinking about faith etcetera, but it is not – we’re faith-based, but we are not pushy,” she said. “There are times when you’d really like to, but you can’t implant guilt – you just can’t do that to people. I do not have to live forever with their decision, they do. So, we give them the best information that we can.”
The biggest help that Milwaukee Birthright gave to Sarah and John, was in the form of clothes, diapers, “and just somebody there to talk to,” Sarah said, adding that Ceszynski has invited her back to Milwaukee Birthright to pick up more clothes as her son outgrows his. While Sarah and John struggle to make ends meet, Sarah reiterated that there’s a reason for everything and encouraged women to think twice about abortion.
“I guess before you do have an abortion, just think about what you might be missing out on eventually, even if it is hard and then there’ll be some reward in the end,” she said.
For Sarah and John, the reward came in the form of their “little angel.”