Every day women find themselves pregnant with no place to call home and no support for themselves or the child they want to keep. Many turn to pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes that stand as beacons of hope and sources of life-saving love and care.
The recent rash of attacks against these organizations can only be described as tragic, harming not only the people who work there but the women they serve. I don’t know where I would be if I had not found such remarkable guidance and comfort at my local maternity home.
From my very earliest years, my life was set on a negative trajectory. I grew up desperately trying to please my alcoholic mother, who was at the mercy of her addiction. By 14 years old, I was on my own, and deep trauma and a sense of abandonment permeated every part of my life. To cope, I turned to drugs and sexual recklessness that quickly consumed my life.
As an adult, I entered into a relationship with a man who, like me, was a drug addict. My addictions intensified the more time I spent with my now ex-husband, and I struggled with poverty and chronic homelessness as he went in and out of prison. I started manipulating my doctor and selling my prescription drugs to provide for the two children we had together at that time.
The government soon took my children out of the makeshift home we lived in and terminated my rights to them. The devastation and soul-crushing torment I experienced from losing my children jolted me back to reality — at least for a short time.
Knowing I needed help, I sought treatment. It was successful and put me back on my feet. During this treatment, I discovered I was pregnant with my third child. I had my son and was living a responsible life until my ex-husband was released from prison and wanted to move in. In my codependency I allowed it, and we quickly relapsed. I then lost my rights to my third child.
Losing my children the first time was the heaviest blow I had ever experienced. But losing my third child — knowing I had failed again — was more than I could bear. I hated myself. Hitting rock bottom, I lost my will to live. My children are my heart, and my heart was gone.
I stopped caring for myself and, just like my ex-husband, ended up incarcerated. Walking numbly, I waited for my life to be over.
Turning My Life Around
But to my surprise, it was in prison that my life began to turn around. There, desperate and hopeless, I finally prayed to God for help for myself and my children. It was then that I promised myself I’d get back up and fight for recovery.
Once out of prison, I got involved at a local church and discovered I was pregnant a fourth time. Terrified of losing a child to the state again, I expressed my fears to my church community, and they connected me with a local maternity home. The decision to seek help at Bethlehem House has transformed every facet of my life; little did I know the extent to which its staff members help women radically transform their lives for good.
When a mother enters their doors, they commit to loving and supporting her for the long haul. That was certainly the case with me.
Bethlehem House wasted no time in making me feel welcomed, loved, and cared for. They gave me a free place to live so I didn’t need to work and could focus on building countless skills I had never acquired, like how to budget money and properly care for my son. Through therapy and sober support groups, I learned how to have healthy relationships and reject the addictions that had formerly ruled my life.
I realized I didn’t have to be on my own anymore — I had a strong, supportive, and patient group of people that ended up becoming family. They helped me find the stability I had always desired in life and reject the codependency that had continuously landed me back with my ex-husband.
I took classes that empowered me to save money and afford my own apartment, and to reach out to my three children’s adoptive father, to whom I still talk today. Now I live in Bethlehem House’s graduate apartment buildings and take part in their “After Care Program,” where I continue to take classes, receive therapy and childcare for my son, and live among the community of women, children, and staff that have become our family.
My future is bright, and I am even planning to buy my own home soon.
While it still breaks my heart that I lost custody of my three oldest children, I am forever grateful to have my son, Legend, by my side. I know I am a strong, reliable, and loving mother who will stop at nothing to give him what he needs to thrive.
I cannot change my past, but it gives me great hope and joy to know my purpose for today and for the future: to love others and share my story with people who are going through similar situations. I want them to know that real, life-changing help does exist, and it begins with faith and the loving family environment at maternity homes like Bethlehem House. My sincere hope is that no woman is left believing she must walk through the darkness of abandonment, heartbreak, and addiction alone.
Amber is a mother of four and resides in Omaha, Nebraska.
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