- - Monday, February 6, 2023

Before I realized what was happening, I got up, and one foot was stepping in front of the other. It was as if my body, and the tiny body inside of me, were telling me to leave. And so, I did. I turned my back on the woman who struggled to answer my questions, and I walked past the man I barely knew who waited for me in the lobby. I left the abortion clinic and decided to give my baby a chance at life.

I never believed abortion was good, and while my family advocated adoption, the father of my child insisted on my getting an abortion — even going as far as to pay for it. While I valued the life inside of me, I doubted my own value. I lacked confidence and a sense of self-worth and struggled to see in myself someone worthy of love or someone who was capable of raising a child. I thought that the stranger in the lobby would love me if I aborted my child. I was wrong.

Would an abortion worsen my mental health issues? The clinic worker couldn’t promise otherwise. The cold walls of that clinic would not be able to provide the support or guidance I was seeking. While I had no idea what waited for me outside the clinic doors, I knew that for my own mental health, as well as the life of my child, I would need to take a risk and find out.

With the help of my church and my doctor, I was connected to Bethlehem House. I showed up at the door 11 weeks pregnant, homeless and jobless, scared, with no sense of self-worth and serious mental health issues. I was worried that the staff would not accept the broken woman that stood before them, but instead, they took me in with a confidence I hoped to one day possess myself.

There I began taking financial and parenting classes and obtained a job, something that I had always struggled to keep. I was forming healthy relationships with the other women in my community, and I eventually gave birth to my miracle of a son, Jude. Despite the pure magic that emanated from his small body, my mental struggles began to get the best of me, and I fell into postpartum psychosis.

Thankfully, Bethlehem House had a plan in place to care for my newborn son and moved me to a hospital. While in the hospital, I got the help that I needed, and two weeks later, I returned to Bethlehem House to be the mother that Jude deserved.

Because of Bethlehem House, I got my life back on track and heal from the mental struggles that once consumed me. The people there encouraged me to not only become a great mother but a great woman as well. They helped me repair my relationship with my parents, find friends, pay off debt, finish college and keep my job as an early preschool teacher. Each morning I smile at my remarkable son as I watch him enter the classroom next to mine. Jude, along with all of the children I teach, is a constant testimony to the beauty and value of life.

Finding Bethlehem House and becoming a mother are the best things that have ever happened to me, and I can truly say that without Bethlehem House, I would probably be dead. While I hold immense pride and gratitude for the woman who left the abortion clinic, I no longer recognize her. Now, when I look in the mirror, I see a mother whose son loves her with every ounce of his being. I see a woman who had the strength to give her child the best life possible. But most importantly, I see a woman who against all odds, chose life and, with the help of true guardian angels, is now happier and healthier than she ever thought possible.

• Sarah Howarth lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

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