Helping At-Risk Mothers
Updated: Apr 12
Do women you know, and visiting your church, know who they can talk with about a past abortion or current pregnancy where they will not be judged, shamed, or gossiped about? Do women see women at the altar who they can confide in for repentance or prayer when invitations are given? Are women and men in your church trained as first responders? Here is a quick read on the basics of how babies are saved in pregnancy centers, and how babies can be saved in your congregation.
From the Father
Ministry is about relationship. First, with our Heavenly Father and then with others. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing.” We need to accept the grace of Jesus for our own sin and then allow the love of God to flow through us to others. Every conversation begins with our own silent prayer for help. God’s Holy Spirit is the most important person in any conversation, especially when a human life and a human soul are at stake. We can watch God’s Spirit transform someone’s life right in front of us when we are in relationship with the Father and willing to let God work through us in relationship with others.
Ministry Not Manipulation
Ministry is not about us. It’s not about our story or who we are or how much we know. It’s about the other person. People know when we care. It’s obvious if we are giving unconditional love (expecting nothing in return). This is often communicated through our undivided attention. Through listening. Not looking at our watch. Not looking out the window. But looking at them. Seeing them. We are focused on them, on hearing, on understanding, on helping. We are not there to manipulate them.
If you can argue or manipulate someone into a decision, then someone else can come right after you and argue or manipulate them in the other direction. She just wants someone to listen, care, and be there. Don’t tell her what to do. Don’t manipulate her to do what you want her to do. If it were your decision, you would always choose life. But it’s not your decision. It’s hers. You love her expecting nothing in return. You know how to love because you know the Father’s love for you. Love is powerful. And being there for her is often all a woman needs to choose life for her baby.
Anyone God brings across our path is a chance to do ministry, which means a chance to love and engage in conversation that ministers to them. In a pregnancy center, we minister to a young mother, a donor, a community partner, or a pastor as divine appointments. There is a reason God is bringing this person to you. Discover it. God has divinely appointed this moment where we can serve someone else.
You aren’t better than they are, but rather humble toward them, serving them. You don’t assume you know what they need, you ask what they need. You’re going to take the time to truly listen and offer unconditional love in genuineness and humility.
When someone trusts that you truly care and they are not just a number to you, or a notch on your belt, they will hear even difficult truths from you, because they know that you care. You are “speaking the truth in love”. They can hear because you’ve established your love for them.
Be aware when having conversations at church that someone is probably overhearing you who has had an abortion or is considering an abortion. Are your words filled with grace? And truth? “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” Are you speaking words of life? Or are you repeating what you hear from our culture of death? For the woman calling a church or pregnancy center, that first interaction over the phone is the most important conversation and may be the difference between life and death. That’s why pregnancy centers put their most skilled advocates answering the phone 24/7.
Whether in the setting of a church or a Pregnancy Center (for those who would never step foot in a church), there is never a dead-end of services, or “no, we don’t do that”. You ask questions until you find out why God has led them to call you. Every phone call is a divine appointment. And if you don’t answer when she calls, she won’t call twice.
Because ministry is all about relationship, you want a comfortable, private place to talk. You want a space where it is comfortable to hang out. It may be a yard with a privacy fence where other children can play at a safe distance, or a comfortable seating area with calming colors. If someone comes to you after a church service, respect their privacy by finding a quiet room where you can chat without someone overhearing. You want them to feel comfortable sharing with you whatever they need to share.
If someone hears you gossiping about others, you will not be a safe person to help anyone. In a Pregnancy Center setting, if she asks you what you would do, or what you think they should do, ask them what they want to do or what they think they should do. Don’t put a value judgement on what she says. This is not about you. This is about them. This is not a time to share your story. This is a time to listen to theirs.
Before the Test
Women decide if they will abort their child within six seconds of a positive pregnancy test. If in a setting such as a Pregnancy Center where a pregnancy test is being given, or in a church setting before she takes a pregnancy test, most of the conversation occurs before there’s ever a positive pregnancy test.
Through active listening and open-ended questions, you listen for what her greatest fear is, what her external and internal pressures are, and what she personally needs to carry her baby to birth. Maybe she’s facing immense obstacles but is excited about her pregnancy and just needs someone to congratulate and be happy for her because no one else in her life is. Maybe, like one young teenager I helped, she’s homeless but needs decorations for a baby’s room to have hope. Her needs don’t have to make sense to you. But they are her needs, nevertheless.
To prevent crisis mode over seeing a positive pregnancy test, have those conversations of what she plans to do if it is a positive test. And if she is saying terms to indicate an abortion is something she’s considering, walk through her options – parenting, abortion, or placing her baby in a loving home through adoption. As long as she chooses life for her child, she has nine months to decide what kind of parenting she will choose – single parenting, shared parenting, married and parenting, parenting with help, choosing the parents through adoption, etc. If she chooses abortion her choices are over. Let her know that you are there for her and her baby. Then be there for her.
Out of Crisis
None of us make good decisions when we are in crisis. Our cognitive skills go offline and our survival skills take over. So, a big part of what helps a woman choose life for her child is to help her out of crisis and then help her think through her situation and needs. Sometimes that means meeting her immediate needs. It almost always means sitting down and having a conversation. What is she most afraid of? What are her hopes and dreams?
Most of what a woman needs is for someone to take the time, slow down, and truly listen. It may take an hour or it may take four hours. Active listening involves repeating what she says, rephrasing what she says, listening for emotion, and asking open-ended questions. Repeat her most emphatic statements without question. If she says her father will kill her if she’s pregnant, repeat it as if it is a fact so she can hear herself. Then let her correct the statement so she hears herself saying that it’s really not that bad, or expound to you how she knows her father will really kill her.
Ninety percent of communication is body language. Don’t look at your watch. Turn off your phone and have it in another room. Concentrate on her. Have an open posture. Keep eye contact. Be intent on what she is saying. Listen well. Don’t think about what you will say. Let there be pregnant pauses, if need be. Don’t touch her. Let her process. The purpose is not the information you want from her, the purpose is that she hears herself. There may be a lot of voices clamoring at her, but what does she want? You may be the first quiet place where someone isn’t telling her what to do and she can really process her own thoughts and feelings. Fortunately, God has placed within every mother a desire to protect and love her children. It’s there, somewhere. Listen for it. Repeat it back to her so she can hear it.
Questions We Can Ask
It’s important to ask only one question at a time. You are trying to decrease stress. Rapid fire questions increase stress. Here are some ideas of open-ended questions: If you’re pregnant today, how far along in pregnancy do you think you are? May I show you what your baby would look like at this age? Who in your life will support you in this pregnancy? Do you have a support system like a family or a church family? Have you had this conversation with the father? Tell me about the father. How can I be of help to you? If she’s expressing anxiety about being a mother, what is your biggest fear about being a mother? Did you choose to engage in sex with the father? What do you need to choose to carry your baby to birth?
No one is argued into carrying their baby to birth. Slow down. Take a breath. Listen. Ask questions. Ask and trust God to do the work in her heart and mind that need to be done. Let God give you the words and questions to ask.
With Every Temptation
God promises with every temptation He will provide a way out. Abortion is a temptation for many women, and God promises a way out. Look for that way out with them. Trust that there is always a way out. Pray that God helps you and her to find it.
When Tears Come
It’s alright for the tears to fall down your own cheeks as you empathize with her. You’re not a robot. You care. And you feel. It’s called human connection.
Don’t touch her while she’s processing. Don’t stand between her and a doorway. Ask before you hug her when she leaves if she seems like she would like a hug.
Most people do not know what the developmental stages of a baby are, what the various procedures are that cause an abortion, what the short term and long-term risks are for the mother, how modern adoption works, or what resources are available when she chooses to carry. Learn the facts. Make sure after listening well that you provide accurate information in a professional manner. Don’t be afraid to connect sex with pregnancy and pregnancy with childbirth. Because no one else is.
Modern adoption has saved many children’s lives. Through modern adoption, the biological mother gets to interview and choose the parents she wants to raise her baby and how involved she wants to be in her child’s life. She can specify the race, faith, and geography of the adoptive parents she’s looking for. She can choose how her birthing experience will go and if she’d like an adoption ceremony. She can choose to have her baby baptized or circumcised. She can choose adoption and then change her mind after birth before the paperwork is signed. As long as social services is not involved, her child will not go into foster care but directly from her to the adoptive parents. She can choose to try to parent, and if she finds it is too difficult or overwhelming for her, she can also choose adoption later.
Scripture says, “without vision, my people perish.” Our culture has stolen the positive vision of motherhood, the preciousness of children, and the honor of parenting. Sometimes a woman doesn’t know that she can be a great mom, or what being a mom means. Ask God for a vision for her and tell her what you see. Maybe she’s already a great mom to her other children, and you can see her being a great mom to this baby, too.
Unlike social services that simply provide services, ministry (through relationship) requires conversations over time. It’s easy to assume we know what they need, and often we try to offer the solution before we’ve fully understood the need. Until we understand why they would want to abort, we haven’t listened enough. And once we can understand why they may want to abort, we can’t stay with them there. We need to reach our hand into the pit where they are and help them up. We need to listen for what she’s telling us she needs, and then we can offer the community resources available to meet her specific needs. We can use every visit to get diapers or attend a parenting class as an opportunity for conversation and ministry.
There is nothing wrong with an “unplanned” pregnancy. More than half of all live births are “unplanned”. We also need to get away from saying “crisis pregnancy”. The pregnancy is not causing the crisis, it’s only putting a magnifying glass on the problems that are there whether she is pregnant or not. If she is poor while pregnant, she’ll still be poor if she’s not. Homelessness, relationship problems, unemployed, … those problems don’t go away if she stops being pregnant. Those are the real issues to be solved. Pregnancy can be the catalyst for her to create a better future for herself as she creates a better environment for her child.
When you do speak, make your words count. “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” Always speak life. If she’s not considering an abortion, then there’s no need to make that one of her options. Humanize her baby, because her baby is human. If she’s pregnant, she is a mother. She is carrying her daughter or son. Her baby is a he or she, not an “it”. Nothing will change that she will have always been a mother and she will have always had a child. Her child feels emotions and pain. Love puts the needs of others ahead of our own. Putting her child’s needs before her own is what makes her a great mother.
Fetal models can save lives. Ask if you can show her what her child looks like at this stage of development. And place the baby model in her hand, or if the father is there, place in his hand. Talk about her child’s development at this stage. At 21 days, her baby has a heartbeat. By just a few weeks her baby has a face. Her baby has brain waves by six weeks and can feel pain by 7 weeks. Her baby has little fingers and toes, and even by day one the shape of her baby’s nose is already determined. Will her baby have her pretty smile or the color of her hair?
Meet the Need
After you have thoroughly listened and gained an understanding where she is coming from, ask if she’s considered some of the resources available in the community to address her fears, desires, and needs. If you don’t know the resources, let her know you will help research them for her. She may have multiple needs such as housing, transportation, drug rehabilitation, clothing, etc. It’s always helpful to offer everything she needs to bring baby home, whether through a Pregnancy Center or baby shower. That is a huge financial burden lifted.
Unlike her one-night stand, your conversation isn’t a “one and done”. Follow-up within twenty-four hours while she still remembers you. Ask her how she’s doing. Before you finish the first conversation, already have scheduled her next appointment or when the two of you will talk again. For ladies who have their abortion appointments already scheduled, and they need a lot of emotional support, they may need a phone conversation every few days. Call before they would be leaving for the abortion clinic.
Share the Journey
It’s important that you call her throughout pregnancy, weekly or monthly, depending on her level of need, and as long as she needs the support. Wrap around other support, as well. Ask her permission to talk with a support person at a church who can welcome and introduce her to other believers who can share taking her to doctors’ appointments, inviting her to a small group Bible study, and even throw a baby shower. Maybe invite her to sit with you at church and then introduce her to others who can help. If the mother is a family member, make sure to involve an advocate from a Pregnancy Center and/or others from the church so that you are not her only support person. Develop a relationship with Mom so that you are the first person she calls when she's having a rough day.
The Difference A Man Can Make
Over half of women who experience an abortion report that they felt coerced to abort. The support of one man in her life can be the difference between life and death. Most mothers will choose to carry if at least one man supports her and her pregnancy. Find a mentor for the father. Find a pastor, deacon, uncle, cousin, or her own father who is a male figure in her life to support her pregnancy.
Ultrasound is a tool within the context of relationship. The Advocate or friend helping Mom should be in the room along with the father and as many family members as possible. It matters how the sonographer is talking about the baby. Words like “fetus” are dehumanizing; it’s like introducing your best friend as a homo sapien. The translation of “fetus” into English is “young one” or “little one”. “Your baby” is appropriate.
Love is transformative. Loving others provides a platform to plant the seeds of truth and the good news of Jesus into their lives. We earn their trust to be able to speak truth. And the truth will set them free. Jesus can help them out of a place of fear, out of abuse or multiple partners, drugs, or whatever has brought them to this place. Adults in crisis are the most receptive to the gospel. Pregnancy has caught their attention. Regardless what they choose, their life will not be the same. A baby is created by God and is a blessing. For that teenager, a baby may help them change their lifestyle and mature into a loving adult. Pregnant mothers who do the best are those who surrender their lives to Christ and are surrounded by the support of a loving church family.
When Abortion Becomes Illegal
When abortion becomes illegal, the need for caring believers to walk alongside women, and men, during pregnancy - and beyond - will continue. Right now, most women have no idea this kind of support is available to them. Announce from your pulpit and in your circle of friends that there are people who care, not just during pregnancy but as long as she needs a mentor and a friend. Consider being that person for someone God brings to you through divine appointment. When you surrender your life to the will of the Father, educate yourself, and make yourself available, you may be surprised how many moms and dads God brings your way.