By: Faith Downing
I remember clearly waddling into Birthright on a hot August day, clutching a folder with my resume in one hand and cradling my very present baby bump with another. To most organizations, I was not an ideal job candidate, being nearly seven months pregnant with a maternity leave and major life overhaul on the impending horizon. Where many might have seen loads of inconvenience, the women at Birthright saw my potential and didn’t let motherhood or the adjustments that come along with it cause them to shy away from giving me a chance. I was hired and was warmly and genuinely welcomed into a work life culture where I was asked not only what I could bring, but how I could be accommodated as a working mom.
From day one of my position at Birthright, my motherhood was celebrated and supported.. Only a few months into knowing the women of Birthright, they graciously threw me a baby shower with handmade gifts and cards. They rallied around me with words of encouragement and advice as I prepared to bring my son into the world. Their kindness did not stop after the birth of my son. During those early postpartum days, I received calls and texts with kind messages and encouragement from Birthright volunteers and staff. I returned to work a few months later, with his pumpkin seat in one hand and diaper bag in another, not an eye was batted, other than to widen in joy at the sight of us both.
When I announced my second pregnancy, I was again met with joy—and months down the road, another baby shower, complete with a home baked cake and a sibling gift for my son. Despite the nonprofit status of Birthright, I was given paid maternity leave to aid my transition into being a mother of two. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and just like my son in his infancy, she came to the office with me on most days. A lavish of love and praise surrounded us each time we entered the door at Birthright. Recently, I announced my third, somewhat unexpected pregnancy. Just like the last two pregnancies, I was asked how I could be accommodated during the pregnancy and postpartum transition.
When I joined the Birthright staff, I knew I would be supporting the belief and mission that women deserve to be surrounded by the care and support of a village as they make decisions surrounding pregnancy, birth and beyond. What I never expected was how much I would be on the receiving end of that mission. It has moved me deeply to watch over the years as Birthright has continued to rally around woman after woman, championing her in her ability to choose motherhood, validating her struggles, meeting her where she is at and asking her how she can be supported. Whether she walks through the door wondering if she is pregnant, unsure of what to do or comes with needs while already nearing the end of pregnancy; I have watched as each time, she is welcomed graciously and genuinely. Reflecting back now, I see how much of my own story is echoed in the kindness and support received by each of these women—women who Birthright rallied around, fought for, cheered on and believed in, in the same way they did for me.
My time at Birthright empowered me in my motherhood, highlighting the blessings and assuring me that the burdens were never ones I would shoulder alone. I was empowered as a woman outside of motherhood. I was never shamed for my role as a mom, never reduced to being thought of as “only” a mom. I was always treated professionally, taken seriously and respected and appreciated for the skills I brought as an individual—in the same way that Birthright seeks to serve the whole woman and see her for who she is as a unique person.
In fact, if I could use any image to describe Birthright or my time there personally, it would be: a celebration of women. At Birthright there is a spot at the table for every woman regardless of her circumstances with enough space for every burden she carries and scar she bears. At Birthright St. Charles, every woman’s voice matters, every word of her story falls onto ears eager to hear her, and every part of her is uplifted and tended to with sincerity. At Birthright, her needs are not inconveniences but opportunities, and her dreams are never too high to reach for. Her joy is echoed by the volunteers and counselors who form her support team, her sorrows shared by them in turn.
Now, more than ever, women need and deserve the support of a village—others willing to come alongside them and enter into their hardships, such as the difficulty of an unplanned pregnancy. When I waddled into Birthright on that hot August day years ago, I didn’t realize that I was walking into a village of women who would love and support me unconditionally, radically empower me to realize my full potential and leave the imprint of their generosity forever upon my life and the lives of my children.