This article was originally published in Imprint Magazine, Grace Toronto.
As told to Valerie Lam
The sound of a baby’s cry, or the sight of moving images on an ultrasound projection usually stirs up joy and expectation. But in the case of unplanned pregnancy, the reactions can be quite the opposite: fear, uncertainty, anxiety. At the Pregnancy Care Centre, a faith-based organization that Grace Toronto recently partnered with through the Hope Toronto outreach program, volunteers have been able to show the women who come to the centre that they are not alone. Meet Alicia, a woman who came to the centre when she was eight weeks pregnant, after seeing more raised eyebrows than open arms from those she had told about her pregnancy. Here is her story.
The Little Seed
I had an unplanned pregnancy. I found out June 15, and the instant reaction my boyfriend at the time had was to have an abortion. In the family I was brought up in, we had respect for life, so that wasn’t an option for me. For weeks I had no idea what to do with this little seed. Even being an academic person, (Alicia was studying to become an accountant) you’d think I would know, but at that point as a new immigrant to Canada, I didn’t know where to go, and I didn’t have medical insurance. Going home to Trinidad wasn’t an option because I wanted to stay with my ex-boyfriend, work things out. I basically tried to read what I could on the Internet, and though I was living with my mom, we were estranged for 20 years, so there wasn’t much comfort from her even though she knew about my pregnancy and supported it. My ex-boyfriend didn’t want anything to do with me—he said I was more or less ruined in his eyes if I were to carry out with this pregnancy. He would pay for my school fees if I terminated the pregnancy—do anything, but have this baby.
One day he sent me an email with a link to the Pregnancy Care Centre and said I should check it out. Something drew me into it, even though I had no idea what kind of place it was — if it was pro-abortion or anti-abortion. I called their number and they briefly wanted to know about my situation. And I started to cry, I didn’t know what to do. My ex-boyfriend was pressuring me to have an abortion, but how could I have this baby? From my background in accounting, I knew how much it would cost, and in a strange place as an immigrant, I needed some sort of guidance. And they said, ‘Yes, come today!’
Gloom to Celebration
So we went together. My mind was just empty — I would go and sit and listen, find out what my options were. When I first arrived, the director, Linda, came and I was greeted by the entire staff. And Linda, she sat and was happy, you know? She said congratulations — nobody had congratulated me, and I was eight weeks along. I can’t remember anyone telling me congratulations. So at that point, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, somebody is actually welcoming my baby into this world.’ Then Linda showed us models and calculated the expected due date. I had done this on the computer, but to have a person share that information with me, it meant so much more. At that point no one was celebrating this pregnancy — it was like gloom for everyone else — and by that alone, I thought, this is probably what being pregnant for the first time ought to have felt like.
So Linda brought out a model and explained the present stage of the baby’s development. My ex-boyfriend didn’t want to see that. She was going to explain what abortion physically does, and then emotionally. And then he said, ‘I don’t want to know any of that. It’s too late for her to have an abortion. Just tell us what the options are.’ But I had told Linda, ‘No I want to have this baby.’ It seemed impossible, but I believe impossible things and that out of that, something could happen. After our conversation, Linda asked me, ‘What are your symptoms? I’m sure you’re not getting any sleep.’ I said, ‘Yes, that’s true. Apart from the stress, I’m not!’ And she said, ‘In a little bit you’ll start to go to the washroom more often’ and that presently what I was feeling was normal. She told me what to expect. It was like a mom. And I told her, ‘This is not the situation I expected to be in.’ She said, ‘Sometimes out of the darkness God puts you in, out of it a little baby’s going to arrive, and that’s like a light. You don’t know what could happen. This baby could change things for you. Even if he doesn’t want to have anything to do with it, it’s a life.’ And that’s when I started to refer to this little seed as a baby. At that point, I realized, it’s a celebration.
Three Months Later
Soon afterward, Linda scheduled an ultrasound for me with a doctor affiliated with the PCC. He was so kind, he did it for me free of charge. And I cannot tell you, I came in here thinking the world was going to end and I left the centre just… being hopeful and looking forward to that nine months. I knew it was going to be hard, but I was on that journey. I started to prepare myself mentally, and knowing it was going to be a boy.
But my story did not turn out to be like most. At the end of that journey, they said I would have a baby — I didn’t. After three months and six days, I had a miscarriage. I had what’s called a missed miscarriage: the baby’s heartbeat stopped. And I had no signs. I was in a state of disbelief. I called the centre because throughout those three months, they would stay in contact with me. They would pray for me when I felt weak. So I called them and told them, ‘Thank you, I can’t express what it meant even though I didn’t have a baby.’ I thought it was the end, and Linda wanted to pray for me. But at that point, I was angry at God and everyone else. But the second day I called her and said, ‘Yes, I want you to pray for me.’ Because we rely on our strength, but you need that spiritual strength to carry you through. Later, Linda tried to find a place where I could get a D and C (dilation and curettage), a surgical procedure performed after a first trimester miscarriage) because it was quite expensive. But I got one, still expensive, but my ex paid for it.
Through the Grief
But that wasn’t the end of my story. From there, I had a really hard time accepting what was happening. I blamed myself, thinking that I probably didn’t care enough for the baby. It was quite stressful because I still did not have support from my ex-boyfriend and he would constantly say, ‘Well, don’t expect me to be there. I could give you money but don’t expect me to be a dad to your baby.’ So for weeks I would still cry. I blamed my stress as what caused the baby to die. And I went into a depression. I had gone back to the centre after the D and C and they gave me books about grief and loss. Initially I didn’t want to read, but I was drawn to these books, and one of them was named Treasures in the Darkness. It talked about being on a journey. Even though there’s true loss, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You know, you refer back to Job and supposedly God had taken away all but it was a test of your faith and afterwards, Job was rewarded 10 times. So with all these stories, Linda and the staff were trying to engrain in me that I would come out of this. To make a long story short, I did come out of the depression but it was only out of God’s mercy, I think. I was in pieces and I more or less wanted to kill myself because I thought nobody cared. When you have people who supposedly love you, and they treat you like that, you think, what kind of world am I living in? I questioned everybody’s intentions. Why would they want to be friends with me?
But I constantly saw Linda and their centre. They didn’t want anything from me; what could I give them? And they were there, even while I was pregnant, after I was pregnant. And it got me thinking, ‘Probably there are some good people out there that are not self-absorbed. And they don’t ask what they can get out of a person, but they genuinely care. For them to care and celebrate the little life of a three-month-old … they are good people. I had given up my life to Christ, and I was in pieces, like I said, but it’s through Him. He made me whole again. And I know that my little one is up there with Him. I keep a necklace with me with tiny baby shoes, and it has his name, Araiya, and three stones to signify the day he was conceived, the day he passed, and his expected due date. Araiya passed on August 20. There’s no shame in bringing a baby into the world, no matter what people say. The Pregnancy Care Centre makes a world of a difference to the baby.