“I don’t know if I’m good enough to be her mother,” she sobbed as I held her newborn daughter in my arms.
Not much had gone right in Rose’s life. Her first memory of violence occurred at a mere three years old. Adopted into one abusive family from another, she struggled to maintain healthy relationships. She dropped out of high school. On her eighteenth birthday she was left at a homeless shelter. A few weeks later, she was pregnant with her daughter.
She sat before me at nineteen years of age, broken and frightened. How could she be a mom, if she had never known a loving mother?
Parenting, in and of itself, is a difficult undertaking. In poverty, the challenges can be magnified. Families are broken. Domestic violence is common. Substance abuse, criminal activity, and mental illness are prevalent. Jobs are kept for weeks or months, rather than years.
Government assistance is available. These women can receive food stamps, health insurance, and childcare. But it’s not enough.
Even though nineteen-year-old Rose qualified for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) , what she desperately needed was a support system.
In response to the needs of women like Rose, the pro-life movement has given birth to hundreds of maternity homes throughout the country. Maggie’s Place, a Phoenix-based charity that provides houses of hospitality to homeless pregnant and parenting women, offers a hand up rather than a handout. Mothers are welcomed into a community filled with love and dignity, where they live side-by-side with volunteers who work to help them achieve their goals.
At Maggie’s Place, Rose had more than shelter, food, and baby supplies. She lived with nine other women who all wanted to see her thrive. Rose enrolled in childbirth, parenting, and GED classes. A loving volunteer stayed by her side through her daughter’s birth. Through in-home counseling, she worked through the trauma of her childhood. Living in community helped her overcome codependency and gave her confidence in her worth as a woman. She also found strength in prayer, and could often be heard singing praise to God from the other side of the house. She left Maggie’s Place when her daughter was nine months old, working as a receptionist, and on her path to independence.
Some say it takes a village to raise a child, often to justify government welfare spending. However, what it really takes is someone in the village to listen to a meth-addicted, unemployed, pregnant felon and accept her without qualification. Someone to believe that she, though broken, is capable of healing and succeeding. Someone to weather the storm by her side.
Mother Teresa said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread." The essence of the pro-life movement is predicated upon upholding the inherent dignity of each human life, no matter the baggage and failings. What maternity homes strive to do, as a part of this movement, is to accompany women in their pursuit to give their children better lives.
Rose once told me that having her daughter at Maggie’s Place was the best thing that ever happened to her. Her success, and the success of many mothers in crisis, hinges on whether someone is there to tell her,
“You are enough.”
Tia Westhoff currently serves as house manager for The Michael House, a Maggie’s Place home named in honor of St. Michael the Archangel. She is a Spring 2016 alum of The John Jay Institute.