Elsa* came to Pregnancy Aid Clinic as a referral from PATH (Post Abortion Treatment and Healing). She was 35, a mother of eight and recovering alcoholic/drug addict. Elsa had been clean for eight months at the time and every day was a struggle. So much so, that she was getting ready to end her life when a stranger found her and brought her to see a colleague of ours at PATH.
When we first saw Elsa, she was shaking and barely able to form coherent thoughts. She feared she was pregnant, but she had so much more to be concerned about. She told us she was given alcohol at five years old and sexually assaulted. The 20-something years that followed were a haze of destructive events, abusive relationships, drugs, alcohol and negativity. She didn’t remember giving birth – not to any of her eight children. Four of her children were being cared for by other family members and the youngest four were in the DFCS system. She did not want to be pregnant and said she would have to abort if she was. Elsa was afraid pregnancy would affect her sobriety.
Her pregnancy test was positive, and her ultrasound revealed an eight-week fetus with a beautiful beating heart. Elsa was moved. She changed her mind and said she was going to parent her child, although she knew it would jeopardize her sobriety. She said this might be her last chance to “get it right.” Living in a group home, without a job or any way to support herself, she knew this wouldn’t be easy.
During her pregnancy she visited us often for mentoring and she developed close relationships with many women at the clinic. She prayed with us, we prayed for her. She applied for Pregnancy Medicaid and we walked through the steps of applying and finding a doctor. Upon her request to learn more about adoption, we arranged a meeting with a colleague who used to work at DFCS and an adoption agency to give her options and discuss the laws in the State of Georgia. Because of her past history with drugs, she understood that DFCS could step in at her baby’s birth. However, if she were to form an adoption plan she would be in control and choose the family for her baby. We continued to work with her, support her and respect her decision to parent.
In her ninth month, I got a call early on a Saturday morning from my colleague at PATH. Elsa had given birth to a beautiful baby girl about three hours earlier – by cesarean section with no medication. She refused the pain medication she could have received as it would have jeopardized her 14 months of sobriety. She had decided to place her daughter for adoption and wanted me to come to the hospital. And she wanted me to hurry, because if DFCS got there first she was afraid her daughter would go into “the system.” I called the adoption agency Elsa expressed an interest in in our earlier discussions and they promised to send a representative the next day. Georgia State Law requires that adoption paperwork can only be signed 48 hours after a C-section, but she wanted to get a plan in place. Elsa was only receiving Tylenol and Motrin through an IV and was in excruciating pain, but resolute. She did not want to see her daughter, but asked me to hold her because she wanted her baby to feel loved prior to going to her new family.
I held her and told her how much her Mom loved her. Loved her enough to make a heartbreakingly beautiful decision. Loved her enough to want the very best for her. Loved her enough to choose life, and then loved her enough to give her up for adoption. Elsa did not want to choose the adoptive family, instead she told the adoption representative that she wanted her child to go the family who had been waiting the longest.
After 48 hours she signed the paperwork and checked herself out of the hospital a day early because “being that close to her daughter was breaking her heart.” She waited until the family had been chosen, and then left.
I’m not sure I know anyone as strong as Elsa. I understand she is still struggling, but remains sober. She misses her baby. At PAC, we support our Moms no matter their decision. And learn from them. This one taught us about love…true, unfaltering, absolute love.
*Name has been changed for client confidentiality.
Colleen Walsh Berg has been advocating for women and life since 2005 where she volunteered and worked for another pregnancy resource center in Atlanta. Colleen came to PAC in 2015 as a Client Advocate and is now Director of Clinics. She has been a member of St. Brigid Respect Life Committee since 2006 and chaired the committee 2014-2016.
Colleen's heart is so strongly seated in the PAC mission. Her passion for helping women and families shines through everything she does at PAC and beyond. She can be reached at email@example.com.