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  • August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month!

    “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – Art Williams

    Since the beginning of time mothers have breastfed their young.  It is as natural and organic as breathing. In every aspect of the world and every species on the planet it is there. The connection between mother and young during this simple act is one of the most profound in the human experience and there is no comparison.

    The grace that flows naturally from a woman is a unique strength. Not only has she the power to sustain a life within her own body but even after birth her body still brings life and nourishment to her child.

    One of the many beautiful superpowers a woman possesses.

    Breastfeeding is not always easy and is not always a beautiful experience. I can recall my own obstacles with my oldest child even years later. The late nights, the fatigue, the frustration of both mom and baby at not being able to latch on properly. But once again I was not alone. There were other women who had been there and knew. They understood. The resources I was given, the patience, the encouragement was yet another testament to the capabilities and communion between women.

    Despite working hard to maintain breastfeeding and pumping milk daily my daughter decided that she had had enough at about 6 months old. I remember feeling tender about it and even a bit rejected. This was natural I realized. As soon as you become a mother they begin separating from you. Your child is her own unique person, unlike any other.

    I would not change those times for anything, the quiet of the night, the curve of my baby’s head in my arms as she nestled. There is nothing that compares.

    My second child was a bit different in every sense of the word. Due to health concerns sadly, I was unable to breastfeed for very long and had to turn towards formula for my child. Formula is not horrible. It contains the nutrients your baby needs without a doubt. I will not proclaim to say it is worse or better. Like many mothers who are unable to breastfeed I found bottle feeding still a treasured moment with my child. A fleeting time for sure, but a gift just the same.

    There are a multitude of benefits to breastfeeding not the least of which is the possibility of losing pregnancy weight! There is also a myriad of breastfeeding resources in the community –

    La Leche League – llli.org

    PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support) – peps.org

    WIC – wicbreastfeeding.fns.usada.gov

    And for more help or questions – there’s Next Step! (425)329-4569

  • “If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” John 15(v18-19),

    Dear Friends of Next Step,

    I would like to touch on something that I think we can all agree has become quite a tool for evil, especially in recent months with so many people relegated to living life behind their phones and laptops. Social Media – it is like a bucket of beautiful shiny red apples – but as you sift through you realize that was only the top layer and the rest is rotten.

    Earlier this week I received an email recommending I create a Next Step Pregnancy Services business page for the Next Door application, which is an application for neighbors and neighborhoods to connect on local events, issues, buying and selling things and the like; the app gets a lot of traffic I’ll say. It sounded like a sound idea to get the word out about Next Step and our services, so I created a page with our services, our mission, and our location and contact info.

    Not ten minutes later I got a notification of a comment, and then another one, and another. It went on all day. The comments were centered primarily on pregnancy care centers as a whole and why these few people believe pregnancy centers are anti woman, deceiving women into coming in, working without medical regulations or medical personnel, withholding contraception, pushing religious agendas, and the list goes on and on…. There were even comments about what Next Step’s stance was on Referendum 90 and sex education courses and ended with an invite from one neighbor to another to join “Catholics for Choice.”

    As you can imagine I was fairly blown away by the viciousness and negativity. You would think I would not have been given Facebook and Twitter and the like spewed out there, but I guess I just thought – it is a business listing for our services, end of. To make a long story short, I did answer the legitimate questions about Next Step Pregnancy’s services, confirmed we are a pro-life organization, confirmed we do indeed have licensed medical professionals to boot. And I thanked the few people who chimed in in our defense. Thankfully there were a few.

    I contemplated removing the business site from Next Door but in the end decided against it. Next Step Pregnancy Services is a beautiful, compassionate, and life-saving place that puts the health and well-being of families, including the precious unborn – first. And we will not back down, we will not be silent about the sanctity of all life, and we will not be cowed into compromising our faith. We are pro-woman. A woman is more than capable enough to be a mother, planned or unplanned. Make no mistake, this is a battle. We can do it.

    “He has chosen us out of the world.”

  • “What Does it mean to Empower Women?”

    “The woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.”

    ~ St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

    Pope John Paul II once described women’s unique capabilities as “feminine genius”.  In his beautiful “Letter to Women” written from the Vatican in 1995 before he addressed the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, he went on to describe women as “having a particular and special sensitivity to the human person”.

    Further he said,A woman is strong because of the fact that God has entrusted the human being to her. It is this awareness of this entrusting that makes her strong.

    From the Vatican, 29 June 1995, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

    What a beautifully true sentiment. Women are strong. Women are resilient. Women are capable and always have been. The modern women do not seem to comprehend her own worth. Her own value and capacity for fulfillment and achievement. It is there. And has been.

    “I do not wish to give (women) a first place, still less a second one- but the complete freedom to take their true place, whatever it may be.” ~ Elizabeth Blackwell

    Pioneers of women’s rights knew it and fought for it. They shine a light to the world about what women could accomplish and should be recognized as. Fully functioning equals. Integral, valuable, resilient and full of promise.

    It seems today a lot of what is churned out in the name of feminism is contrived, stony, and intolerant. Independence is pushed at the cost of connection. Self-sufficiency at the cost of nurturing. Toughness is encouraged as a replacement for tenderness. To terminate a child held in the womb is decreed a right.

    No! This is a serious distortion on womanhood, and we all suffer as a result.

    Again in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “the face of women the reflection of a beauty which mirrors the loftiest sentiments of which the human heart is capable: the self-offering totality of love; the strength that is capable of bearing the greatest sorrows; limitless fidelity and tireless devotion to work; the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement. — Blessed John Paul II Redemptoris Mater (46)

  • A Day in the Life
    
    
    
    
    

    There is a right time for everything:

    A time to be born; A time to die; A time to plant; A time to harvest;
    A time to kill; A time to heal; A time to destroy; A time to rebuild;
    A time to cry; A time to laugh; A time to grieve; A time to dance;
    A time for scattering stones; A time for gathering stones; A time to hug;
    A time not to hug;
    A time to find; A time to lose; A time for keeping; A time for throwing away;
    A time to tear; A time to repair; A time to be quiet; A time to speak up;
    A time for loving; A time for hating; A time for war; A time for peace.

    What does one really get from hard work? 10 I have thought about this in connection with all the various kinds of work God has given to mankind. 11 Everything is appropriate in its own time. But though God has planted eternity in the hearts of men, even so, many cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 (TLB)

    What does a day in the life of a pregnancy services center look like right now? We all know that every day things are changing. For good or bad the sun continues to rise each morning and continues to set each evening. What is constant if not the sun? And deeper than that is the desire to live, to breathe and be vital. And how can these needs be met in times like these? Lovingly, creatively and without pause.

    Each morning the lights come on and the first order of business is cleaning. Music on, gloves on, and armed with Clorox we walk from room to room, door to door wiping down desks, counters, sinks, light switches, doorknobs, chairs, keyboards, phones and finally the coffee pot! Floors are swept while joe brews. Computers are turned on and the door is unlocked ready to welcome those in need.

    The first family comes in. Mom cradling a sleeping little girl while her other two children cling to her pant legs. She stands within the blue square on the floor as asked while I look up her profile. Diapers size 2, 3, and 5. Blessed with wipies I can hand out two packs to her grateful smile. Cereal and fruit? Yes! Now for some clothes. Explaining that our boutique is temporarily closed I pick out 3 or 4 summer outfits for each of her children and fold carefully into waiting bags. Big brown eyes smile at me from behind mom’s leg as I offer little blue teddy bears that were just donated.

    Another knock on the door and a masked head pokes in. Upon seeing the woman and her family the new client waits without to help us maintain the social distancing. I finish up with this young mom and she leaves inviting the other family inside and the process starts again.

    Another woman comes into the center uncertainty etched on her young face. She’s hoping for a pregnancy test. She has missed her period and is just feeling off. Can we help? Her boyfriend is waiting in the car. The nurse takes her temperature and gives her a mask to wear in the consultation room. She sits down with the nurse. She’s not sure when her last cycle was but feels sure she’s pregnant. The nurse helps her with a urinary test and gives her the news. They sit together for a long while talking.

    Families come and go. Several women come in alone asking for formula and one is hoping for a stroller. We all stand apart from one another smiling in hopes the welcome is felt. I help a happy father carry out a high chair and a nice exersaucer, his smile of thanks warm and genuine.

    The doors and counters are wiped down again and again. Several calls asking if we are open or closed because of the virus.

    The nurse finally comes out with the young girl and I am asked to set up an ultrasound 2 weeks from now. The smile is hesitant and wavering. And after she leaves the small Next Step team sit down in a larger circle to separate and pray. The young girl is happy to be with child but young and unsure. She thinks her boyfriend will be happy but what if he isn’t? So we pray. For peace and comfort for the girl and for the health of her and her unborn baby and we pray we’ll see her in two weeks for her ultrasound.

    In the back we are gloved up and donation bags are unpacked and soft little onsies are sorted into piles by size. Warm sleepers are stored in winter boxes and colorful summer dresses are hung up. More coffee is made as envelopes are stickered ready for mailing. Thank you cards are written and plans are made.

    The day starts to wane and we do final wipe downs of the office. We close the doors and say our goodbyes. A lot of families were helped today. A lot of smiles were seen. I feel good about our day. It was a good one despite the ever changing landscape outside. We’ll do it all again tomorrow and feel blessed at what our ministry brings to the community and to our own lives.

  • Blog

    My Mom

    “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

    From The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh
    by A.A. Milne.

    When I was roughly 10 years old one of the neighborhood moms called to me from her driveway as I meandered up and down the cracked sidewalk in front of our house in Kent. I was uncharacteristically on my own that day rather than trailing my older brother around or stealing off into the woods with the other neighborhood kids as was a typical afternoon for me.

    I reluctantly stopped and leaned on my old red bike at the foot of her drive. I did not care for her. For some unexplainable reason she had always made me feel anxious and wary. She had three kids. One was a boy a little older then myself and the other two were girls a bit younger than I. We played together on occasion coming together naturally as neighborhood kids do on those long Summer days when everyone is outside until the street lights come on (mind you this was the 80s). Though I cannot say we were friends. Just kids in the same proximity and both with the same need for someone else to make the game or make-believe venture more fun.

    That day though I was alone and stood warily waiting to see what – we’ll call her Mrs. Gunn – wanted. What she said was this, “Hey you. You aren’t allowed over here anymore. I’ve had three kids come to me to tell me you are using the “Eff” word. That’s despicable.” She snarled these words at me and waved me away like a fly. I remember standing stiff with shock and being annoyed that my lower lip was trembling a bit.

    What? The “Eff” word? That was the biggie. I knew what it was because I’d heard my father often uttering a colorful string of words that included this one in the driveway under the car or in his shop. But I had never SAID it out loud! God would have heard me! In fact I was a rather quiet kid (at that time…) who said very little let alone the “Eff” word!

    I remember finally getting back on my bike and peddling quickly away from Mrs. Gunn her wild eyed face still vivid. I tossed my bike on our driveway and galloped inside my house. My mother was in the kitchen and I went straight to her. It was then that those hot tears seeped out of my eyes and down my cheeks. I hiccupped my way through the terrible scene with Mrs. Gunn assuring her I’d never in a million billion millennia said THAT word and my mother listened with her arm around me. Now my mother was a quiet woman. Always around. Comfortable and soft. She had green eyes and curly hair. She colored with me a lot and her pages always looked so beautiful and brilliant.

    After I finished telling her what had happened she patted my arm and walked to the phone hanging on the wall in the kitchen. I watched as she dialed a number and then delivered what I still remember to this day as the most awesome verbal takedown of anyone ever. Mrs. Gunn didn’t know who she was messing with. That was it. I have no idea what Mrs. Gunn said back but I know what my mom said. And her ferocity was a sight to behold.

    Mrs. Gunn never said a word to me again after that day and in fact neither did her children much. I was content. Riding my red bike, playing with the other kids, and reading my books. And life moved on. But thirty-four years later I still remember how my mom had my back.

    May is the month celebrating mothers. Those beautiful and gritty beings who at once are gentle and constant but also fierce and protective. Mothers will sacrifice their very selves for their children if they need to. There is nothing like the love of a mom.

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