The Women’s Care Center is a pregnancy resource center started in South Bend in 1984. This one small center has grown and flourished and now serves women across the country with 34 centers in 12 states. Here in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, there are 10 Women’s Care Centers providing care and compassion to women and their children.
When women come to the Women’s Care Center, oftentimes they can be overwhelmed and scared by what a pregnancy will mean for them. Each woman who walks through their doors is welcomed through a model of radical hospitality, allowing each woman to be served and met exactly where she is. The counselors at the Women’s Care Center take the time to learn her story, see her strengths, and empower her to make a decision for life.
One important tool in serving these women is the ability to do ultrasounds, giving women the opportunity to actually see their baby on the ultrasound screen. Last year, in the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, 6,870 ultrasounds were performed at the Women’s Care Center. One first-time mother, Kristina Ferraro, described her experience and said, “Getting an ultrasound at the Women’s Care Center felt like I was at home. It was super comfortable, warm, and welcoming. And seeing my baby onscreen was the best sight ever. She was dancing around so much, it was as if she knew we were watching her. And the sound of her heartbeat was the most reassuring sound.”
Robin Elkins-Martin is one of the ultrasound technicians for the Fort Wayne locations. She spoke of her time at the Women’s Care Center and said, “I have been a diagnostic medical sonographer for many years. I have worked in multiple states while performing several different modalities of ultrasound, however, working here with Women’s Care Center has been one of the most rewarding and satisfying positions I’ve held in my 25+ years. This position has allowed me to meet our young ladies and see the strength and challenges they have, and to encourage, enlighten, and teach when necessary as I follow them through their journey. Whether I’m beaming with excitement and pride because of what they have accomplished, or giving them a hug and crying with them, spending that time with them is the favorite part of my position.”
This emphasis on ministering to the whole person is one that was echoed by many of the ultrasound technicians. Anna Balsbaugh is an ultrasound technician who works at several of the locations in the Michiana area. She discovered the Women’s Care Center while in school for sonography and spent time working on her clinicals at the Women’s Care Center. She spoke of that time of training and said, “During training, I learned not only how to scan better, but how to make the whole experience more comfortable for the client. It was something I wasn’t taught in school or in clinicals but now I can’t imagine just scanning someone and not getting to know and love them as a person. I cannot imagine a more positive, joy-filled, and meaningful work experience.”
For some women, a pregnancy was not in their plans and they are uncertain what they will do. An ultrasound can provide an important opportunity for bonding and making a pregnancy seem more real. Balsbaugh recalled one of her first experiences scanning a woman who was unsure what she wanted to do about the pregnancy. She said, “I think ultrasound is key for women to bond with their baby very early on. When I had my first client who was considering abortion, I was so nervous. During the scan, I noticed that the baby was lying in its mother’s uterus in exactly the same position that mom was on the exam table. I chuckled a little bit and pointed it out for the client. She laughed and said “wow, it really is my kid then.” When she went to have a follow-up meeting with her counselor, I was left wondering if I had made a difference or not … wondering if maybe seeing her baby could actually change her mind. When her counselor came back to the office, she sought me out and told me that this client was going to keep her baby. The client had told her counselor that seeing the baby sitting like her, “she couldn’t possibly harm that baby.” I was absolutely floored. I have never experienced anything like that feeling and I still hold onto that. Seeing and bonding with your baby can make all the difference for a mom.”
Many Women’s Care Center locations even offer 3D ultrasounds, giving mothers an opportunity to really imagine and picture what her baby will look like. These ultrasounds can provide hope and light, in a time of uncertainty and fear, by giving women an opportunity to truly see the humanity of the child growing within them.
For more information about Women’s Care Centers and what services are offered, visit womenscarecenter.org.
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