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 | By Father Angelbert Chikere

Supporting Life: Milena’s Story

It probably felt strange to the child as he entered the small, quiet room where the interpreter and I would be conducting our interview with his mother, Milena complete with an imposing bookshelf and a large table that his head could not yet reach. Once he spotted us, the toddler, smiling joyfully, quickly turned around and ran to his mom.

The joy and profoundly loving chemistry that exuded between the mother and child in no way prepared us for the story that the mother, Milena, was about to share. She related an impossible situation, one where she discovered herself pregnant during lockdown in 2020, unable to leave the United States, with no familial support. But thankfully, her story also contained a poignant anecdote of the local and practical succor she found during that time.

“My name is Milena, and this is my son, Christopher. I’m from Columbia where I was a reporter. My husband and I traveled to the United States for vacation in February of 2020, fifteen days before the Covid-19 lockdown. The plan was to come and stay for 20 days, but then everything shut down, even airlines. We were trapped here.

“In May, I found out I was pregnant and I had no medical insurance, so I did not know who to contact or what to do. I looked up local pregnancy foundations online but I wasn’t sure what to expect.”

At this point, Milena took another deep breath. Her eyes became teary as she gazed downward. Then she exhaled, with a tear running down her cheek, and continued:

“What made the situation more difficult was that I had already lost a baby due to an ectopic pregnancy while in Columbia. At that time, the doctor predicted that I would never conceive again. I did not want to relive that experience and so I prayed to find someone here to help.”

During her internet search, she discovered Guadalupe Hope Society (GHS), which provides limited obstetrics ultrasounds, among other services, at their women’s center in San José. There she met a supportive community, including ultrasound technician Maggie Conlin, amongst many others. GHS offered Milena the affirmation and succor she needed, which brought her great relief.

Milena exhaled with relief and she gave a teary smile to Christopher who was energetically running around the conference table and the three seated adults.

But Milena’s family’s story was not nearly over. In our interview, she shared both her living circumstances during her pregnancy and her continuing needs.

“We lived in a single room during my whole pregnancy and were only able to move to our current studio when Christopher was seven months old. It’s small but all three of us, my husband, Christopher and I, live together and little by little we are making progress.”

As she concluded her narrative I asked her what she was most grateful for, and her response both closed our conversation and provoked further important, lingering questions for myself and for all Catholics. To my question, she replied,

“The truth is, I am most grateful for the volunteer doctor because her services were free. I couldn’t have paid her anyway, because I didn’t have anything. She was the one who saw me quickly and assured me that my pregnancy was viable. I was mostly worried about that. I am grateful that GHS continues to help me with clothes, car seats and supplies; they helped me connect to my current doctor. They helped me with absolutely everything.”

With her final words, more questions arose in my mind: How many more local women with complicated and difficult pregnancies are unsure of what to do? And how many more would take other, more tragic options, due to a lack of tangible support? What is our role as Catholics? Do we sit back and watch? Or do we step forward and increase our support for them in every way we can and in all things they require?

Apoyando la Vida: La Historia de Milena

Father Angelbert Chikere is the Director of Life, Justice and Peace for the Diocese of San Jose.

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