“Maya” was well into the first trimester of her pregnancy when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, rocking health care systems, shutting down businesses and taking human lives.
Witnessing the mass impact of the novel coronavirus, Maya slipped into a panic. Fear overtook her as she considered the chaotic world into which she could be bringing her baby. Overcome with emotion, she began to cry. And the crying didn’t stop. She became fearful that her distress would somehow harm her baby.
In Maya’s eyes, she had one option, and that was abortion.
Shaken by the decision before her, Maya called Option Line (800-712-4357), a 24/7 bilingual pregnancy helpline run by Heartbeat International.
In speaking with one of the helpline’s bilingual consultants, Maya was finally able to find calm. She stopped crying. Her outlook began to shift as she realized her heart’s true desire: parenting her baby.
Maya’s Option Line consultant directed her to a local pregnancy help center to sojourn with her through her pregnancy, and the call ended with Maya resolved to parent her child.
All hands on deck
Maya is one of thousands of women who have contacted Option Line during the global COVID-19 outbreak. Contact numbers were high in the first weeks of the outbreak and have remained so. Nafisa Kennedy, director of Option Line for Heartbeat International, says that contacts to the center have jumped 30 percent since March when many countries instituted lockdowns and travel bans to stop the spread of the virus.
In the last month, Option Line has fielded more than 35,000 calls, live chats, text messages and emails from women and men in distress. One reason is because of fears related to the spread of the virus and another is because of the closure of a number of pregnancy help centers.
During the initial spread of the virus in the United States over the last several weeks, some 50 U.S. centers closed, either indefinitely or temporarily to change their practices to comply with new state health orders and CDC guidelines. While most of those have reopened, unique challenges remain in the ever-changing pandemic situation.
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To meet the needs of women and men, Kennedy has added shifts to her center’s schedule and sought prayers for her team of consultants.
“We’re at an all-hands-on-deck stage where everyone who is able is helping to fill shifts,” Kennedy said. “We’ve been so blessed by the willingness of our current staff to go above and beyond—but they are tired and prayer would be much appreciated!”
“Along with helping others, our team is dealing with the same personal struggles as everyone else (spouses losing jobs, canceled major events, loss of childcare, etc.),” she said. “They haven’t skipped a beat and it is truly amazing to watch these women of God do their thing!”
According to Kennedy, Option Line was well-equipped to handle the onslaught of contacts amidst stay-at-home orders since most of her team already works remotely. Additionally, the call center usually receives an uptick in calls around the holidays, when many pregnancy help centers are closed. During those weeks, Option Line partners with centers to take 100 percent of their calls and schedule appointments for when the centers reopen.
With that experience under her belt, Kennedy was able to implement scheduling tactics to handle the increased contacts over the last month. She has also worked with centers to stay abreast of their latest hours and other procedural changes. To offer extra support to Option Line staff, she worked with Heartbeat International’s online Academy to provide consultants with additional training on in-depth peer counseling.
Kennedy says that oftentimes, a woman just needs to know she’s not alone, and that consultants are there to listen just as much as they are there to point her to resources.
“Our consultants have done a great job with those calls of reassuring clients that- ‘These are temporary circumstances. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. By the time you have your baby, the circumstances are likely to be much different than they are right now.’”
Kennedy continued, “And we have had many occasions where we’ve been able to pray with clients who are kind of on the fence about what they want to do. We’ve had people call us in tears over their need for support.”
In one recent case, a woman, “Adriana,” found solace when an Option Line consultant prayed for her.
When Adriana first called Option Line, she said she was “fine,” but the consultant could sense the tension in her voice. The consultant asked if something was wrong, and Adriana explained that she works at a company with 500 people and is scared to go to work. The consultant offered to help Adriana find a local pregnancy center, but Adriana declined. The consultant still wanted to help.
“I offered to pray with her,” the consultant wrote in a reflection to Kennedy. “She accepted. I asked God to protect her and to guide her and help her. To give her wisdom, peace and health. That no weapon formed against her shall prosper. For a hedge of protection around her and her baby. To place kind people in her path to help her. Prayed for her whole pregnancy journey. All in the name of Jesus.”
“Then I told her that He was our hope and He was what we could truly rely on right now through this stressful and difficult time.”
When the consultant offered to help Adriana find a pregnancy center again, Adriana accepted and said she would call.
There’s somebody out there
While there is no evidence to suggest transmission of COVID-19 from mother to unborn baby, pregnant women are considered to be at increased risk if they contract the virus.
Some hospitals have implemented policies that have alarmed many pregnant women facing delivery in the weeks ahead. Those policies include separating moms who test positive for COVID-19 from their babies and barring support persons from maternity wards. Two hospital systems in New York implemented the second policy before the state ordered them to allow support persons in delivery rooms.
Along with these challenges, moms have faced the added fears of job loss, loss of childcare, and not being able to find certain items in grocery stores to care for their babies.
“We are seeing lots of families in desperate need of essential supplies like formula,” Kennedy said. “We had one mom who was weeping on the phone because she was on her last ounce of formula and had nothing else to feed her newborn. We were able to get her connected with a pregnancy help center in her area that could meet her need. She was so grateful!”
Material and emotional support are critical for women facing an unexpected pregnancy, and Kennedy says that is especially so during a pandemic.
“Being on your own and facing an unexpected pregnancy is hard enough,” Kennedy said. “But when you can’t go anywhere, you can’t even go to your friend’s house or you can’t go see your mom in some cases, it can be really hard.”
“It can feel very isolating,” she continued. “So sometimes, just to know that there’s somebody out there that they can call any time, day or night, and receive some support and know that there’s somebody who cares about them has been really impactful on our calls.”
LifeNews Note: Katie Franklin is a staff writer for Pregnancy Help News, where this originally appeared, and content writer at Heartbeat International. She previously served as director of communications for Ohio Right to Life and is a graduate of Denison University where she earned a B.A. in history in 2013. Katie lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Miles and daughter Elizabeth. File photo.