Help after a devastating prenatal diagnoses

The Be Not Afraid program offers help for couples with devastating prenatal diagnoses

The Be Not Afraid program offers help for couples with devastating prenatal diagnosesDIOCESE—Be Not Afraid supporters want parents to understand that life is always a wonderful option, even in the face of certain death.

The group was founded to help parents who have received heartbreaking news about their unborn child and are forced to make life and death decisions.

Kathy Schmugge, from the diocesan family life office, said she is anxious to start the program in South Carolina as a further way to support life.

She said she has worked closely with Tracy Winsor, founder of the Be Not Afraid program in Charlotte, N.C.

“There is a real need for the church to respond, to give women hope and comfort,” Schmugge said.

Winsor said she is thrilled to see the group expand into South Carolina.

All too often, she said, parents who have received a devastating prenatal diagnosis feel completely alone.

They are given the grimmest scenario and told about the option to terminate, but medical personnel rarely discuss the alternate choice of continuing the pregnancy, she said.

Overwhelmed with shock and despair, few realize there are people who can help.

This is where her group comes in, Winsor said. Parents will not be alone; they will be surrounded by love, support and prayers from other people who have walked the same path.

A familiar tale

Winsor said parents often share similar stories.

It stars in the obstetrician’s waiting room, which is filled with women and couples who chat happily as they wait their turn for an ultrasound. This is the day they’ve been waiting for, when they get to count fingers and toes and see all the wonderful growth their unborn child has made.

Most couples leave filled with joy, holding an image of their growing baby.

But for others, their world is turned into a nightmare.

A couple who was holding hands and smiling suddenly notices the look on the nurse’s face. In an instant, dreams for their baby are ripped apart. The doctor tells them the baby has medical defects. The pregnancy will probably end in miscarriage, but if carried to term, will likely result in stillbirth, or worse, the baby could suffer for days, even weeks.

At this point, struggling with shock and grief, many parents choose abortion, said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, in a Be Not Afraid webinar.

“The abortion rate for these kinds of pregnancies is alarmingly high … up to 90 percent of mothers ultimately make a choice against life, including even Catholic women,” Cardinal DiNardo said.

But there is hope.

“A recent study showed that when support is provided to the expectant parents, the abortion rate drops significantly,” the cardinal said.

Offering support

Be Not Afraid is a community of parents and professionals who help sustain parents through their pregnancy after a devastating prenatal diagnosis.

“We help them find meaning in the pregnancy and how to prepare for the birth,” Winsor said.

She and her co-founder, Sandy Buck, started the Charlotte chapter two years ago to fill a void left by doctors, nurses, and even pastors, who often don’t know where to send these lost parents for help.

“Because so many people terminate, the medical community really isn’t sure what to do with these parents who carry to term,” Winsor said.

They served one mother in the first year who has since become a volunteer with the organization. In year two, Winsor said they helped eight women who gave birth, some from as far as Florida and Atlanta.

She said they need more local programs because it is hard to do their best work from a distance. They hope that each woman they help will in turn volunteer in her area.

Winsor said she became involved with peer counseling after two miscarriages.

“It’s wonderful and healing to find work that brings meaning to your own experience,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series on the Be Not Afraid program.