By Serene Leong
Becoming a mum is a joyous occasion for most women. Unfortunately, not all women are able to go through a positive pregnancy journey. Financial worries, health issues and lack of support can cause a pregnancy to be an immense burden.
Petrina Gomez, who helps out at Safe Place, an organisation that supports women facing unplanned pregnancies, tells The Pride: “Pregnancy in the midst of a very supportive community is hard on its own.”
“But imagine a woman having to go through that entire journey alone. That’s even harder. And that was a realisation for me to say I want to serve, I want to help out in any capacity possible.”
The organisation, set up with Lakeside Family Services in 2018, seeks to empower women with important life skills to care for themselves and their child and to embrace motherhood with confidence and hope. This is done through counselling and sessions where beneficiaries are taught essential skills such as baby care and financial independence.
Dealing with shame
Petrina shares that one of the most common stereotypes that women with unplanned pregnancies is that they are all teenagers.
She says: “When you think of unplanned pregnancies you think (of someone who is) 16 and pregnant. But that’s not true.”
“Statistics show that 40% are married and this is their third or fourth child. And perhaps they find themselves in a place where they are saying, ‘I’m pregnant, what do I do now? How am I going to feed or support this child? I wasn’t anticipating this and I need help’”.
Reasons could be due to lack of financial support, familial and community support, and spousal support in the case of single mothers.
Petrina adds that most of her clients are regular women who are working full-time.
“It breaks my heart for a woman to feel like they shouldn’t keep their baby,” she says. “I see this as an opportunity for us to come alongside them and support them to embrace this role with the least amount of setback.”
Facing unplanned pregnancy still involves a lot of stigma today. Petrina says that because of the weight of shame in our Asian culture, women often have to make this decision alone, and being isolated in that decision adds pressure.
She adds: “However, when they get the right kind of help that empowers them — not like a handout, (they will realise that) whatever they set their mind and their heart to, they can do it. This is the kind of help that a community is supposed to extend.”
“This is a problem that we can work on. Because we are the community. It’s our duty to be aware and say ‘I’m here, just reach out anytime.’”
Walking alongside them
One of the clients Petrina has become closer to is a mum who used to suffer from mental illness. Today, she has overcome that and made the brave decision of caring for her child on her own.
Petrina says: “She was extremely suicidal and although her situation was very unfavourable, as soon as she carried her child and brought him to term, she told me, ‘Ever since I met my son, I don’t think about killing myself anymore. He has given me a reason to live.’”
She says that she was inspired to see how much effort this client has put into doing research on motherhood and the heart she has put into being a full-time working mother while pursuing her studies to give her baby the best environment possible to flourish.
Petrina says: “This has inspired me to guide her along the right way. I’m looking forward to the future. It looks bright for her.”
If you know someone who is going through an unplanned pregnancy, what can you do?
Petrina says: “The first thing you can do is to be there for them and walk with them, and the next practical thing is to find out ways you can plug them into a community, because that’s what they need the most.”
“Kindness is not a big gesture to me. Kindness simply looks like someone who goes out of their way — when someone is going through a hard time — to demonstrate what it means to live in a community… To me that is kindness. It is the most natural and human thing.”