The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

The Voice of the Wildcats

The Paw Print

The Gabriel Project supports pregnancy

Stephanie Herbst didn’t want to waste all of those useful toys, kitchen items, books and bedding. She refused to waste more than 100 items from her family day care just because of COVID-19, which caused it to close. Herbst felt disappointed that she couldn’t  support mothers like she had before. In contrast, it was really the start of supporting lots of mothers during pregnancy through her parish. It became clear that she had a calling to help mothers as much as possible with The Gabriel Project ministry. 

Stephanie Herbst is a volunteer or an Angel at The Gabriel Project.

For pregnant teenage moms, there is a lot to process including whether to abort her baby or give birth. If a teen mom does decide to give birth, it is much more than just delivering the baby. She will need resources to make sure the pregnancy goes well and she has what she needs to raise a baby. For many, there is even more emotional distress regarding who will take care of and watch the baby. Catholics are sometimes thought of as being unfriendly to young, unmarried mothers. But in contrast, a Catholic ministry advertising as pro-life called The Gabriel Project aims to provide assistance for pregnant women and new unwed mothers. Their objective is not to persuade pregnant women to give birth but to support mothers. Although Herbst’s opinion is still pro-choice and it may not line up with more traditional Catholic stances, she decided to donate her baby items to the pregnant mothers supported by The Gabriel Project. 

Today, Herbst is one of the volunteers for The Gabriel Project referred to as an Angel. After two and a half years of volunteering, she has helped dozens of mothers and collected and distributed hundreds of baby items. As a Catholic who wants to respect the life of babies and also having a politically pro-choice view, Herbst helps mothers and mothers-to-be with pregnancy and baby needs. At The Gabriel Project, mothers or mothers-to-be can call a hotline and then, according to their location, get connected with an Angel nearby. The Angels are very welcoming and provide a safe space for teens that have already made the choice to give birth to the baby. 

Angels also support various needs free of charge for the mothers or mothers-to-be including medical care, maternity clothes, baby items, housing, counseling, parenting support and adoption information. Lisa Galli is the coordinator of the Gabriel Project at St. Clare Parish in Roseville, California.

“Teens could benefit from the services of The Gabriel Project,” Galli said. “Teens who become pregnant might be overwhelmed by the knowledge and feel pressured to end the pregnancy from their boyfriend, parents or by her economic situation. If they had a safe person to talk to without pressure they may, with confidence, give birth to the baby and then either keep the baby or have the baby adopted.” 

Herbst felt called by her religion, Catholicism, to support The Gabriel Project. 

“Yes, I do [feel called],” Herbst said. “The reason is because as Catholics, we believe that abortion is wrong…[But] what are we doing to help them? How are we helping them keep their babies?…As an American, I believe that a woman has the right to choose. As a Catholic I would like to help them choose life.”

Herbst discusses how difficult it is to be a teenage mother and how there is a lack of choice as a culture—in fact, more than 58% of teen pregnancies end in abortion, according to a 2017 study.  She also expressed that it is hard to be a mom. 

“I think a lot of people are too mean to unwed and teenage mothers,” Herbst said. “They are judged harshly and the judgment is lifelong. Without support from the baby’s father, her family, her friends, and the community, why would she risk everything to keep her baby? We, as a culture, don’t give them a real choice. If you could make your ‘mistake’ disappear and maybe even never mention it, why wouldn’t you? That’s why I say it takes a lot of bravery to take all the risks and choose to be a mom. That’s a tall order for any person.”

Herbst gives her advice to mothers and even fathers-to-be about having children, guiding them with the passion that Angels are hoping to give.

“My advice is that having children is hard at every age,” Herbst said. “And it’s ok to make mistakes. Because you’re gonna make a lot of mistakes.”

Herbst wants to see change in the local community and even nationally.

“I would like to see more men being responsible,” Herbst said. “I’m disappointed that these men find out their girlfriends are pregnant and [they just] disappear.”

Herbst also brought up issues around sexism in our culture. She talked about how she believes the main reason mothers give up their children is that motherhood is not respected in our society and that society doesn’t treat young men the same way as young women.

“If you have a child, [friends and society] are mean to you forever, and that has to stop,” Herbst said.

A volunteer at The Gabriel Project collecting donations for pregnancy. (Marie Martinez)

Jessica Esparza attended Redwood High School as a teen mom and shared the many resources that the school provided. After finding out she was pregnant, Esparza was referred to the daycare Teen Success Inc., now called Kids Konnect, by the Sequoia Union High School District office. From there, she transferred to Redwood High School, which offered daycare and support to teen moms, one of them being Kids Konnect

“If your child was already eating food, child care was free which was a big help,” Esparza said. “[My experience] was lonely, and being a young mom comes with a lot of criticism. Just maybe, before people criticize, ask the mom how [they] are doing. Being a young mom doesn’t make you any less of a mom. At the end of the day you’re still a mom and you’re going to try to do your best at raising the baby.” 

Being a pregnant mother can be hard due to the extensive process, which requires a lot of medical care.

“In terms of our district, if we were to find out that a student was pregnant, we would meet with the student, and the counselor would meet with the student,” school nurse and health aide Nanette Pasion said. “We would determine if the pregnancy is something they are going to follow through [with], we pass the information on to the county nurse or representative, and we would meet with the family and provide them with the further resources that they would need.”

Pasion talked about how pregnant mothers need routine care from an Obstetrics and Gynaecology doctor , someone who specializes in pregnancy and childbirth. She also talked about routine checkups and care that monitor the health of the mom and the fetus, along with different exams like ultrasounds and blood tests.

“The appointments increase during the end of pregnancy because that’s when the chances of the baby arriving early can happen in a healthy pregnancy,” Pasion said. “If, throughout the pregnancy, risk factors would come up, the mom would have to be closely monitored.” 

The Gabriel Project serves many women with financial needs, by providing transportation and resources to register for health insurance.

“Pregnant mothers do need healthcare to check on the growing baby in her womb and her own health,” Galli said. “The Gabriel project will direct moms to clinics [that] will check on them both. The clinics are able to sign them up for state medical health care if they do not have insurance. We can provide transportation to their appointment if needed.”

Pregnancy can be difficult and take a lot of work and responsibility. The woman has most of the responsibility in a pregnancy.  This is an imbalance between genders.  

“And what happens to the boy that impregnates the girl? Nothing.” Herbst said. “We have not changed.”

Herbst reminds people to be understanding of others even if they don’t agree with the choice that was made. She questions the roles gender plays in our society, especially during pregnancy. According to Sequoia Union High School District, Redwood High School offers child care near the school and pregnant, parenting, and married students can attend Comprehensive School or Alternative Education Programs. 

“The time the Angel spends with the mom depends on her and her child’s needs,” Galli said. “If the mom is pregnant, the Angel may have a baby shower for her with other Angels from the parish or The Gabriel Project Angels from nearby parishes. Each mom, each pregnancy, and [each set of] circumstances are varied.”

Volunteering as an Angel is not the only way to be supportive in the community of mothers. 

“You could have a fundraiser to purchase diapers and wipes for new moms that would be great,” Galli said. “A baby bottle change drive is a fun way to do this. Donate your time by creating a sitters club for the mom’s children. Having a baby shower or clothes drive for a mom is another idea.”

Volunteers at The Gabriel Project gathering and sorting donations such as diapers. (Marie Martinez)

At The Gabriel Project, the Angels act as family to support the mothers and provide them a friend for the journey. 

“I would hope that high school girls have courage, it takes an insane amount of bravery and an insane amount of support [to be a mother], whether you’re 18, 28, or 38,” Herbst said.

Herbst believes that everyone must support mothers-to-be. 

“Be kind, don’t judge them if they choose not to keep their babies, don’t judge them if they choose to keep their babies… and don’t be afraid to talk to your friends… girls need to support girls,” Herbst said.

Maria Martinez is the Respect Life & Gabriel Project Coordinator of the Office of Human Life & Dignity. She discusses how women can achieve many different things and policies that could help pregnant mothers in the community. 

“You can be encouraging—women are very strong and they can do more than one thing,” Martinez said. “We have mothers that have studied and worked.  Society tells you that you cannot be a mother and achieve your professional dreams and that’s not true.”

Martinez elaborates on the hardship that young moms face and suggests ways that universities can help them instead of making them feel punished, so they can be a mother and graduate.

“Students can be supportive to this population of moms that might want to advance in this career,” Martinez said. “There might be universities that have policies that support pregnant moms to help them graduate…So they are not penalized for being a mother…they don’t have to choose between one and the other.”

Regardless of their views on abortion, The Gabriel Project aims to help all mothers during pregnancy and parenthood. 

“My favorite role is seeing the hope restored in the women that we serve,” Martinez said. 

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About the Contributor
Carmen Pinto
Carmen Pinto, Staff Writer
Carmen Pinto is a senior and first-year journalist. She enjoys writing poetry. She hopes to achieve enlightenment with her work.  In her free time she enjoys reading, figure skating, playing with her dog, reciting poetry, and putting together costumes for theater.  

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