Community Vibes

Being a good neighbor

“Do people know their neighbors anymore?” This is the question we posed to ourselves recently. And to be honest, we knew some, but not enough. So we decided to change that; we set out to get to know our neighbors in a real, practical way.

Last week, we offered on-site female health screenings at St. Margaret’s Center, just down the street from our Inglewood clinic. St. Margaret’s Center offers skill development and material goods to help individuals achieve economic security, and combined with the pregnancy, parenting, and women’s health services offered by Claris, it’s a natural fit. Both agencies desire to serve the community in practical ways.

Being a good neighbor is as simple as getting out there and being kind.

 

The Uber for Reproductive Healthcare

Our goal for the day was to be on the ground providing general health services for those in need and connecting them to our additional medical, mental health and support services. With our women’s health screenings, we opened up the daunting healthcare conversation and provided care right on the spot. For some, we provided trustworthy referrals, for others, we simply created awareness of health issues, offered guidance, and provided immediate support. Offering basic assessments proved to be a needed step forward, as many have not had access to healthcare at all or for a long time.

Good neighbors lend a hand wherever it’s needed. And on this day, being neighborly included much beyond our passion for women’s health. There was lots of other good neighborliness going on: a food pantry, services for the elderly, ESL classes, immigration processing, and so much more offered by St. Margaret’s Center. 

Accessibility and real, human conversations can go a long way to meeting needs…and making new friends.

 

We're In This Together

When there are people suffering in the community, we all do. We believe that getting to know one another and offering assistance is the first step to a thriving community. If you’re looking to hold an event in the community or want to collaborate for the greater good, we want to connect! And if you are facing an unintended pregnancy or other sexual health concerns, we are here to walk the journey with you.

Family Matters

Unintended pregnancy is inherently a family conversation. Some don't think of it that way; some believe it's solely a "her" issue. And while we believe she should be the primary decision-maker, the primary voice, unintended pregnancy is an “us” issue. More specifically, it’s a family issue.

We don't walk through life alone, at least we shouldn't. We are social beings, a part of one another, a refection of one another, and no more so than in the context of family. Accordingly, family can and should be a part of the decision of unintended pregnancies, as well as the outcomes post-decision. The domino effect of personal decisions on families and then to the broader community is smaller than we think. This is particularly true given the fact that 1 in 2 women face an unintended pregnancy at some point.  

Bringing family into an unintended pregnancy decision is riddled with obvious complexity and tension. And while this is true, the courage to be inclusive of family can also be its seminal moment of connection. To accomplish this, all sides must summon the courage and vulnerability to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines, rather than hurling judgment or advice, rather than keeping it a secret, we must show up for one another. At the end of the day, a family is on the same team. And to overcome, it takes awareness, commitment, and work.

Recently, a young couple visited our office facing an unintended pregnancy. Let’s call them James and Patricia. Not only were they facing the life-changing questions of changing course in their education, in their careers, in their dreams, but there was also the dilemma of what to do with their parents. James’ parents would be vehemently against anything that would affect his future, particularly something that they perceived could be swept under the rug like an unintended pregnancy. For them, it was personal achievement first, babies second.  

Prior to the pregnancy, the young couple was adored by both sets of parents. Now, Patricia was being shunned by James’ parents. She was the problem, and the solution was to be washed clean of her.

But, James wouldn’t stand for this. He saw this as a trust test for his family. While all this was happening quickly, harshly, and was oh so difficult, he believed that he could offer his strength in this situation and that strength could help create empathy and connection on all sides.  

So, they sought counsel from Claris before moving forward. They knew they’d receive care and counsel that looked like this:

  • Opportunities for all members to have a voice, in pursuit of what’s best for the family unit as a whole
  • Client-led care whereby all members are asked questions about their circumstances and how educated they feel in decision-making, with care then tailored to each individual
  • Messages that create an empathetic environment to open dialogue and facilitate the decision-making process

Vulnerability lies at the center of the family story. James, with guidance and objectivity from Claris, led his family through this challenging situation. Today, all family members are in love with Baby T, and that precious little face unites them all together. Division has become connection, thanks to the courage of this family and the beauty beholden in that face. 

I Can't Becomes I Can

Self-doubt is so easy to fall into, particularly in the first moments of an unintended pregnancy. And that’s where Marcella’s story starts -- with excruciating self-doubt. Upon seeing that pregnancy test, Marcella’s whole body tensed up and a flood of thoughts began drowning her. I can’t even take care of myself. I don’t have a real job. I’m not good enough to be a mom. I’m alone in this. In a nutshell, she completely freaked out.

She wasn’t always like this. Young, beautiful, confident. There were struggles, guy issues for sure, but this pregnancy was all-consuming. Self-afflicting arrows unceasingly darted back and forth. But strongest of all were the words: I can’t.

I can’t do this. There’s no way I can do this.

These words reverberated over and over, like some kind of evil chant.

Fast forward two+ years. Marcella has a beautiful baby girl, a loving husband and is even thinking about another child. Little B likes pattycakes, kisses, and bubbles. The days are filled with parks, games, grandma visits, movies, and new adventures. Idyllic, really.

Just how did I can’t turn into I can?

It was a process. Counseling sessions. Hard talks. Medical visits. Tears. And more tears. Over time, there were slow breakthroughs and moments of clarity.

As she was going through Claris’ programs and began to thrive, her thoughts of I can’t gradually transformed into I can. Her journey that began with questioning whether she should even be a parent given her circumstances, began to give way to accepting that she’s an imperfect parent, and finally transformed to becoming a highly engaged parent of a young girl. She learned in her that Little B is of infinite worth and value.

Unintended pregnancy changes you. For Marcella, her fear turned into resilience and confidence. She gathered the courage to start talking, the open mind to learn about her options, and the humility to accept love. As a result, her I can’t became I can.

If you are facing an unintended pregnancy, we are here for you. We’ll walk the entire journey with you no matter your choice, no matter what your I can't-I can looks like.

Real Life. Real Decisions. Part III

We are continuing our series on stories that feature Claris clients bringing to life their journeys and their decisions along the way (client names have been changed for privacy).

The following is a first-person excerpt directly from a client’s testimony; her own words are used throughout.

RACHEL'S STORY

Last year, I took a leave of absence from my job to get married in L.A., and finally fulfill my dream of starting a family. Shortly before the wedding, he got laid off, and I had to experience first hand that two educated people can rapidly find themselves in severe financial distress, and even without healthcare.  

After recently having lost a baby, the joy of finding out I was pregnant again was sadly tainted by our preoccupation with the challenging circumstances. Searching the Internet for free pregnancy services, I found Claris Health.

A pregnant bundle of anxieties, I walked into their office. The calm, compassionate atmosphere in these rooms put me at ease. Besides assisting me with my healthcare situation, they provided couple’s counseling, where my husband and I could deal with our accumulated worries and the pain of miscarriage.

Moreover, they encouraged me to share my history and offered a workshop for women who had had abortions. I thought I was at peace with the painful decisions I had made. Nevertheless, in my fragile emotional state, I latched on to that opportunity to engage in therapy. The topic appeared secondary.


THE DECISION TO ENGAGE THE HURT

My counselor, as sweet, kind and empathetic as always, convinced me that I would be received with open arms. In retrospect, I did always feel respected in my views. I am so glad I did not miss out on this wonderful journey.

Two months pregnant, I started the workshop. Before our third meeting, I miscarried my baby. Besides the horrible pain of loss, long subdued feelings of guilt about an aborted baby came back. And suddenly, the topic was not “secondary” anymore.

Guided by an outstandingly compassionate psychologist and two loving co-leaders who created a safe, encouraging, compassionate environment, eight women shared their stories. A study guide walked us through the entire emotional spectrum from denial and guilt to anger and depression and showed us the liberating path to forgiveness and acceptance.

The emotions powerfully described facilitated my processing my inner world. The dedicated atmosphere inspired personal growth. The increasing bond between the women was comforting and joyful. We could allow ourselves to become painfully raw.

In the course of the weeks, we got lighter. Shared crying was joined by shared laughter. Tears of torment were replaced by tears of being moved by our progress. We touched each other’s souls, inspired one another. The ever present love was accompanied by humor and fun. After eleven weeks, we sang together, remembered our children, and let balloons fly in their honor. We released our grief and celebrated ourselves.

Thank you Claris Health for helping me find peace. 

Real Life. Real Decisions. Part II

For the next several weeks, we will continue to feature stories from Claris clients -- bringing to life their journeys and their decisions along the way (client names have been changed for privacy).

SEEKING A CONFIDANT

Brittany was a twenty-year old LA native facing an unintended pregnancy. She grew up in the foster system, so she knows what it means to be tough and to be on your own. But she didn’t want that when faced with this pregnancy. She wanted to be listened to; heard, really for the first time.

She wanted to go to a medical clinic that cared for her as a human, not just another patient. She wanted to find people she was comfortable with, whom she could develop a relationship with. She didn’t want to be forgotten. Put simply, she was tired of being judged, unloved, a nobody.

She needed to open up about this. No matter how difficult or awkward it may be.


HER BIG DECISION: CHOOSING CLARIS

Even though there were other clinics near her, she decided to visit Claris. Here are some of Brittany’s first thoughts about her Claris experience: 

You feel a more personal connection with the staff than in other clinics. No matter what I told her (the client advocate), she didn’t come off as judgmental. She was professional, understanding; she really got me.

Brittany ended up having multiple visits with us, using a variety of our services, and becoming a real friend. She describes Claris in her own words:

  • Getting guidance: "I knew she empathized with me. I knew her guidance was real. I could trust Claris. "

  • Follow-up: "They follow up and don’t forget about you. They really care. You can hear it in their words, how they speak to you."

  • Counseling: "A lot of places offer counseling, but Claris has real, expert counseling for specific purposes. Adoption, life in general, problems with your boyfriend. Anything."

Just like Brittany, if you take that first step to visit Claris for an unintended pregnancy or sexual health need, we will hear you, create solutions specific to your needs, and be a trusted friend through the journey.

Real Life. Real Decisions.

For the next several weeks, we will be featuring stories from Claris clients -- bringing to life their journeys and their decisions along the way. The following is an account from earlier this year. (client names have been changed for privacy reasons). 

The Dreamers

real life happy

Meet Tim and Allison. Young, happy, and in love. Their big smiles are like lighthouses - symbols of the energy and glow they bring to life. They're leading completely carefree lives, almost like a romantic comedy.

But one day, things unexpectedly changed. Drastically. The pregnancy test read positive and quickly dropped to the floor. A rush of anxiety and fearful thoughts filled Allison's mind:

This changes everything. I now have a baby to think about. Can we afford to have a child? Do we have to change our careers? Do we have to quit traveling? What if I’m too selfish to have a baby?

Tim stepped in immediately, offering his strength, assuring her that everything would be okay. Big, giant, soul shaking exhale from Allison. Phew.


Their Big Decision: How Should We Prepare?

But the question remained of now what. So many questions, so many decisions. Was the test even accurate? How should we prepare? Babies were so far off the radar; Tim and Allison felt nowhere near ready, not even sure what questions to ask. There was so much to think about and do. It was overwhelming.

One day, Allison found Claris online. Here’s what Allison said after her first appointment:

They were so nice at Claris. I felt relieved. I was walking back to the car and realized that it all felt so much less terrifying. Like I could actually do this.

Fast forward several months, Tim and Allison are doing just fine - meeting with us regularly and taking our parenting classes as part of their preparation for their newest arrival. What was once a scary proposition is beginning to feel doable. 

Unexpected pregnancy is a maze of decisions. If you’re facing a situation similar to Tim and Allison, know that you don’t have to do this alone. You can get help; you do have partners in this. Claris is here to walk the journey with you.

National Women’s Health Week

May 8-14 is National Women’s Health Week, an observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The week is dedicated to empowering women to make their health a priority  It’s never too early or late to take the steps toward a healthier lifestyle!

Throughout the week, we’ll post women’s health info on our Facebook and Twitter to encourage women to take control of their physical and mental health. Our hope is that these posts will be helpful to you or someone you know!

 

Read More about #NWHW: