The Heartbeat of the Valley
By: Paul Murano – August, 2010
When I moved back home from Tampa in the early 1990’s I gathered together a young adult group from St. Margaret’s in Burlington to share an idea. A crisis pregnancy center was needed in the area. To make a long story short everything fell into place, and from 1993 Heartbeat in Burlington has been helping girls and women keep and love their unexpected babies.
At Heartbeat all services are completely free of charge, including pregnancy testing, counseling, crisis intervention, material help, financial help, housing assistance, rides to appointments, turkeys at Thanksgiving, and virtually anything else that could assist women before, during, and after their pregnancies. Heartbeat survives on donations from the community and no one takes a penny for their work. For the past 17 years Maureen Lynch, Muriel Ostrowski, Kathy Lopolito, and other dedicated volunteers have been doing magnificent work under the radar; and as a result there are many more children alive and women happy with the decisions they made.
I caught up with Muriel Ostrowski of Heartbeat to ask a few questions. The following quotes are from our head counselor:
On the day to day operations of Heartbeat:
“Heartbeat currently operates with about ten volunteers. Most mornings there are two-three volunteers in the office. We are open Tuesdays thru Fridays from 9:30-12:30. We deliver assistance to many moms who have no transportation. The women who come to us for the first time are either pregnant or have babies under one year. Once we begin assisting them we continue to help as needed and as our resources allow. We operate totally on donations and pay no salaries. Some pregnant women that call are not sure what decision they will make, or are planning to abort their babies and mistakenly think we provide abortions. We talk with them about their circumstances and options and offer assistance and support in choosing life. Some of these women choose life for their babies after discussing the alternatives and learning that help is available. We help them with maternity clothing and baby needs; we assemble ‘layettes’ with clothing, blankets, diapers and other basic baby needs like bottles, wipes, diapers. We also provide baby equipment such as car seats that we purchase with donated funds. Many of these are provided by members of many churches, mostly Catholic, who hold ‘baby showers’ to collect items for needy families. Last year 103 babies were born to moms helped by Heartbeat with 54 so far this year.”
On a few anecdotes to share:
“A young mom expecting twins early in August came in today. She had nothing for the children. We provided many things and will be continue to help. One mom recently said, “Many people say they will help, but Heartbeat really does!”
“One father said, ‘We came to Heartbeat not knowing what we would do. We talked with Kathy and chose life. Our son is the best thing that has ever happened to us. We are so thankful to Heartbeat for all the help!’”
“Another mom who called about abortion said, ‘My dad was going to pay for the abortion. We look at my daughter (now) and get tears in our eyes. We can’t imagine our lives without her. I wouldn’t tell the others, but she is my favorite!’”
“One mom this spring who chose life after calling us about abortion came in with her mom. As they left the woman’s mom said, ‘I wish there had been an organization like yours when I was 16 because I had an abortion.’ We talked about the regrets and guilt she still experiences over thirty years later.”
“I have never had anyone who chose life for their child say they wish they had had an abortion. They are always thankful. Several mothers have told me that having their baby saved their lives. They were headed on a downward spiral with drugs or alcohol and were really messing up their lives. When they became pregnant they found the motivation to straighten up and get help and do what was best for their babies. After their babies’ births they felt a sense of purpose and great love for their child; and they had no desire to go back to their former way of living.”
On what motivates Muriel to give so selflessly to these women:
“I became interested in pro-life work after a friend, pressured by her husband, aborted their child. I was distraught. Since then I have learned that many women (recent research shows it to be about 65% of those who abort) are pressured by their boyfriend, parents, husband or others to abort their children. So much for a woman’s choice! I later received God’s call to leave my teaching job to volunteer for Heartbeat.”
“We have helped a number of women whose boyfriends or families were pressuring them to abort. One young woman was told by her family that if she didn’t abort the baby she could no longer live there. They said they weren’t going to have their lives ruined by a baby. So much for cherishing a grandchild! That young woman eventually aborted the baby and is still living with guilt and regret several years later. Another woman was recently told by the baby’s father that if she didn’t abort he would cut the baby out of her! She courageously gave birth to a healthy baby!”
“Another motivating factor for me is the emotions I feel for the women who come in pregnant but have had abortions. Most have a very difficult time living with having aborted one or more of their children. I have had many cry on my shoulder saying that decision was the worst thing they ever did and would never do it again. Most say they think about how old the baby would be and whether it was a boy or girl. They have many regrets and much guilt.”
“As I always tell women who call asking about abortion, ‘We care about the mothers and the babies.’ We care about fathers, too, but we see far too few of them. We talk with women about making better choices in the future. It is easy to blame the men for not stepping up to the plate and supporting their children but women also need to take responsibility for making good choices, like chastity, and waiting to find a husband who will be a good father to their children.”
How to help:
On behalf of Muriel and all the women helped and babies saved we thank everyone who has contributed to mission of Heartbeat. If you would like to donate money or gently used goods, or would be interested in counseling or running a fund raiser, please call 781-229-7887 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because many of Heartbeat’s clientele have been from the Lowell area we had worked out a deal to fix up an abandoned building on the grounds of the old St. Jean Baptiste Church on Merrimack Street in Lowell. After getting it nicely furnished and ready to go the archdiocese had to sell the property. We also looked into establishing a Heartbeat in Lawrence but couldn’t get the funds or community involvement at the time. If you would like to be involved in placing a Heartbeat in your area please contact us.
And for women or couples who would like more information about Heartbeat services call our office at 781-229-7887 Tuesdays thru Fridays from 9:30 -12:30, or visit our website at www.PregnancyMA.com.
Paul Murano taught theology and philosophy at Assumption College and Northshore Com. College. He is also a co-host of The Paying Attention! radio program on WCAP and Host “Beneath the Surface” on Burlington Cable Access. You can E-mail Paul at PJDM@aol.com