A lot can change in two years. I would know.
Just two years ago, I sat in a treatment facility waiting for a psychiatric drug prescription, careless as the passing minutes slowly wasted away. I had nothing to live for. The doctor finally returned, and I numbly looked up, unprepared for her explosive revelation: “We’re sending you home on prenatals!” she announced.
I was shocked. I’d just gotten out of jail, and it couldn’t be possible that a brief rendezvous with my former drug dealer had resulted in a new baby.
Shock turned to panic. They’re going to take my kid. I’d already permanently lost custody of four children. The loss of another one would break me.
As I sat there crying, abortion seemingly my only option, I had no idea that a home called Bethlehem House would soon save my life.
Bethlehem House was founded in 2005 to shelter and heal pregnant women struggling with addictions, homelessness, poverty, and lack of family support – among other challenges.
Sadly, I was the perfect candidate. My childhood was rife with trauma and abuse. I was sexually assaulted when I was only 14-years-old. By the time I was 16, I was already living completely on my own, working full-time, and completing school. Against all odds, I graduated as valedictorian of my high school class. I then went straight into the workforce and got married.
My marriage quickly devolved, as my husband became abusive and disclosed a serious drug addiction that he eventually passed on to me. Five years and four children later, my addiction led me to lose my house, my job, and eventually my kids.
The loss of my children was by far the most painful blow of my life.
I spent months fighting to sober up, achieve housing stability, and regain custody of them – only for CPS to swoop in again and permanently tear my babies away even though at the time I was finally doing everything right. After that, I felt acutely that I had nothing left to live for.
In despair, I spent the next 17 months destroying what was left of my life. I became a homeless criminal with two warrants in two different states, living on the run as I stole cars and sold drugs for a living.
It wasn’t until I was robbed at gunpoint that I finally abandoned this lifestyle. With nothing left to lose, I turned myself in to the nearest jail where I served 10 months. I was released on the condition I would seek treatment.
That’s what brought me to the treatment facility, where I sat crying, terrified of losing yet another child. Why should I carry a child to term, I wondered, if the state is just going to take him or her from me in the end?
Yet despite my shock and fear, I wondered if it could be possible that this unexpected pregnancy was instead a second chance at life. I knew I wanted to keep this baby — but how?
After learning about Bethlehem House, I visited. I was met with a familiar face in the home’s Family Life Director who had run my support group in jail. There I was showered with love, and the staff literally wept with me when I shared the painful history that had brought me to their doorstep. I knew from that moment I was in the right place.
I stayed at Bethlehem House for the next seven months, during which time they offered me professional counseling to heal my trauma and mental instabilities, as well as a wide range of practical classes to help me regain my confidence and re-establish myself: from parenting and sexual integrity to financial literacy and more. I grew extremely close with the other women living in the home at the time, and I flourished in the stable family structure I’d been lacking my whole life.
The strong women at Bethlehem House encouraged me to set goals that would help me and my son Brandon in the long run. My determination to not only keep Brandon, but also to create a stable and healthy life for him motivated me to achieve those goals, and within two years of the day that I first showed up homeless on the doorstep of Bethlehem House I had — every single one.
I acquired housing, completed my college degree, paid off $10k in debt, purchased a car, and got my license back. I got a job at Jiffy Lube, and within a year I was promoted to store manager. I am currently pursuing a district manager position at the company, and I am working on my next goal: home ownership.
For the first time ever, I am completely free of government assistance. I’m also four years clean.
Looking back on the trajectory of my life, I am amazed to see my miraculous transformation from a broken, hopeless, and despairing woman to a sober, hard-working, and successful mom.
All of this is thanks to the abundance of resources, support, and love Bethlehem House showered on me, offering me a second chance at life. And all of it is for my beautiful, energetic, and smart 2-year-old son Brandon.
Francesca is a successful store manager and proud mother to her two-year-old son Brandon.
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