by ROWENA OREJANA
The unassuming office is beside St Patrick’s Cathedral in the middle of Auckland city, easy to overlook but a lifeline to women who find themselves pregnant and needing help.
Pregnancy Help has been there for pregnant mums for 40 years, said Auckland chapter president Colleen Petricevich. Among its founders was Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn’s mother, June.
Pregnancy Help coordinator Julia McFadden said about 1700 women come through their door in a year.
“That’s roughly 50 women a month,” she said.
Mrs Petricevich said that although she and Mrs McFadden are Catholics, “we are very careful because we don’t want to put people off who are not Catholics. We aren’t judgmental and
we’ve got to be able to help everybody,” she said.
Catholic Caring Foundation general manager Darragh O’Riordan said the foundation is supporting the service because it fits well with their objectives.
“The Caring Foundation exists to support the most vulnerable, and what could be more vulnerable than an unborn child,” said Ms O’Riordan.
“Founded by Bishop Pat’s parents, Pregnancy Help is an institution that clothes, nourishes and protects a parent and child at a time of great need. As such, it is close to the heart of the
Caring Foundation and its supporters.”
Mrs McFadden said the women come from all walks of life and all nationalities.
“You’ve really got to be tuned in. You’ve really got to understand them. They come in with their heads down and they don’t really want the help but they know they must ask for help,” she explained.
Mrs McFadden said they get a lot of migrant mums. “With the Asian girls, it’s very hard. It’s the
shame. They’re studying here and they don’t have family around. I just feel for them,” she said.
A lot of the migrant pregnant women live around the city belt and they can feel isolated.
These women are encouraged to drop in and learn the basics about taking care of their babies, such as how to bathe them.
Mrs McFadden also noted an increase in young pregnant girls.
“It’s quite hip at the moment to be 14 or 15 and pregnant. They’re arriving in Auckland Hospital and Middlemore and they’re pregnant. They come in with a stomach ache and they’ve hidden it from the family and suddenly they arrive in the hospital, and that’s it,” she said.
She said the number of New Zealanders who seek help can be counted on one hand. “They are mostly
considering abortion,” she said.
In those cases the group offers counselling and assures the pregnant mum that Pregnancy Help can help her out until the baby is about one year old.
“Maybe the abortion numbers dropped because they are coming in,” said Mrs McFadden hopefully.
She said, though, it’s not only the pregnant women who come in but women who are trying to get pregnant as well as those who want to get off artificial contraceptives and want to learn other methods to prevent conception.
Most of the women they see are aged between 26 and 35. Mrs McFadden said the service has repeat clients and had helped someone through four pregnancies.
Mrs Petricevich said what they really need at the moment, apart from funds, are volunteers.
“One of the big things that I notice is that the volunteers aren’t here any more. We used to have a lot of volunteers, but everyone works now. That’s the one big change,” she said.
She said they could use help folding and sorting baby clothes, answering phones, replying to emails as well as lending an ear to the women who come in.
They also welcome donations of cash and goods.