In January 2016, the founders of A Mother’s Hope received an urgent phone call from the Fort Wayne Women’s Care Center. A young woman in a crisis pregnancy was in the hospital in labor at 29 weeks. A native of Mali in Africa, she had no family and no friends in the area. She was alone and terrified.
Kristi had come to the United States from Mali on a student visa in 2010 to study business at the University of Texas. She had big dreams for a successful career--something she could never hope for as a woman in her native country. She loved her studies, and she worked hard, but her student visa expired before she could finish her degree. She learned that she would have to return home to Africa in order to re-apply. Due to the political situation in Mali, Kristi felt unsafe traveling back. Instead, she remained in the U.S., and she had to drop out of business school.
Determined not to let the unraveling of her plans hold her back, Kristi found a job in Indianapolis with the help of some friends. While there, she began a relationship with Michael, a native of Benin. It wasn’t long before she learned that she was pregnant. Michael became physically and emotionally abusive after she told him. She later said it was his way of “punishing” her, because in their culture it is considered shameful for a woman to be pregnant and unmarried. Michael locked Kristi in a closet and brought other women into the home. At one point, after a violent fight with Michael, Kristi attempted to take her own life. The police were called to the home and advised her to leave before she could be hurt anymore.
Eventually she found a new place to live and a new job in Fort Wayne. She had escaped an awful situation, but she found herself in a new city, pregnant and completely alone. Determined to keep fighting for her own life and the life of her child, she found help and care through the local Women’s Care Center. She planned to return to Indianapolis to give birth, where she would have the support of friends for the birth itself and for the first few weeks after. Yet again, however, her plans fell apart. At 27 weeks, her water broke. Her medical providers sent her home without any instructions on caring for herself or her unborn baby. A week later she went to the hospital, frightened for her baby’s life.
That’s when the Women’s Care Center contacted A Mother’s Hope, asking for help for Kristi during this incredibly difficult time. For the next 36 hours, A Mother’s Hope volunteers stayed at Kristi’s side, listening to her fears (she told them she was terrified of giving birth alone) and offering support. They remained with her until Joshua was born on February 3, 2016, a tiny three pounds, five ounces.
The next several weeks were even more challenging for Kristi, but she kept right on fighting--and now she had A Mother’s Hope to offer support, guidance and peace of mind. The doctors kept Joshua in the NICU for five weeks, but Kristi had to return to work in order to support them both. After Joshua’s release, his immune system was so fragile that the doctors advised her to keep him away from everyone. It wasn’t safe for him to have a sitter or to go to work with his mother, so Kristi had to stop working to take care of him. Once again, A Mother’s Hope stepped in to help, along with the Women’s Care Center and St. Mary’s Church. Together, they pitched in to cover rent for two months until Joshua was well enough for Kristi to return to work.
Since then, A Mother’s Hope has been with Kristi and her son every step of the way. When the volunteers first met her, Kristi was too frightened even to ask the hospital staff for a blanket. Since then, volunteers have attended many of Joshua’s medical appointments, teaching Kristi to ask the necessary questions about her son’s condition and treatment. When necessary, the volunteers will advocate for Kristi with doctors and nurses. Joshua is now a year old, but he can only eat and drink small amounts of food by mouth. For the most part he has to be fed through a gastrostomy tube, and he is undergoing special therapy to help him learn how to swallow. Over time, with the continued support of A Mother’s Hope, Kristi has become much more confident in herself and her ability to ensure that her son gets the treatment he needs.
It has been a long and difficult journey, but the future looks bright for Kristi and Joshua. A Mother’s Hope has worked with her to secure adequate housing, and she and Joshua now live in a quiet new apartment with plenty of space. With coaching from volunteers, she is learning necessary life skills, such as budgeting, buying groceries, and balancing her work with taking care of her son. She has a new job in a hair salon, which she enjoys. A Mother’s Hope has also connected her with other women in the area, to help her build a lasting support network. They have also referred her for counseling, so she can receive the healing she needs after suffering sustained domestic abuse.
Eventually Kristi hopes to return to school, this time to study nursing, and A Mother’s Hope is offering her support and guidance as she seeks legal help to get her visa reinstated. Currently, she is pursuing a visa that will allow her to stay in the United States so Joshua can continue to receive the medical care he needs. For his part, Joshua gets healthier and stronger every day. He is even crawling now--proving every day that he’s a fighter, just like his mom.
A Mother’s Hope exists to help women like Kristi who need support, guidance and love as they fight for their babies, often in the face of unthinkable difficulties. When the home is up and running, A Mother’s Hope will be able to offer these mothers a sheltering home, care, training in basic life skills, career and education counseling, and much more. Even now, A Mother’s Hope is honored to be part of women’s lives, helping heroic mothers like Kristi survive and thrive, giving them new hope for a bright future.
Fort Wayne, Ind.