Avery* reluctantly entered the room where we met for childbirth classes and sat at the other end of the table from where we were seated. She attended the class a few times but rarely participated. She told us early on that she was pregnant with monoamniotic twins (making it a high-risk pregnancy). Dorcas and I were concerned as we noticed Avery was not gaining weight, and her face looked thin and drawn.
The group of pregnant prisoners who attended the classes regularly formed a bond, supporting and caring deeply for each other. One week, when Avery showed up for a childbirth class, Emma*, a fellow prisoner who attended the class, reached out to her, and expressed concern. Emma’s compassion deeply moved Avery and she opened up and told us her story. As she shared about her past, the depth of her pain was felt by all of us who heard.
I came home that day with a wrecked heart. The neglect, abuse, and even slavery she experienced as a child were almost beyond my imagination. In her preteen years, she was removed from that situation and placed with a religious relative who had good intentions to undo the trauma she had experienced previously but instead made it worse. Was it any wonder she held us at arm’s length?
One of the things that came out in her story was that her trauma resulted in an eating disorder, and her pregnancy and prison diet only made it worse. We advocated in the clinic for her to receive liquid nutritional supplementation, and the very next day, they granted our request.
She continued to meet regularly with the class and put us on her hospital plan to be with her during her C-section delivery. Being with Avery during her time in the hospital was such an honor. We had to wait a long time for surgery. Still, the conversation and camaraderie between Dorcas and I, Avery, and the officer in attendance made the hours in a potentially overwhelming situation go faster.
During this time, Avery thanked us for being there. She shared that she had never felt as loved and cared for by religious people as she did by us. At first, she felt panicked during this vulnerable situation and later expressed that she would not have been able to cope without our presence.
I know what Avery was experiencing was the love of Jesus, and I pray that it will bring her to completely surrender to Him.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to plant seeds in these ladies’ lives. I say with Paul, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So, neither he who plants, nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who gives the growth.”
(1 Cor. 3:6-7 ESV)
This is not the end of Avery’s story—please continue to pray for her and her twin babies as their journeys continue.