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picture perfect

by Julie Conrey

Thanks to Emergency Pregnancy Services in Jacksonville, Eydie Millwood decided to carry her son Braydon to full term. He is now 14 months old and Eydie is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in marketing at the University of North Florida.



Joshua Brayden Millwood can only say about four words. He is not yet toilet-trained, and the chubby 14-month toddler has a tendency to run around and away from his mother Eydie.

But dirty diapers and messy finger foods not included, the Millwood family makes a perfect picture. And it’s one that the Catholic community hopes will be repeated over and over again.

And with your help it can. Money raised from the Respect Life collection that will be taken up in all parishes on Jan. 20-21, will be distributed to numerous crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes throughout the 17 counties of the Diocese of Saint Augustine. With funds collected in past years, a few of these crisis pregnancy centers have already been able to purchase ultrasound equipment. Pictures of a baby go a long way towards turning an abortion-minded client, like Eydie once was, into one who carries a pregnancy to term.

Brayden, as his mother calls him, is the product of a relationship Eydie had when she was just 18, and not quite ready for the responsibilities of motherhood. When she found out she was pregnant, she decided to have an abortion. End of story. Get on with the details of college and career goals - or so she thought.

At work one day, Eydie got sick, and felt something was not quite right. She took a home pregnancy test and it was positive. She called the abortion clinic that she had gone to and asked to be seen again. They told her that she would have to pay again before she could be examined. Eydie called a friend for help and was referred to Emergency Pregnancy Services (EPS).

Upon coming to the center, she took another pregnancy test. The staff confirmed she was pregnant. But she new it couldn’t be a new pregnancy. With her consent, EPS staff performed an ultrasound examination in which they dated the pregnancy at 15 weeks. Her baby, a boy, survived an attempted abortion.

Worried about the baby’s health and condition, the ultrasound eased Eydie’s fears. She was able to count her baby’s fingers, toes and even saw him sucking his thumb. She immediately connected with the picture on the screen. And after seeing her baby up close and in person, Eydie decided to carry the pregnancy to term.

“It was difficult to know what a miracle he is,” Eydie said. “His dad isn’t in the picture and we live with my parents. If it wasn’t for EPS and seeing my baby on the ultrasound, he wouldn’t be here today.”

EPS is just one of several crisis pregnancy centers the diocese supports through the Respect Life collection. And it’s one of the few that are able to afford ultrasound equipment.

“Ultrasounds aren’t 100 percent effective but they take what the mother might consider only a blob of tissue - a product of conception - and turn it into a heartbeat. The mother gets to see the baby. For her, it creates a life that she can connect with,” said Lorraine Allaire, coordinator of the Respect Life Office for the Diocese of Saint Augustine.

“We try to help them (crisis pregnancy centers) with their work,” said Lorraine. “Our office doesn’t deal directly with clients.” The staffs at crisis pregnancy centers are in the trenches doing that work day to day, she added.

Tracie Cox Loftis is on the front lines of crisis pregnancies. She is the director of EPS located in the Riverside area of Jacksonville. Although EPS has been around 32 years, it’s only had ultrasound technology for about 10 years. The equipment is expensive, (even a used machine can cost $25,000) a center needs technicians to operate it. And then there’s liability insurance, plus finding a medical director and a doctor to oversee the program to ensure quality care. But even with all of the efforts it takes to incorporate this technology into a center, ultrasound is worth it.

“Ultrasound is the most powerful life-saving tool,” said Tracie. “The scan is a powerful bonding tool for a woman and her baby. You can show a young lady a brochure or a model, and she may not have a connection to it. Ultrasound helps her transform the concept of a pregnancy into a baby. That’s the moment that minds are changed and life is chosen.”

According to Tracie, national research has shown that as of 2003, crisis pregnancy centers that had ultrasound available report 83 percent of abortion-minded women chose life after seeing their baby on the screen. In centers using counseling alone, just 53 percent of clients who had been abortion-minded chose to carry a pregnancy to term.

An abortion-minded client is one who indicates on an intake form that she is considering an abortion, or has asked what an abortion would cost.

At EPS, the typical client is a single woman in her 20s with no health insurance. About 57 percent of the women are African American, 35 percent are white and the remaining 8 percent are from various ethnic cultures. “The girls sitting in crisis pregnancy centers are the same ones sitting next to you in church,” said Tracie. “This is not someone else’s issue.”

Judy Timby is an ultrasound technician at Women’s Help Center located on Emerson Street in Jacksonville. She is a retired surgical nurse who has worked at the center since 1999 and has been performing ultrasounds since 2004. “We need the baby to do a sales job on the mom,” she says of her work. “When they (the girls) see their baby it makes all the difference in the world.”

Making a difference for these women and the difficult decisions they face is something Judy is used to. Clients come from diverse backgrounds, many may not be in committed relationships, or they may have other complicating factors in their lives that make abortion an attractive alternative to carrying a pregnancy to term. Changing minds is an uphill battle. “We have to have written permission from the girls to conduct ultrasounds,” Judy said. “We always get her permission to talk about the baby. Our goal is to fully inform our clients. We try to get them in early. We talk about the development of the baby; we do mention sexually transmitted diseases, natural family planning and recommend abstinence until they’re married.”

And when clients choose life, Judy and other volunteers help the mothers through their pregnancy and afterwards when the baby is born. Like EPS, the Women’s Help Center provides the mother with diapers, formula, maternity clothes, clothes for young children up to size 3T and recycled baby furniture.

Volunteers refer clients to community programs for women, infants and young children, and they help them get started on paperwork so that if needed, they can qualify for Medicaid.

“We don’t judge them. We may not be able to make a difference for this baby, but maybe for others, or maybe we can enable her to be a better mom. We want them to know that there are people in this community who care for them,” said Tracie.

There have been times when Eydie, who at the age of 20 attends the University of North Florida full-time and works in a restaurant part time, hasn’t had money for diapers. EPS helps her out. And she helps them out by speaking about her journey to motherhood at various community functions and fundraisers for the center.

“God just doesn’t do these things to people so that they can keep it a secret. Brayden has a special purpose. God has a plan for him,” said Eydie.