Discover Life Church member Ariel Long remembers what it was like to be young, single and pregnant.
So when expectant moms were mentioned in a sermon at the Melbourne church earlier this year, Long said, she told her husband: “I think this is confirmation … I’ve had this idea for so long.”
“This idea” came to fruition Saturday, in the form of three back-to-back “community baby showers” for about 50 unwed, expectant mothers and their guests from around the Space Coast. Each party, for which moms-to-be pre-registered, featured vendors representing agencies who work with families and children, speakers, games, food, raffles and gifts which came from church members and donors communitywide.
“I was 15, and had my baby at 16,” said Long, who beamed throughout the first shower.
“It was a struggle … more than anything, though I might not have known it in the moment, I needed community. I needed love. I needed that outpouring of love from those who were around me.”
An outpouring of help for event coordinator Long’s plans came from assistant pastor Anthony Hatcher, associate pastor Austin Green, other church staff, a social media blast from the church’s production group and a lot of word of mouth. Gifts, from diapers to car seats and baby shampoo to strollers, contained personal items moms had requested.
“Two months later, here we are,” Long said. “Probably at least 200 people spread news of this on Facebook.”
The timing coincides with renewed attention on pregnancy in light of the US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, but nothing political was mentioned during Saturday’s shower.
Cocoa resident Chastity Simmons, who attended the 10 am shower, heard about the event through her friend Renata Bennett.
A mom of three, she’s expecting a boy on Oct. 26. Simmons had never heard of such an event — and she’s grateful.
“I’ve been through a lot, and I don’t have that much support,” she said.
“This is just amazing to me, to be able to benefit from this, to get help with a stroller and car seat. I’m struggling a little bit. So it’s just a blessing.”
Among the vendors were representatives from Brevard Family Partnership. They shared information on services including sleep safety for parent and child, with free Pack ‘N Play (a portable sleeper and playpen) offered through their safe sleeping classes.
Jessica Miles, BFP’s family support manager, said the goal is to provide moms with “free safe sleep options to have in their homes, so babies and moms can sleep peacefully.”
And BFP would “absolutely” like to see more outreach efforts like Discover’s showers, said Rebecca Melick, interim BFP executive director.
“We’d love to be able to do this again and have the capacity to help more people in the community,” she said.
Alysia Hayford and her sister, Amber Hayford, are both expecting babies soon — Amber in September and Alysia in December.
Alysia Hayford said she’d “never seen anything like this” and appreciated being able to get some help with needed items.
“This is my fourth baby, so I wasn’t actually planning on having a shower this time around,” she said. “This is really nice … I’d just been trying to get used things this time.”
Assistant pastor Anthony Hatcher acted as an emcee, introducing a guest who shared information on parenting classes and other resources — and playfully sharing his wife’s pregnancy cravings (spicy Doritos. And ice cream).
Encouragement and compassion for these moms, all moms, are urgently needed, he and Long agreed. The showers — part of the church’s Reach for the Region outreach — mean so much to so all involved, they said.
For those who’d take issue with celebrating pregnancies with unwed mothers, or women who don’t belong to their church or any church, Hatcher said he would turn to scripture.
“Discover Life is big on really living out what God has told us to do. We got that example from Jesus, which he talks about in Matthew,” Hatcher said.
“He says that the two greatest commandments in all the world and the earth are to No. 1, love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And No. 2, love your neighbor as yourself.”
If that is the model that Jesus imparted, Hatcher said, “we’re not going to wait for a person to become a member of a church to decide if we want to do a baby shower.”
“By us doing this, it could even cause them to understand God’s love through us loving them, just helping them in a situation where they need help,” he said.
“That’s really where our heart is. We want to reach all people because that’s what we know we’re called to do.”
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