2007 Bernardin-O'Connor Award for
Pro-life Journalism: Best Overall Pro-Life Feature
Men of Birthline Program Helps New Dads
By Sue Schulzetenberg, Staff Writer
Saint Cloud Visitor
Diocese of Saint Cloud, MN
December 13, 2007
ST. CLOUD – Five years ago, when expectant mothers
met with personnel at Birthline in St. Cloud, the baby’s father, if he
accompanied her, would wait in the lobby or in the car.
But that time spent waiting outside has since been
transformed into time spent more productively, thanks to male role models
who volunteer through an initiative called Men of Birthline. The program
assists men who are in unexpected or crisis pregnancy situations.
Birthline is a Christian non-profit agency that provides
personal services and support to anyone confronted with an unexpected
pregnancy, and promotes respect for life and those personal values,
attitudes, and behaviors which prevent unwanted pregnancies.
“It’s a good deal for dads who don’t know where to turn,”
said Enoch Dix, one of125-130 expectant fathers who have participated
or are participating in the Men of Birthline program. “I’m sure if Birthline
doesn’t have an answer, they will be able to find it.”
Started about five years ago, Men of Birthline matches
expectant fathers with trained volunteers who assist with providing
information on legal responsibilities, budgeting, child rearing, and
referrals and information about topics such as jobs and housing. The
volunteers also listen to the men to determine their needs and concerns —
physical, psychological, spiritual — and help them set goals.
“There are so many guys who want to do the right thing but
they don’t know what the right thing is,” said Linda Allen, executive
director of Birthline Inc. in St. Cloud.
Expectant fathers determine how often they wish to meet with
a Men of Birthline volunteer. Many just come once, but others, like Dix,
come every month for multiple months. They vary in age, but most are between
18 and 24. Their concerns vary. Some request very specific information about
some issue related to fatherhood. A few talk about not wanting or being
ready to raise a child. Others need help with long-term goal setting,
ridding themselves of bad habits or even finding faith.
“We always ask them where they are spiritually,” said Greg
Medvec, a Men of Birthline volunteer.
Joe Bertram, another Men of Birthline volunteer, added that
they try to help the young men see that lack of belief won’t help them.
During their conversations, volunteers don’t judge or condemn, but instead
try to help meet the clients’ needs, which might include growing in faith.
“You will need something to get you over this, and God will
help you,” Medvec said.
Sometimes, while an expectant father is meeting with the Men
of Birthline volunteer, the mother is meeting simultaneously with a woman
mentor from Birthline. Subsequently, all four people meet to compare what
they think and how they feel.
The man and the woman might have a differing ideas and
viewpoints about their situation and circumstances, but when they share
their personal stories and mesh them together they often come to a greater
sense of where they’re going, Allen said.
Other times, because of their schedules, the mother and
father meet at different times. Sometimes a man meets with a Birthline
volunteer even if his partner chooses not to become a Birthline client. In
one of those cases, Medvec met with a father who wanted to see his child but
the mother refused to let him.
Dix and his girlfriend, Maggie, both meet with people at
Birthline, but not necessarily at the same time. He began meeting with a Men
of Birthline volunteer after Maggie told him about it and suggested he go
too. So far, he has met with a volunteer twice and is participating in
Birthline’s Stepping Stones program, which helps parents learn more about
parenting or adoption and set education, career and personal goals while
earning “money” to buy baby products at the Birthline store.
His meetings with volunteers have helped him learn more
about Birthline, parenting tips and “doulas” or people that accompany a
woman in labor and provide support and suggestions for the parents before
and after birth.
“It’s mainly about getting it fresh in your mind, how to be
a good father and be mentally prepared,” Dix said.
Dix looks forward to March, when his child will be born.
“It will be fun to have a child of my own,” he said.
Because some fathers only meet with a Men of Birthline
volunteer once, Bertram and Medvec say they don’t always know if their
meeting had an impact or not. However, the important thing is the fact that
the fathers came in to meet with them in the first place, Medvec said.
In addition, Bertram said that if they’ve helped save one
child, they’ve accomplished their goal. He also recalls that one of his
clients called him “the dad I never had,” to his surprise.
He also recalled how poignant and touching it is to see
clients, with their family, later on.
“It’s neat to see these people when they really do have the
child,” Bertram said.