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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.

 

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