So this is where it all begins. Two girls walk into a crisis pregnancy center …
Actually, that’s not too far from the truth.
I knew I wanted to help. My life journey brought me to a place that I could finally spend some time learning how to put the lessons I’d learned as a young adult to work for other women. Specifically, women who were facing a crisis pregnancy. This is where my path finally connected to my heart. This is also where I met one of the most lovely women I’ve ever known, Nurse Laurie. She and I have nurtured All About Girls together over the past five years and we’ll continue to do so as long as there is a need.
But we had to start somewhere … we both walked into that little pink house.
Yes, really … it was a pink house on the corner of a downtrodden central Phoenix neighborhood, one which over many years had been eaten up by freeways, skyscrapers and commerce. When I came along, that little pink house had been serving women in need for 40 years providing free pregnancy tests, material support and most importantly, peer counseling, which is how I spent my time as a volunteer and eventually, a staff member.
The tiny, dilapidated park next door was “home” to a regular audience of homeless men and women without anywhere else to go. Even though they had a deep well of their own challenges and fathomless personal issues, they saw that our role as their neighbors was to help girls and women. So they watched over us, they blessed us in our work and knew that we also wished them well.
As it turned out, Nurse Laurie and I became not only coworkers but friends in that little pink house on the corner. We spent some of the most meaningful hours (of my life anyway) working on behalf of women. Women who were scared. Women who were helpless. Women who were at risk on so many levels. Women who brought horrific stories to us yet still had the courage to place their trust in us to inform them; to support them; to honor them, no matter their choices. Nurse Laurie became my counseling sage and I her “Grasshopper”. Her education and training placed alongside my passion and life experiences made us a great team. (It also helps that we each walk around with stars in our eyes pretty much on a daily basis and that spreading sunshine and fashion advice is foremost on our personal agendas. We can’t help it … we’re made this way.)
Over time, though our paths diverged as coworkers, our friendship remained solid. During those final months working together however, I noted that a trend had emerged as part of my counseling. I found myself continually matched with clients who were in their teens. This wasn’t by design, as our system was first come-first served, next counselor available, resulting in random outcomes — kind of “grab the next folder and go” stuff — so it seemed over this time, that the universe might be telling me something. Why else would I keep getting the youngest of our clients, some with a positive pregnancy result, some not, but many of the same demographic and set of needs?
I didn’t know for sure that there was a reason this was happening but I did pay close attention. After all, I had a teenage son at home and a daughter about to enter into puberty … if for no other reason, the lessons that I was learning while counseling these very young women could be put to use in my own life as I considered the needs of my children. I was continuing to develop as a counselor and conversely, as a parent. I was thankful. Little did I know just how well all of these things would merge over the course of the next year.
Having moved on to new projects and adventures, I was still basking in the glow of having experienced truly life changing moments as a peer counselor in that little pink house on the corner. Those girls were never far from my mind and Nurse Laurie was my touchstone, connecting me to the work I had enjoyed so immensely. The clock was also ticking for my kids. A son now in high school and a daughter who … GASP! … was entering adolescence. A girl! Who needed to learn about periods! And sex! And pregnancy!! And all the other fun, fascinating, awkward, gory, miraculous facts that make up who we are as women.
I should note that my son’s entrance into and through puberty was a pretty routine and seemingly less complicated affair — our conversations and parenting moments were applicable to his needs but by nature of him being a dude, they didn’t have to include quite so many practical, body focused discussions and preparation as that of a girl about to start her period. This is no way diminishes the importance of a young man’s entrance into adolescence by the way, it just happens to be a different sort of approach and set of facts and needs and trust me here … my thoughts on the topic were about to expand.
So along comes the big opportunity for my daughter to attend her school’s “Life Studies” presentation — in other words: S-E-X E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N. This was a kind of rite of passage as a 5th/6th grader that my husband and I had been anticipating — a launching point of sorts to further conversations that had already begun at home; should have already begun at home.
I’ll disclose here that my daughter was attending a very small, inner-city Catholic school that offered a curriculum and cultural experience much different from our public school counterparts. This was one of the many reasons we had chosen the school and why both of our children attended through their 8th grade graduations. For so many reasons, this school community was the right choice for our family however, for so many reasons, it also became clear that this institution was not fully capable of meeting the needs of young women when the time came to discuss puberty, relationships and sexuality. (Interestingly, they had done a pretty great job with the boys when my son’s class received the presentation however, that was a different time in the school’s history and consequently, the presentation was much more appropriate and impactful.)
Back to that classroom, that moment. Sitting there with my daughter beside me along with several dozen other girls with their moms, it hit me. I was boiling. I was beside myself. I almost couldn’t stand it.
For two hours, this small group of young women and their mothers were a captive audience connecting to … wait for it … absolutely nothing that was presented. Though truly well intended, in my mind it was a disaster. Blame a young, new and inexperienced principal, the language/accent barrier of one of the presenters, the fact that there was no female presenter in attendance, nor was the physician presenter’s specialty that of young women or puberty aged children at all. Any one of these things could have been the reason for — again — a truly, deeply well-intentioned but total miss of a night.
Suddenly, it was clear to me what was missing … what was missing for my girl and for the rest of those girls in the room. And for the girls who had no opportunities for instruction, classroom or otherwise, nor any family support surrounding these topics at all, the forecast was even more dire. There it was, right in front of me.
The gap that existed (and still does) between home, school and community in educating young women about their bodies, their burgeoning sexuality and all the things that go along with those developments.
Sitting as part of this captive audience for two hours, knowing that several of the girls were hearing this information for the first time, knowing how disconnected and limiting the information being presented was, and finally knowing that there were so many other girls (and boys) out there that had already been missing out on all these same things hit me like a lightening bolt. If my girl was missing an opportunity to learn, what must that mean for all the other girls out there? Especially those girls who were even more at risk; those girls continually walking through the door of that little pink house on the corner? Most importantly, what was I going to do about it??
And there was the million dollar question and that’s when I called Nurse Laurie.
Because I knew she’d want to help …
… because I thought I might know where to begin …
… because I knew that if not, it might end with two girls walking into a crisis pregnancy center.
(The photo above is from February 2013 and marked the debut of new uniform shirts featuring our beloved daisy logo. We were on our way to present “Virtual Girls” to a group of 7th grade NCL Moon Valley Ticktockers. It was a great day and a great group of girls!)
Coming up next: All About our “First Time”