Remember When I Said…

Remember when I said “we are all one bad decision away from a devastating consequence”? I don’t remember exactly if I wrote that down somewhere, but I know I’ve said it out loud a zillion times lately. I made that blanket statement before ever seeing the full circle of it’s truth.

I’ve subconsciously been putting off writing about my experience at Greenbrier Birthing Center [GBC]. I didn’t realize that was what I was doing, but here I am, home already 10 days…and I still hadn’t written. Perhaps writing it makes it real, it makes it completed or maybe it’s so etched on my heart that I don’t want to share. Like that twinge of angst when the baby you’ve carried 9 months is no longer inside you; yours alone to experience. After it’s birth you now have to share it with the world.

Greenbrier is part of the MINT program established by the Federal Department of Prisons. Yes, I said federal prison. Women ‘qualify’ for this program with many stipulations including a NON-violent offence with a sentence of 5 or less years, enter their incarceration already pregnant (several do not even discover their pregnancy until after incarceration). These mamas can spend up to one year with their babies, with counseling, job skills training and a litany of other life-positive teachings. I worked with a team of women for months and months, preparing for this trip. As a team, we have had meetings and meetings, homework and preparation, plans and….well, we chucked most of it out the window when we arrived in West Virginia. We wanted to partner with them and show these mamas some non-judgmental support and love.

We were to have an orientation, tour and Rule Following 101 our first day. Upon our arrival, we discover the facilitator, who provides the briefing, was out sick and that the inmates had no idea we were even coming. Uh, whaaaaat do we do now? What any gaggle of inquisitive women would do…We introduced ourselves, started getting to know the girls. {I immediately surrendered the term ‘inmates’ as soon as I entered GBC. Personally, I discovered myself in them and realized this could have happened to any one of us.  More on that theory later}

At the time, there were 10 mamas and 11 babies, yep, one mama had twins!! I have an absolute love of babies, yes, I’m that weirdo baby-sniffer. I vaguely remember asking the mamas if I may hold their babies, but I may have just grabbed one or two with out asking. My bad. The day that was intended to take a tour and learn the rules became getting to know each other and discover if there were any needs we could meet for them personally and relationally. Any plan we had disappeared in the moment of connecting our ‘ideas’ to the faces of these precious women. We realized that it was not enough to teach them about God, we needed to show them God’s love for them, as well as ours. The mantra that kept echoing in my ears, “when you know better, you do better”. Little did I know, I was preaching to myself…

We spent the remainder of the afternoon watching the movie Inside Out. Yes, I realize that it’s a kids’ movie, but for anyone who has seen the film, it is so much deeper than that! It touches on the importance of ALL emotions. And joy cannot exist without sadness, disgust, fear and anger. I could get all Biblical about the negative emotions, but face it, we are all human, we have fears.  It’s all about how you respond to those emotions and I obsessed over  Joy’s blue pixie hair!! But I digress… It was difficult to hold the attention of everyone, babies crying, feeding, naps, etc., not to mention, here we are, this band of women from 3 states away, barging in to their daily routine. I know once we return to our home-away-from-home camp, we will have much to discuss and in the coming days many many more discussions and rivers of tears.



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