My name is Shama Khan and my story begins in August of 2008. After days of torment from my family and no reply from the father-to-be I was made to feel ashamed and alone, led to believe that abortion was the “fix” to my “problem”. It didn’t matter how I felt or what I thought. I was just told to drop the subject and drop the baby as soon as possible. I made my appointment and waited for my friend to show up and she never did. I was driven to my appointment in a cab, all by myself. After what seemed like an eternity in the waiting room, I was then taken into an exam room and asked to watch a short video in preparation for the “procedure”. The video made it seem like it was a quick in and out procedure and that I’d have my life “back to normal” in no time. Next the doctor laid me on the exam table and began the exam and ultrasound. I couldn’t see anything but could hear a swishing sound. I asked what that sound was and the doctor replied it was a heartbeat. I thought to myself, “A heartbeat? Really? At only 5-7 weeks?” A rush of emotions came over me. A heartbeat meant there was life. How could I end a life? How could anyone end a life? I became tense and knew abortion was not for me. I kept silent and prayed as the doctor proceeded with the exam. Ten minutes passed and the doctor then reviewed my exam. He reported I was so tense it would interfere with his ability to perform the procedure. His recommendation was to make another appointment so I could be sedated for the procedure. I interpreted the delay as a sign from God. At that moment I decided that if the abortion did not take place that day it would never take place. I then walked out of the doctors office and onto the path of motherhood.
It became a clear and simple choice to keep my baby. Coming up with an action plan to manage pregnancy and life after a baby was not simple. In fact it was quite a challenge. It did not help that my family disagreed with my decision. My family felt embarrassed and dishonored and decided they wanted nothing to do with me or my unborn child. My mother discussed her disappointment at her local senior center run by Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities intervened and helped place me in a family home to ensure a safe, healthy, happy pregnancy and delivery. It was a wonderful and blessed experience! The only problem was finding a permanent home for my newborn and me that I could actually afford. I couldn’t seem to come up with any answers. My income was not enough to support me and my newborn. Time at the family home was running out. I had the ability to give birth to my child but not the means to raise her. I nearly fell into depression. The thought of adopting out my firstborn was tearing me apart. Seriously, were there no other options? Section 8 housing was closed in the state of Virginia, low- income housing was being offered only after placing my name on a three-year waiting list and most shelters in the area were full and only offered a 30-day solution. I had WIC and a few other benefits but no place to live. I was a paycheck away from being I was not just a paycheck away from the street; in reality I would be homeless as soon as my time in the family home ran out.
The time had come to place my faith in God and let him pave a path for us. I reassured myself that God had gotten us this far and that he would somehow find a way. I then turned my focus on caring for my newborn and myself. My anxiety, however, would not allow me to rest. Then one morning I received a phone call. It was a counselor from Catholic Charities. She spoke of a home in Orange County, VA, that was for homeless pregnant women and their babies. I thought to myself, “I am homeless and I have a baby, but I’m no longer pregnant.” I began to think we were traveling down another dead-end road. That was not the case because God had a plan. A woman named Evelyn James from the Paul Stefan Foundation in Orange County, VA, had made an exception to the rule! The rule had always been that a pregnant mom would enter the Paul Stefan Home and deliver her baby as a resident. Given my emergency situation Evelyn and Randy James, founders of the Paul Stefan Foundation, opened their hearts and their home to my newborn and me. I knew then that God was truly looking out for us!
In March of 2009 I left my job of 4 years to move hours away so that I could have the opportunity to raise my child. Upon entering the Paul Stefan Home I felt a sense of relief. It wasn’t just a house it was really a home. Evelyn was like a friend, a mentor, and a mother Randy was firm, like fathers tend to be, but also a down-to-earth, good-natured man. Father Stefan always brought with him a sense of peace and a great sense of hope. The rest of the staff was always willing to help and respected us as individuals. I wish all of the residents knew how blessed we were to have such a safe-haven for our home. The Paul Stefan Foundation did not hesitate to provide the appropriate staff and resources needed to ensure a safe, healthy, and happy environment for our children. They went above and beyond to provide mothers like me the education, skills, training and knowledge needed to give fuel to our success. Every mother had a vision for her and her child. Every member of the foundation worked hard to help make that vision a reality. Some mothers decided they were not ready for motherhood and that adoption would be in the best interest of their child. The foundation then provided the information necessary to make that transition possible. There were, however, some bumps in the road. Assistance was provided to help create resumes and seek employment opportunities. At the time we were faced with a troubled job market. If you were fortunate to receive a call for a job interview and extended a job offer you were then required to have reliable transportation. There was no public transportation available in Orange County. Most available jobs were in Fredericksburg or Culpepper, about 28 miles away. We desperately needed a car or van to help transport moms to and from interviews, doctors’ visits, court dates, and other numerous events. Funding for a major investment like a car or van was not yet available. There were many costs associated with running two homes and providing the staff and resources needed for all the mothers and their babies. We relied heavily on the foundation for everything, from our most basic needs to helping us prepare for life after leaving the Paul Stefan Home. You see, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps, and a few other benefits offered by the government simply weren’t enough. Had it not been for the Paul Stefan Foundation not only would my child and I have been homeless, we would have been a recipe for disaster.
Support from the Paul Stefan Foundation helped me in many ways. I was able to provide housing and resources needed for myself and most importantly for my child. The foundation also helped in financial planning and reducing debt. Upon discharge from the home I was provided with supplies I would need for life after leaving the Paul Stefan Home. At one point I had ideas to pursue my own business in Childcare and Childcare Development, although my experience was in the field of veterinary medicine. The foundation was willing to provide the education and tools necessary to start my own business! I decided instead to return to the field of veterinary medicine. That decision was based on personal reasons and never due to lack of support from the foundation.
I have since been employed full-time and enjoy being a mom. I would like to express thanks to Evelyn and Randy who made it possible for me to keep my baby and experience motherhood. In addition I would like to thank all who contribute to making The Paul Stefan Foundation a success. Every dollar donated helps enable and empower young mothers to believe in themselves, to overcome obstacles, to strive to make the right choices for their family, and to never lose faith in God. I encourage those with the ability to donate to please do so generously. Last but not least I would to thank all members of the Paul Stefan Foundation for making life worth living!