When Maddie Haas, 18, suspected she might be pregnant, she asked a friend to take her to Walgreen’s to buy a pregnancy test. Not wanting to wait for the results, she headed to the store’s restroom.
It was positive.
First she went numb. Then her mind start racing: How do I tell my parents? How do I tell my boyfriend? What do I do?
She went back to her dorm on the University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln, where she had just begun her college experience two months earlier.
“I remembered the bulletin board had a flyer about unplanned pregnancy,” she recalled in a conversation with the Denver Catholic Register at her Parker home June 12. “I copied down the number for the pregnancy center and called them.”
Maddie, a parishioner of St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial, had been raised in a passionately pro-life family, regularly praying outside Planned Parenthood, attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C., twice, and volunteering with ministries such as Lighthouse Women’s Center. But when faced with the reality of an unplanned pregnancy as a freshman in college, she felt alone, confused and overwhelmed.
Two hours from the time she learned she was pregnant Maddie arrived at the Lincoln Crisis Pregnancy Center where she was greeted by “Karissa,” a bubbly young counselor.
“We talked for an hour,” Maddie said, before she was called back to see a nurse “Debbie.” A second test confirmed the pregnancy and since it was nearly 5 p.m., closing time, Karissa suggested they set up an ultrasound appointment for next week.
“Can we just try for one today?” Maddie asked.
Debbie agreed to stay late: a decision that made all the difference.
“Do you know what you want to do?” Debbie asked Maddie. Maddie told her abortion was an option because she was so afraid of the disappointment the news would bring to her “very pro-life” family.
It was 5:30 p.m. when Debbie put the ultrasound wand on her abdomen. At that moment they both saw her perfectly formed baby.
“Oh yeah, you’re pregnant,” Debbie said.
Maddie was five months along.
The ultrasound continued and as soon as Debbie found the baby’s heartbeat, Maddie’s anxiety began to dissipate.
“When I heard the heartbeat, I teared up,” she said. “Right when I heard it, I went from wondering ‘Do I tell my mom?’ to ‘How do I tell my mom?’
“I wasn’t abortion-minded anymore.”
Her first call was to the birth father, still in Denver, a senior in high school. Their discussion led to pressure from his family to abort, an option she was no longer willing to consider.
The next day after dialing her mother Valerie’s cell, she struggled to speak. Her silence concerned Valerie, who asked: “Is it your grades?” “No.” “Are you pregnant?” Silence. “Are you pregnant?”
Through sobs, Maddie told her everything.
“She was upset, disappointed, sad, mad,” Maddie said of her mother’s reaction. “But at the end of the conversation she said she loved me and supported me.”
She also suggested Maddie go to Mass and confession that night.
“Prayer is what really helped me,” said Maddie who began attending daily Mass and regular adoration. “I prayed to know where God was leading me.”
Maddie finished the semester at Nebraska then moved home in December. On March 1 she welcomed daughter Ellie Grace into the world. While she had considered adoption up until two weeks earlier, she ultimately decided to raise Ellie, with the help of her mother and her father Brad. She plans to go back to school next fall and study nursing.
“It’s not easy for Maddie,” Valerie said. “But she has held her head high … and she reached out.”
It’s so important to reach out, Valerie said.
“No one should go through it alone,” she continued. “That’s when the fear and despair get to you.”
Maddie has been supported not only by her family, but by the wider Catholic community as well, including a Catholic Charities social worker, staff from Lighthouse, clergy who have provided spiritual direction; and friends, parishioners and even strangers who have supported the family spiritually, emotionally and materially.
“We are so grateful for our Catholic family,” Valerie said. “God put the right people in the right places when we needed them.”