Women of Reverence welcomes Daniele Gradwell as a guest blogger.
Danièle is married to Michael and together have 3 children and 5 grandsons.
Training and teaching is my passion and I worked for many for many years as a training material developer for a development agency to upskill those who did not have access to formal training in the 80’s. I am also a certified John Maxwell speaker and coach, an accredited training facilitator and crisis counsellor and I led a pregnancy help organisation (PHO) for 13 years. In 2014 I took up a position at Africa Cares for Life (ACfL) and I serve to oversee the mission of providing leadership development conferences, training resources and daily support to help affiliated pregnancy help organisations start and expand their services.
ACfL is a tribe of life affirming PHOs who exist to provide practical and emotional support to young people who are facing an unplanned pregnancy and to help them, with accurate information, truth with love and non-directive counselling to navigate the valley of decisions that an unplanned pregnancy presents. If you would like to get involved in the pregnancy help ministry, please check out our website or contact me to see how we can make this happen. Website: www.africacaresforlife.org.za Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Although, I joined pregnancy help work over 15 years ago as the Director of a local pregnancy help organisation (PHO), before taking up leadership of Africa Cares for Life (ACfL) in 2014, my journey actually began on the day 40 years ago, as a first year student, I discovered I was pregnant.
Shock, horror, panic - all the usual emotions that, as a crisis pregnancy counsellor, I have come to recognise and see in young people who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. Catapulted into the valley of decisions that an unplanned pregnancy presents, I struggled with the decision making process and craved (without knowing it) non-directive assistance from people who knew how to help and who would give me accurate information about what to expect from each of the options open to me; who were trained to listen to my feelings and not just my words.
My parents, not really knowing how to support me through this time, wisely listened to my expressed desire to stay in a maternity home (a home for unmarried mothers that I read about in a popular women’s magazine at the time). I stayed there for about 5 months and impatiently awaited the birth of my baby that I was planning to release for adoption as the relationship with my boyfriend and father of my baby, had become strained due to the enormous pressure on us both. At the time, he was serving out a compulsory military service that so many boys were forced to perform in the 70’s and 80’s in SA. It was its own crisis and he was left all alone to “man up” and navigate our pregnancy. He tried to be bold and courageous but he didn’t have anyone to walk the road with him. He didn’t have anyone trained to listen to his feelings and not just his words. His parents tried their best to help and intervene but they were not equipped and they didn’t know anything about the existence of PHOs to provide the necessary support. So instead he stuffed down his questions about the options available to us and didn’t talk to anyone about how he felt about impending fatherhood or about what adoption would entail, and if that was a decision that he would be able to live with. There was no one trained and impartial and available to talk through his fears, his concerns and his anxiety. AND no one to prepare him for fatherhood at 21. On the other hand, I was surrounded by trained people who provided care, love, non-judgment, options counselling and who journeyed with me for the duration of my pregnancy, helping me to navigate the valley of decisions and supporting me in my decision. At the 11th hour, which is so often how God works, my boyfriend stepped up to the plate and said the most magical words I have yet to hear again in my life: Keep him (our baby), I don’t have all the answers but we will make a plan.
So fast forward to when I was leading a PHO with a maternity home. The life lessons that I had gleaned while as a fresh face, wet behind the ears, know it all teenager staying in a maternity home, God was using, even before I had any real relationship with Him, to prepare me to lead a PHO and a mother home – what a sense of calling and humour He has. And THIS is why I do what I do – the tribe of life affirming pregnancy help organisations that is ACfL are here to help young people navigate the valley of decisions and heartache that an unplanned pregnancy presents.
So many moms and dads are making life changing decisions with very little or no information about consequences and what to expect on the other side of that decision. So many are struggling all alone without support from those who are trained to listen to feelings and not just words. So many young people are choosing abortion without any accurate information and little to no counselling support whatsoever. 40 years ago – I found a pregnancy help organisation to help me through my unplanned pregnancy because someone had the bold thought and the courage to take a step to say yes – I will do it. Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest and most courageous step - it’s a tip toe really – but it’s a step. And because of the ACfL tribe of members that said YES, there are people trained to listen to feelings instead of words such as: I can’t have this baby, the father doesn’t want this baby, I cannot tell my parents. I saw this quote recently and I can so easily relate: When God put a calling on your life, He already factored in your stupidity. This is the most comforting thing I have heard in years. God had been preparing me since I was a teenager building my testimony. I really didn’t know what I was doing and yet God was helping me to do the things he had already prepared me to do. This scripture in Joshua is one promise that I happily stand on: He will give you every place on which you set your foot - Joshua 1 vs 3 What a comfort as you take a bold step. 39 years ago my boyfriend, Michael, and I had the bold idea that marriage would fix things countering what some were advising: “its so final, do a trial run, these kinds of marriages don’t work’’. But we wanted to go big and not go home. And it worked! Surprisingly at times….miraculously at times…supernaturally at times….considering we were both children ourselves. Together we grew up and had 2 more children and we now also have 5 grandsons and 2 daughters in love – this is our legacy. The other day, I asked Michael, again, if he was ok with me sharing our story and he said: It’s not our story, it’s God’s story. I loved that and I love the passion that we share to see young people receive the help that I received, shapes us every day as he supports me in the ACfL vision of a pregnancy help organisation in every town and city in SA. My favourite Note to self is: The world needs you to show up today, you are powerful, you are valuable and what you believe changes the world Somehow God in His awesomeness took my husband and our faltering and tentative steps and turned them around to show us His glory so we could become forces of influence and world changers. What an awesome privilege, what a wonderful gift.