It’s a typical Friday night, and I’m busy cooking dinner for my 7-year-old daughter, Bella, and my 6-year-old son, Bryant.

My heart warms as I watch the two of them snuggled up on the couch, with Bryant’s eyes wide, as Bella launches into their millionth book of the day. They are young, beautiful, and full of hope.

Though it isn’t always easy, I love our life together. 

My life wasn’t always like this. The circumstances surrounding my second pregnancy were dire enough that many might’ve thought I should’ve chosen the “easy” option of abortion.

I’m so glad that I didn’t buy that lie and settle for less.  

Several years ago, I was at a crossroads with the man who I once thought I would marry. I was pregnant, and my children’s father had grown increasingly abusive toward me. I knew for my children’s sake I needed to get away from him.

But I had no vehicle, and in my desperation, I turned to a pregnancy shelter and began working two jobs to support my daughter and unborn son. Not too long after that, I learned about Mary’s Shelter, a Virginia maternity home where pregnant women—along with any children they might have—can stay during their pregnancies and for several years after the birth of their child.

I vividly remember showing up on the Mary’s Shelter doorstep, pregnant and with my then-5-month-old daughter Bella in tow. The trauma from the abuse I suffered and the difficulties of the previous few months had left me a nervous wreck. Yet I felt a wave of peace and calm overpower me as I stepped across the bright threshold and into the clean and carefully decorated home.

The women at Mary’s Shelter helped me to overcome my misplaced shame at being a single mother, showing me that I had the strength to thrive in my situation. Through the resources, support, and love that they gave me, I went from feeling ashamed and desperate to feeling empowered, and strong enough to see that I could shoulder my problems for myself and my children.

I ended up obtaining my certified nursing assistant license while seven months pregnant with my son, and of course with my young daughter as well, while at Mary’s Shelter.  

That period of my life working and pursuing my nursing degree was difficult, but I feel proud looking back at the obstacles I overcame to achieve my goals. Today, I’m a registered nurse and work at a hospital with patients needing neurological care.

So many women think an unplanned (or even planned) pregnancy will make their life fall apart—especially single moms. I understand their fear because I was once in their shoes. But abortion is not the only option. I found it empowering to choose life for my children, and to work through the difficulties that accompany that.

The women at Mary’s Shelter were there for me from the moment I arrived, supporting me and helping me find the courage to leave my comfort zone and embrace the challenges I was faced with.

Without them, I might not have finished my nursing degree until my daughter was a teenager, or even later. I might not now be pursuing master’s degree programs so I can realize my dream of specializing in wound care to help prevent and heal wounds for many populations and diagnoses, especially for patients with burns, diabetes, ulcers, or stroke survivors.

Seven years ago, I never imagined I could do more than just survive daily life. Today, knowing that I can provide for my children’s needs gives me a sense of joy and pride that I would be lacking if I’d chosen a different route, and settled for less.

Don’t get me wrong. I know exactly how hard this is. But with the right support, it is possible for women to pursue their dreams and keep their children, even if they don’t have a partner in the picture.

Watching my healthy and beautiful children reading peacefully together and hearing their feet patter across the floor when I call them in for dinner, I feel compelled to tell other women that it’s worth it. 

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