About a year ago I was flipping through a local northside mailer when I saw an article about The O’Connor House. I scanned the article, mentally filing it away, fully intending to look up some more information about this house that helped single, homeless, pregnant women and their children. And, like so many other good intentions, it went nowhere. I completely forgot about it. Until recently.
I was in week 12, my final week, of maternity leave with my daughter when I remembered the article. I was sitting on the couch, baby asleep in my arms, trying to soak up the moments I had barely been able to enjoy to this point. She had been a colicky baby. She had reflux. We had concerns with her feeding and weight gain and to be honest she was just angry, all the time those first 11 weeks. That last week we had found the right combination of changes and finally felt that we were past the hard part. Baby girl was happy, healthy, and was literally an entirely different baby.
Eleven of my twelve weeks of maternity leave were spent merely trying to survive. It was the hardest 11 weeks of my life, without question. They were filled with doubt, uncertainty, doctor’s appointments, much-needed support and relief from family and friends, and small moments of peace that kept me going. I remember sitting there thinking I had no idea what I would have done if things hadn’t gotten better before I went back to work. What if I didn’t have my mom two houses down to come hold a crying baby – vacuum running, bouncing, singing, etc. just so I could have 30 minutes of quiet? What if friends weren’t bringing over meals or praying with us, encouraging us, and loving us? What if I didn’t have a job that provided me 12 weeks of paid maternity leave or a husband who also had some time off and flexible vacation time after his leave ended? What if I didn’t have the means or resources to support this baby? It was a huge reality check. I had the luxury of spending those crazy 11 weeks committed to nothing else but that tiny baby, and on occasion, getting the opportunity for some guilt-free self-care (ok there was some guilt, but I knew my girl was safe and loved with others while I got in a nap or shower or an hour away for coffee). Suddenly the article I had skimmed about The O’Connor House (TOCH) came rushing to the front of my mind.
After I had returned to work and my scheduled stabilized, I poured over the O’Connor House website to learn more about them and find out how I could help. I found a call out on the volunteer page for technology assistance – it was the nudge I needed. I work for a software company, so I crossed my fingers that I would be able to assist with what they needed, and reached out. It’s only been a short time, but I already know that my love for this organization and desire to be part of it will continue to grow, and stick around for a long time.
What is the O’Connor House?
The O’Connor House (TOCH) is a place where homeless pregnant women can come to feel safe and secure and ensure their new baby’s healthy arrival. TOCH can assist up to 8 women with up to 2 additional children (ages 4 and younger) per mom. Moms must be at least 18, pregnant, and drug and alcohol-free. Women who meet the criteria and make it through the intake process must then agree to follow the basic rules of the house. To learn more about the intake process, you can visit their website.
What TOCH Provides
Once a woman has been accepted to the house, TOCH provides her with everything she needs to take care of herself and her baby. Their goal is to equip and empower these women to work towards living on their own and having a brighter future. It’s more than just shelter, food, clothing, and transportation that moms find here. Basic needs are the first step but what TOCH provides is so much more. They focus on all areas to give these mommas help, healing, education, and hope. There are opportunities for individual and group counseling, Bible studies, mentor relationships, guidance, and most importantly love and encouragement. Also, TOCH helps these moms work towards a HS degree or further their education, find jobs, and learn how to self-advocate.
How TOCH Has Helped
Don’t just take my word for it, TOCH has helped so many women and made a huge impact. Numbers don’t lie! Here are some stats from 2018.
- 4,651 Total nights of safe shelter provided to women, children, and infants in 2018
- 5 First birthdays – five children have spent their entire first year at The O’Connor House
- 10 babies born in 2018
- 12 Mentees in the Mentor Program
- 100% of babies, children, and moms received healthcare
- 11 women obtained employment
- 2 moms completed their high school education
- 100% of moms participated in Life Skills classes
Being a mom is hard enough, but being a mom without this kind of support would be almost impossible. To learn more or find out how you can help, visit The O’Connor House online.