Introducing ultrasounds to our pregnancy clinic has been extremely beneficial for our life-saving ministry. Through this free and confidential service, clients have been empowered to make life-affirming decisions and bond with their babies. To understand ultrasounds, and their role in our mission, we spoke with the expert, Beth Hildenbrand.
Beth serves as the Clinic Coordinator and sonographer. We asked her about her experience inside the ultrasound suite and she provided plenty of insight!
What sparked your interest in sonography?
“I had an interest in health care, so I began to research my options. When I came across sonography, it felt like a natural fit. This career could incorporate my love for problem-solving and give my compassionate heart a focus as I helped patients. Soon after coming to that realization, I enrolled in a program to become certified.”
Were you always interested in obstetric sonography?
“No. When I first enrolled, my intent was to focus on cardiac patients through echo sonography. God, as He tends to do, had different plans. I was friends with Vicki Raddant (a longtime volunteer) through church and she invited me to tour the offices at WELS Lutherans for Life. This was my first touch with the organization. While I was on the tour, I met Peter Georgson, the Executive Director. I noticed a poster behind him that listed the organization’s goals for the next ten years. Adding ultrasounds was on the list, and it made me reconsider. I went home and felt that God had put this on my heart for a reason. I changed programs that evening. Looking back, it still amazes me that God used such a small interaction to make such a big impact on my life.”
When did you begin working for WELS Lutherans for Life?
“Once I graduated from the sonography program, I worked in a hospital before transitioning to WELS Lutherans for Life. When I first started in 2014, I was in an administrative role.”
Tell us about your role in the medical conversion.
“The conversations about becoming a medical facility began before I arrived, but the vision started to become a reality in the spring of 2016. I began investigating various avenues, collecting information, and comparing models of other centers that provided ultrasounds. Pam Mankse was integral in this process and really helped coordinate these efforts. By the fall of 2017, we were performing ultrasounds on clients.”
What have you learned through your role?
“I am constantly amazed at how being kind can make such an impact. We have so many clients compliment us on our service and compassionate staff, it really makes me realize that they have not experienced the same elsewhere. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and I am glad that we can provide our clients with a positive experience.”
What makes sonography unique in a pregnancy center setting?
Generally, when you are performing obstetric sonography, you are working with patients that are excited to be pregnant. They wanted to have a baby, and because they have been practicing pre-natal care and seeing a doctor regularly, they know what to expect. This is not what we tend to experience in a pregnancy center. Sometimes clients are unsure what to expect during an ultrasound. So much discourse exists on the topic that I think they envision a random clump of cells appearing. Then, when a heartbeat is detected or the shape of the body is clearly visible, they are taken aback. Watching them see their baby for the first time and see it become real for them is amazing.”
Explain the difference between our clinic and the hospital.
“Clients come to our clinic to confirm a pregnancy and receive a due date. This initial screening allows them to process their pregnancy in a safe, non-judgemental environment. Then, if they choose to carry, we refer them to a doctor if they do not have one. Once they have established care with a doctor, they can have additional ultrasounds. These usually include one at the end of the first trimester to check for chromosomal abnormalities and one at 20 weeks to look at the fetal anatomy and find the sex.
Of course, our clients can come back for another ultrasound for reassurance, but they will receive more information through their doctor.”
Explain the role of a doctor for our clinic.
Dr. Matthew Lee serves as an Obstetric Consultant for our clinic. Once the ultrasound images are uploaded, he reviews them to ensure the pregnancy is in the uterus, the fetus is developing correctly, confirm the heart rate, address areas of concern, and verify the measurements. Once he has reviewed the images, he can sign off and it becomes an official ultrasound report.”
What makes your job the most challenging?
“Knowledge that this may be the last time the baby on the monitor is seen. Realizing that some of these babies are not acknowledged or seen as valuable breaks my heart. Examining an excited mom and not finding a heartbeat is also extremely difficult. Having to tell her that she miscarried is absolutely heartbreaking.”
What makes your job fulfilling?
“I love being on a team that offers support. Sometimes women come to us and are unsure of how they should react to pregnancy. Society sees unplanned pregnancies as a problem, so giving her permission to be excited and empowering her through our services is incredible.”
There are so many things I should express to you today, but the English language only has so many words. Truth be told, there will never be an adequate way to share my feelings. There will never be enough “I love yous” to convey how much I care, or enough “thank yous” to demonstrate how grateful I am. Even so, I have decided to try and do you justice in this letter.
Mom, thank you for your big bear hugs. Thanks for wrapping me in your arms and holding me close. Thank you for the happy embraces and the sad ones. You are a constant source of comfort.
Thank you for countless pep talks and endless support. Thank you for standing on my sidelines, both literally and figuratively. You were my first (and loudest) cheerleader.
Thank you for helping me with homework and seeing past my frustration. Thank you for instilling a love for education within me and always encouraging me to learn more. You were my favorite teacher (but please, don’t tell the others).
Thank you for kissing the cuts on my fingers and bandaging my scrapes. Thank you for drying my tears and sending me back on my bicycle. Without you, I would have never learned the importance of rising after the fall.
Thank you for sharing a wealth of knowledge and understanding the value of your wisdom. Though there were times (hello, teenage years) when I pretended I didn’t want it, your advice was always appreciated. Now, I share many of those words when my advice is solicited.
Thank you for always having my best interests at heart and guiding me. Thank you for knowing my needs and understanding my desires. You know me better than I know myself most times.
Thank you for teaching me to say my prayers and for reading me Bible stories. Thank you for singing “Jesus Loves Me” and practicing my memory work with me. You taught me about my Savior and helped form the foundation of my faith.
Mom, thank you for being you.
Your Loving Child
Pregnancy centers have earned an unfair, ugly reputation among members of the media. Many major news outlets have chosen to label these centers as deceptive. Learning about pregnancy centers through a variety of unnamed sources, journalists claim that they spread misinformation and provide unwanted advice. Painted as cruel and manipulative, those not familiar with pregnancy centers might envision a villainous organization.
The Huffington Post describes pregnancy centers as, “faith-based, anti-choice organizations that masquerade as medical facilities in order to trick people who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies. West Virginia is burdened with 34 of these fake clinics.” Meanwhile, Allure magazine wrote, “But these centers also resort to manipulation or even outright deception to prevent people from accessing abortion care, obscuring their religious affiliation, spreading health misinformation, and failing to inform clients of the full range of reproductive options available to them.”
Understanding that these claims can influence opinions of pregnancy care centers, WELS Lutherans for Life wanted to take the opportunity to respond. Listed below are three common myths associated with pregnancy care centers and the truth about each of them.
Myth One: Pregnancy Centers Are Unauthorized to Provide Medical Care
Women who visit pregnancy centers are offered a variety of services. These may include pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, medical referrals, post-abortion support, parenting classes, and material assistance. Clients receive these services for free, and their privacy is protected according to regulations set forth by HIPPA. Those performing medical services are trained professionals, and centers operate under the medical license of a practicing physician, who oversees the medical care being provided.
Myth Two: Pregnancy Centers Lie to Women About Abortion
Advocates talk with the clients, learn more about their story, and review their options. Information on pregnancy and abortion is provided. The material is medically and scientifically accurate and is designed to be educational. Pregnancy centers do not refer clients to abortion clinics, but they do provide information on the procedure. They review the abortion process for each trimester and discuss what to expect during an appointment. Just because these centers do not give abortion referrals does not mean they lie to women. Clients are fully aware of their right to abortion via the supreme court decision in Roe V. Wade and can locate an abortion provider by performing a simple Google search. Pregnancy centers present clients with information regarding all of their options and then allow clients to make an informed decision.
Myth Three: Pregnancy Centers Deceive Women Regarding the Impact of Abortion
The physical and emotional impact of abortion has been debated between pro-life and pro-choice groups for decades. Pro-life groups have provided examples of women who have experienced physical side effects and emotional stress following an abortion, and pro-choice groups have said these situations have been dramatized. The trouble with the latter statement is that they cannot, as they claim, disprove every woman’s experience. Even if only one woman admitted to experiencing mental duress or physical pain, there would still be a reason to discuss the possible implications of having an abortion. Given that many pregnancy centers provide post-abortion support, they have seen the impact it has on women and they share these experiences with their clients. When pregnancy centers discuss these situations, they are not implying that everyone will have the same experience, they are simply informing clients of the risks involved.
These myths, which the media perpetuates, are not only inaccurate; they are harmful to women seeking help. Pregnancy care centers, like the one operated by WELS Lutherans for Life, provide women with free and confidential care. They offer accurate information and support through the decision-making process. By blacklisting these centers, the media is limiting the options for women facing unplanned pregnancies and discouraging them from seeking compassionate care.
While it is unlikely that the media will stop making these attacks, there is hope that women will see beyond these unfounded, scathing claims. Pregnancy centers have grown rapidly and they now outnumber abortion clinics in the United States by a 3 to 1 ratio. Client satisfaction among these clinics is tremendously high and client reviews are consistently positive. Between Care Net and Heartbeat International (the leading affiliate organizations for pregnancy centers), over two million families are served on an annual basis. These pregnancy centers are thriving. So, let the media say what they will, because they cannot stop these organizations from empowering women.
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