Just five months after giving birth to her second son, 27-year-old Ana Alvarado began experiencing pregnancy symptoms.
Alvarado, a Rancho Cordova resident, was fearful of what another pregnancy would mean – the high cost of daycare services meant that she had to remain at home and could no longer work, straining her family’s finances. So she spent weeks avoiding the issue.
After finally confirming her pregnancy, Alvarado was referred to the Sacramento Life Center, a nonprofit medical clinic which provides free services to pregnant women and new mothers.
The center provided Alvarado with an ultrasound, a referral to an OB/GYN and a “baby basket” – a package containing essential items including baby clothes and shoes, diapers, formula, wipes and handmade baby blankets knitted by volunteers.
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Alvarado said the support she found at the center was invaluable, helping her process and plan her third pregnancy and overcome the uncertainty.
“I didn’t have too much help as far as family or people that could help me out,” Alvarado said. “I was pretty lucky to step in that day.”
The uncertainty facing expectant mothers is something Sacramento Life Center executive director Marie Leatherby identifies with, having personally experienced an unplanned pregnancy at age 20.
Leatherby married the father, whom she described as abusive. She later fled the marriage with their four children, and struggled for years as a single mother.
“I got out when I was 27. I was on my own with four kids,” Leatherby said. “My kids and I, we struggled. But we made it.”
Leatherby’s experiences contributed to her desire to help women in the similar situations and offer a space free from judgment – precisely what she sees the center as providing.
“You feel like you’re so alone,” Leatherby said. “Just knowing that you’re not judged, that your situation doesn’t matter, it’s huge.”
The nonprofit has been providing medical services free of charge to pregnant women and new mothers in the Sacramento area since 1972. These services include pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, prenatal vitamins and referrals to OB/GYNs and adoption services.
One of the more popular services is the baby basket, which is available free of charge for the first two years of the baby’s life. The Sacramento Life Center has asked Book of Dreams readers to help purchase 100 baby baskets.
“Once they have their baby they get a whole starter basket, and then they can come in every month for supplies,” Leatherby said. “If they need more clothes, more diapers and formula, of course, they can get as much as they need.”
Leatherby has noticed that the need for these services has increased since the center relocated to the Arden Arcade area last year.
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While the Sacramento Life Center has traditionally handed out around 500 baby baskets each year, Leatherby estimates that number will increase to as many as 700 this year. Because the center relies on donations from the community, this increase in demand could strain the center’s resources.
“Now that people know we’re here and we’re getting known, we’re seeing on average 12 women a day,” Leatherby said. “It’s getting to be more and more. We hope we have the capacity.”
Needed: Funds for 100 baby baskets, which include clothes, shoes, diapers, formula, wipes and handmade baby blankets.