Middletown woman hopes virtual baby shower will help moms with little means
MIDDLETOWN — Motivational speaker and author Sana L. Cotten hopes the community will believe in her goal of giving two women with few resources a baby shower of their dreams.
In honor of National Adoption Month, her foundation, Unashamed, has partnered with ABC Women’s Center at 180 East Main St. to “adopt” two pregnant women: one, a teen, and the other, a woman who considered abortion, then chose against it.
ABC Women’s Center on East Main Street provides free and confidential pregnancy resources and services to women in the community. The organization provides information on parenting, adoption and abortion, including procedures and associated risks, according to the agency.
Cotten was introduced to the organization a few years ago when she and her husband were expecting a child, and she fell ill. “Unfortunately, we had to have a medically induced abortion. It was either your life or the baby’s life. I was to the point where I almost couldn’t make a choice,” she said.
Consequently, she suffered a great deal of shame. “I am a Christian, and Christians are against abortion. So, for a long time, we told people I had a miscarriage,” she said. It was only recently Cotten felt comfortable enough to begin sharing her story on her blog.
ABC is “a pillar in our community not many know about,” she said, a resource that can help these women make one of the most important decisions of their lives.
“For a young mom to know the community in which she lives is supporting her into parenting is something that is going to impact her for the rest of her life — to know that other moms who may have been single parents, other moms who are having their first child are championing her into this decision,” said ABC Women’s Center Executive Director Molly Hurtado.
The organization has been around for 29 years and supports more than 600 mothers a year with free services, made possible through donations from churches, youth groups and other groups.
“My heart really goes out to these moms. If you choose not to go forward with the abortion, or even if you’re a teen mom or a mom who’s struggling, they’re really there to help and give those extra supports — not just resources like diapers, but to provide counseling and different services for moms,” Cotten said.
Cotten, who is married to Joshua Cotten, church youth director, and daughter-in-law to the Rev. W. Vance Cotten and co-pastor Rev. Kim L. Cotten, said she experienced the childhood pain, fear and loneliness harbored by enforced separation.
Cotten said her birth mother had HIV and was addicted to drugs. She died of AIDS in 2002. “It took a long time for me to forgive her, even after her death, for giving me up and for the choice she made. I had to recognize every choice she made was so that I could do the things that I do now — so the purpose in my life could be seen,” Cotten said.
“These are all things that I have personally experienced. Those are all parts of my story, things that I had to endure,” Cotten said.
Her nonprofit, Unashamed, “stands for all those things people have tried to shame others with: going through abortion, being a teen mom, being incarcerated or having a parent that’s incarcerated — all those things that people are dealing with that have shamed them, and almost stopped them from moving forward with their dreams,” she said.
ABC Women’s Center is a “life-affirming pregnancy resource center, which offers free services to all women who are pregnant,” Hurtado said. It offers a parenting support program with material resources and education for two years after the baby is born, something that’s “incredibly important,” she said.
“We’re empowering women to be strong parents to their children,” she said. Young people without strong fathers and/or mothers in their lives are “really starting from scratch, and we’re able to encourage and empower them to be the best parent for their child,” Hurtado said.
ABC doesn’t receive state or government assistance and is completely supported by donations.
“We’re living in a state where diaper banks are closing, and there’s really a lack of resources that are free — there are no strings attached to our support,” Hurtado said.
ABC staff conduct free lab-quality pregnancy tests, perform a free, limited obstetric ultrasound exam, reviewed by a licensed physician, to determine how far along a woman is in her pregnancy; and free, confidential options counseling.
In July, Cotten set a goal to collect 200 book bags, along with personal hygiene products to give to the state Department of Children and Families. She received more than 500, and the gifts keep coming in. The experience was transformative because of its ability to connect individuals from different sectors of society, she said.
Cotten said she turned her life around because she refused to consider herself a victim. “That’s the way I choose to look at it. Every day, I get up, I’m a Christian and I serve God. For me, it’s a big thing. There are a lot of people who are in these situations and don’t make it out. I’ve been able to make it out. Because of that, I give him glory and I give him honor. I honor my birth mother, who he used in order to allow my purpose to be seen today,” she said.
For the future, Cotten envisions establishing scholarships for children of incarcerated parents and those aging out of foster care.
Items, which range in price from $3 for infant spoons and lotions, to about $170 for a crib and travel system, include swaddles, rattles, play mats, diaper bags, car seats, toys, onesies, high chairs, bottles and diapers.
To view the baby registry, go to walmart.com and search for Sana Latrease and Connecticut under the baby registry. Items will be shipped to Cotten and delivered to the mothers by Christmas. For information, visit abcwomenscenter.org, ABC Women’s Center on Facebook or call 860-344-9292.