The beneficiaries of a baby shower the diocesan St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center held earlier this year are doing well, according to a parishioner of St. Vincent Parish in Springbrook who made the event possible, along with St. Gianna Molla Center director Cheryl Zielen-Ersing.
On March 26, Suzanne Lazarra personally arranged a shower to collect needed items for a pregnant mother who was expecting triplets. Lazarra recalled how this woman came to the St. Gianna Molla Center and told Zielen-Ersing that "she was having triplets, she had nothing and she needed everything."
Zielen-Ersing noted the babies were premature and came at 26 weeks gestation, so they had medical issues at first, but they were all doing "extremely well" as of the morning of Aug. 29.
"There was one boy and two girls. The little boy is doing phenomenally, and for the little girl, she just arranged for early intervention services to make sure that they continue to meet their milestones," Zielen-Ersing said. "Overall, they're doing fantastic. Mom herself is doing very well. She was going to go back to work, but she decided to go back to school and she's taking phlebotomy courses this fall."
These babies were the first for this mother, and her doctors had been hoping that they would not be as premature as they were. "They had their own time frame, and I think it's miraculous how well they are doing overall," Zielen-Ersing, who received a referral from Catholic Charities to take on her case, said. Lazarra then recalled how she initially became aware of this mother's urgent need for a shower.
"She called me, and I didn't know how I was going to round up enough people for a triplet shower. You just need so much. Usually, these are hosted in people's homes, so we had the idea to do it in our parish center," Lazarra recalled. "It was myself and my two friends, and we just put on a baby shower. We registered at Target for her so that the parish could go out and buy things, and we threw it at our parish."
Father Karl E. Loeb, pastor of St. Vincent's, was supportive of the idea of having the shower on parish property. "He was fantastic. He said 'Yes,'" Lazarra said. "The people in the parish just jumped right on it. It was wonderful. We sent the invitations to everyone in the parish - 'If everybody does a little, then nobody has to do a lot. If everybody just throws in $15, then we can get a car seat.'"
Although the triplets required so many things, parishioners went above and beyond in terms of getting everything that was needed, including three car seats, pack-and-plays, high chairs, "diapers like crazy" and clothes for three children, Lazarra said, including "everything you could possibly need." The idea of having a parish shower worked out well for Lazarra since space was such a consideration for her.
Due to medical concerns, the expectant mother had to go on bedrest the week before the shower, which complicated the issue since recipients of showers the St. Gianna Molla Center organizes are generally present for the event. Although she could not go, her own mother and the baby's father came to the shower so that they could open up all of the gifts as she watched everything on Facetime from her hospital bed. Since the shower took place, both Lazarra and Zielen-Ersing have been keeping track of the family.
"It was really neat. Her boyfriend and her mother opened up all of her presents, and as they were doing it we had her on Facetime," Lazarra said. "They took everything with them. They brought a truck and they brought everything out that day, and they took it home and set it up. Our pastor, Father Karl (Loeb), came down and we did a blessing, and we had her Facetimed so that Father Karl blessed her there."
When asked what it meant to have been able to be a part of this event, Lazarra expressed pride in fellow members of her parish, without whom none of what they did would have been possible.
"It was the perfect thing to do during Lent. Our parish really stepped up. We had somebody that donated a baby shower cake, we had somebody who donated punch, the tablecloth and the decorations. We wanted her to have the highest-dignity shower that you could have, just as if I were giving one for a family member," added Lazarra. "It was just wonderful to be able to do that for somebody who wouldn't have had anything, or would have had very little. It would have been all hand-me-downs, but she had all new stuff."
"It was a blessing to us that we were able to do it, and we were the ones who benefitted the most. It was just a wonderful feeling that our pastor and our parish just joined right in without even asking. You know how it feels better to give than to receive? We were so blessed to be able to do it. It was wonderful."