Seven years ago, Maddie Martinez—then just 24 years old—stared at her home pregnancy test, desperate for a negative result. She bargained with God, promising to get right with Him and live the way He wanted her to, if only He would make the test negative.
But when she saw the positive result, Maddie knew immediately that she would choose abortion. If she kept the baby, she’d be a single parent, and she was convinced that motherhood would prevent her from being promoted at her job, which she loved. “I didn’t want an abortion, but I needed a second chance,” she said. “I had plans, things I couldn’t do if I had the baby.”
Maddie made an appointment to have an abortion. She didn’t intend to tell anyone about it. “I planned to stuff it down and never think about it again,” she said. However, Maddie did end up telling her best friend about her pregnancy. “She said she would support whatever decision I made,” Maddie remembers.
The day before her appointment, Maddie realized she had a problem. “I’d planned to take an Uber to the appointment, but they [the abortion clinic] required that someone sign off that they would take care of me afterward,” she said. Maddie had no choice but to tell her sister, Andi, who was three years younger than Maddie and already the mother of a five-year-old little boy.
Andi knew in her heart that her sister would never be able to forget the abortion if she went through with it. She asked Maddie to meet her that night, and Maddie reluctantly agreed. Then Andi called Amy Ford, the cofounder of a Texas-based, nonprofit pro-life group called Embrace Grace. The nonprofit’s mission is to inspire and equip churches to love on single and pregnant young women and their families. When Andi had gotten pregnant at the young age of 16, Embrace Grace helped her make a life-affirming decision for her baby. Andi prayed they could reach Maddie too.
Love in a box
Andi met with Amy, who gave her a Love Box to share with Maddie. Embrace Grace creates these Love Boxes and delivers them to crisis pregnancy centers to hand out to women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. Each Love Box contains a personal invitation to a support group at a local church, a journal, a baby onesie that says “Best Gift Ever,” a letter written by a woman who had faced an unplanned pregnancy and who chose life, and a book called A Bump in Life.
That night, Andi gave Maddie the Love Box. She opened it, and Andi read the letter out loud. In it, the Embrace Grace volunteer who’d written it shared her own journey through unplanned pregnancy, why she chose life, and then offered encouragement that the recipient of the Love Box could choose life too.
Maddie was unconvinced. “Andi kept telling me that I was a great aunt to her son, and I could be a great mom too, but I was afraid,” she said. “Andi told me that having an abortion wouldn’t give me the do-over I was looking for. She said, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing. You won’t be able to just stuff it down. Please don’t have an abortion.’”
But Maddie still saw it as the best option. At the end of their meeting, she asked Andi, “Are you going to take me tomorrow or not?” Andi sighed and agreed to help.
That night, Maddie couldn’t sleep. She grabbed the book from the Love Box and read it cover to cover. “I usually fall asleep while reading, but I couldn’t put down that book,” she said.
A Bump in Life contains stories written by women who experienced an unplanned pregnancy and chose life, either through adoption or parenting themselves. In some of the stories, the women were homeless or their pregnancy was the result of rape. “I found myself comparing my story to theirs,” Maddie said. “I thought, ‘If they can do it, maybe I can too.’”
Eventually, Maddie fell asleep. When her alarm went off in the morning, she got ready and headed to work. She planned to work a half day and then leave for her appointment at 1:00, but she was so focused on getting her work done in half the normal time that she was late to meet Andi.
“Andi was mad that I was late, and I felt so frazzled,” Maddie said. “I was trying to type the address into the GPS, and I just burst into tears. I said, ‘This is too much. I don’t want to do this. I’m not going to the appointment.’”
Just saying the words out loud lifted a huge weight off Maddie’s shoulders. She felt a peace about the decision. After crying together, Andi showed Maddie a Facebook post. The night before, Embrace Grace had asked for prayers for an anonymous young woman who had an abortion scheduled for the next day. “As I read the comments, I realized how many people had prayed that I would choose life,” Maddie said. “It was overwhelming.”
Maddie told her parents, who were very supportive. “I’d been so worried that they’d be disappointed in me, but my dad said he was proud of me for choosing to carry the baby,” she said.
Touched by support
Maddie began attending an Embrace Grace support group at a local church. The 12-week program offers community and emotional support to single moms facing unplanned pregnancies. “The curriculum helps young women see themselves as God sees them,” Maddie said. “I realized that despite my unplanned pregnancy, God still had a plan for me and my baby.”
Through the weekly meetings, Maddie’s relationship with God deepened. “I realized that God loves me and He offers forgiveness for any sin,” she said. When the fear and doubts crept in, volunteers at Embrace Grace helped her examine scripture to discover God’s truth. “While our feelings can overwhelm us in the moment, we know that emotions are temporary. Having an abortion is permanent,” Maddie said.
At the 12th and final meeting, the Embrace Grace support group holds a baby shower for each expectant mom. “There was a table with each girl’s name on it, and I could hardly believe how high the gifts were stacked,” Maddie said. Two women walked over and introduced themselves. “They said that they’d seen the Facebook post the night before my appointment, and they’d prayed for me,” she said. “The next day, when they found out I’d chosen to carry the baby, they’d volunteered to adopt me for the shower. I couldn’t believe that two women I’d never met had done such an amazing thing for me.”
The women wanted to “know everything” about Maddie, but when she hesitated, they shared their own testimonies first. “They were vulnerable with me and shared that God had redeemed their lives too,” she said. “It was a special moment.”
As Maddie opened the gifts, the women cheered for her and encouraged her to picture herself with her baby. “They helped me envision myself as a good mom,” she said. “That day, I decided that I want to love people the way those ladies loved me.”
On August 1, 2016, Maddie gave birth to her son, Mateo. When she held him in her arms, she realized that she wanted to start volunteering with Embrace Grace. “I had to help other women see that abortion isn’t an answer,” she said. “I didn’t want anyone to miss out on motherhood because of fear.”
Maddie started building the Love Boxes and writing letters to go inside them. “I was a passionate volunteer,” she said. “I was constantly telling the other volunteers that the boxes work, that they really do change lives, and my son and I were proof of it.”
A new vocation
Right after Mateo’s first birthday, Maddie started working full time at Embrace Grace as their groups coordinator. Her job is to help and encourage the support group leaders, who are leading more than 800 groups in churches around the country. “This job is my dream job, an answer to prayer,” Maddie said.
Embrace Grace offers additional support groups to help single moms post-pregnancy as well. Embrace Life is a 22-week curriculum that offers practical lessons like budgeting and time management. Embrace Legacy is an 11-week program for single dads to teach them the importance of fatherhood.
In addition to starting an Embrace Grace support group, churches can get involved by hosting a “Share the Love” party. Maddie explained that groups can “purchase boxes unassembled, put them together, and then donate them to their local pregnancy center.”
Maddie said that women do want to be mothers, but they need support. “We’re not created to do it alone; we need community,” she emphasized. “Embrace Grace radically loves on moms, and that love helps their babies too. Being pro-life is a stance. Being pro-love is an action.”
The volunteers at Embrace Grace helped Maddie see that she could have her dreams and her baby too. Now Maddie helps other moms learn that vital life-affirming lesson.
For more information, please visit embracegrace.com.