Calling women back after their abortion procedure can be tricky. If I call a home phone, I have to block our number, just in case they have caller ID (our name shows up on home lines for some reason). Sometimes their number has been disconnected. Sometimes they give me a family member's or friend's number, and I have to be discreet, in case they don't know. Sometimes the person who picks up is very cranky that I won't tell them exactly who I am or why I want to talk to her.
I say "this is Em from CAF, that's C-A-F, calling about your procedure in (month)" and it can take a minute- I like to wait for the moment of remembrance before I go on, just in case. Sometimes they get terse once the realize who it is. Sometimes they get excited. Most times, they just don't know what to expect. I don't blame them. Most of the women we help are used to uncaring workers or ridiculously bureaucratic government processes that aim to get them out of programs, not really to help them.
I ask them how everything was at the clinic, note any concerns or great experiences they had. I ask how they're doing now, go down the list of questions we have for our follow up process, and see if they have any needs in their life that an organization or agency we know of can help them with.
Sometimes they cry, and I refer them to hotlines to talk to trained professionals. I always tell them they can call me if they want to talk and I will gladly listen, but I'm not an actual counselor. Sometimes, the crying is because they're so happy that someone even cares to make sure they're OK. Other times- most of the time- it's because in a different situation, they would have decided to continue with the pregnancy. Sometimes, they don't say why they're crying and I just sit through it, but I tell them it'll get better, eventually.
Sometimes they chatter away, so excited to talk to someone because they feel isolated but oh-so-grateful that the procedure was taken care of. They make promises to pay back the grant in a few years, when they're in a better place, when this job finally calls them back, once their kids' daycare costs aren't so much. I assure them it's fine, not to worry, but if they do donate, it will definitely go to another woman in need.
Sometimes, they're still defensive through the whole interview, wondering when I'm going to pull the rug from under them- are we going to send them a bill eventually or if they answer a question "wrong"? Will we expect them to do something for us? Am I going to call DCFS on them because they're too poor for the kids they already had before all this?
I hang up, wishing them a good night and reassuring that they can call us at any time, worried about the cynical ones, wondering how much the world has beat them up, and the sad ones, wondering how much they're beating themselves up. I take comfort in the ones- the majority- who are just grateful that we helped them and hope they pull themselves out of whatever bad situations they're in. They got through our phone lines and the clinic's picket lines, they gathered as much money as they could and did whatever they deemed they had to do, by a mixture of extreme determination and I'm sure a little luck- hopefully that helps them everywhere else in their lives.