Scrolling through Facebook, I saw a link to an article called “How My Abortion Made Me a Better Mother.” If I could only use one word to describe how I felt after reading it, it would be sad. Completely sad. The image of the clot coming out of Ann and knowing what that clot actually contained. Knowing that at 6 weeks, that clot had a tiny creation inside of it- his/her eyes were beginning to form, hair was coming in, he/she was able to move around, facial features were beginning to develop along with all essential organs. The clot that she was so relieved to pass was a future mother, father, teacher, doctor, philanthropist, best friend, sister or brother. My response to Ann’s story is not meant to condemn her but to share the other side of this painful, life altering circumstance.
I was 18 years old. I just walked across my high school graduation stage. I had college applications out to all of my favorite universities. I was on top of the world! Two weeks later, I was in the bathroom at my parent’s house about to take a shower. It was a casual decision to take a pregnancy test. I didn’t really think I was pregnant but my boyfriend and I were sexually active and I was late for my cycle. I decided to take the test, just in case. I got into the shower, washed my hair, got out and there it was: two lines. Positive. My heart sank. Actually, my whole body sank to the floor. I cried and cried and cried and begged God (just like Ann did) for this to not be true. “Please be negative. Please be wrong. Please, oh please, oh please”.
I called my boyfriend over. When he got there I was in a ball at the top of my parents stairs. He walked in and ran up the stairs. “What’s wrong? What is wrong?? Talk to me!” I just took the test out from the tight grip of my hand and he said, “Oh no. No, no, no”. After collecting himself, he reassured me that “everything would be ok”. I just sobbed. I thought about all of the things I would not be able to do, all the plans I had, what my family would think… It just seemed so impossible. Fear was paralyzing me with each new thought and question and possibility.
As Michael and I talked more he made it clear he would not support a decision that involved abortion. At the same time, others were saying things like “Lindsey, you always think of others, now you need to think about yourself.” What they meant was, get an abortion. I had other friends offer to take me to the clinic themselves. This all sounded very tempting to a vulnerable, scared 18-year-old girl. This could all go away. I could go off to college as planned. I could return to the life of a normal, 18-year-old girl and no one except a few close friends and Michael, would ever know this happened. But there was a different voice in all of that.
One of my best friends knew of a crisis pregnancy center in town. She knew I needed some direction. My mind was all over the place and fear was taking over. I went to the center and met a sweet lady who counseled me. She talked to me about all of my options. After listening to her, I knew that as “convenient” as it seemed, I could not end this childs life for the sake of my own fears and plans.
The director of the center and my counselor, vowed to stand by me and help me through things. I accepted that life was not over- it was just going to be a whole lot different than I planned. I sat my parents down and told them. I cried. And cried some more. I knew I disappointed them but they still loved me. I didn’t understand how they still loved me but now that I’m a mother, I completely understand it. I went to labor and delivery classes at the center and they helped me explore my two options: parenting vs. adoption. The center put me in contact with an open adoption agency in my home state and I spent the next several months consumed with this decision.
To sum up the 7 months of walking through the adoption process, it was anguish. The more I saw the value of this life growing inside of me, the greater the pressure to make the right decision. I would spend many days and nights with the 2 workbooks that the agency sent me: “Is Adoption Right for Me?” and “Is Parenting Right for Me?” Every single question forced me to think about where I would be in a year, in two, in ten.
If I chose adoption would I want to see him before saying goodbye? Would I want to have contact with the adoptive parents? If I parented him, how would I provide for our needs? What would our budget look like? How would I finish school? The questions on both sides engulfed every second of every day. I would picture my routines each day with my baby involved in them, then I would picture my routines without him in it but knowing he was with a wonderful family.
It was a cool October day. I was sitting on my parents deck 4 months from giving birth and still had not made my final decision. The adoption agency sent me a package of adoptive family profiles that morning. Before opening them I prayed, “God, if the parents to my son are in this stack, please show me.” I took a deep breath and started reading them. Page after page, story after story and photograph after photograph showed the intense desire of these couples to have children. They were all so precious. They were all so willing to open their hearts and homes to a child. That, in and of itself, was a huge weight on my heart.
You choose what you will wear for the day. You choose what you want to eat for dinner. You aren’t supposed to choose the parents of your child. This was heartbreaking. After scrolling through, I stopped at a couple that stood out to me. “This is it”, I thought. I emailed the agency and told her my decision. Over the next few months, I wrote my son letters that I would send with him from the hospital.
After writing an entry to him in my journal, the next page contained a budget on how I could make things work to parent him. How much I would pay childcare so I could finish college. A list of options on where we could live. How I could pay off debt to make things easier. I was so conflicted.
Just as the opinions mounted on getting an abortion earlier, the opinions mounted on placing my son for adoption. Some said, “How could you give your son away?” Others sent me private letters asking me to consider their friends as adoptive parents. And yet, others said I was selfish for even considering parenting when I wasn’t married. The closer I got to having my son, the greater the pressure. I went to a counselor, talked to my parents, and prayed. And prayed. And prayed.
February 14, 2003 I had my son. I chose to hold him and kiss him before saying ‘goodbye’. I didn’t want to have any regrets. When I held my baby, I just sobbed. My mom stroked my head and tried to hold back her own pain so she could comfort me. Michael had to walk out of the room as this entire situation became unbearable for him to handle, as it did most of my family and his.
I handed my baby over to the nurse and they took me to a private room. There, I sat in the dark, staring at the ceiling. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t imagine my life without this child. How in the world would I ever get the strength to say “goodbye”, much less return to a normal life? Nothing about my life would ever be normal again.
The back and forth was tearing me apart. I asked my doctor to please not discharge me yet. She gave me one more night at the hospital to think. That night I lay in my bed. All the lights were out and with an uncontrollable burst of emotion, I held the railings to the bed, shook it and screamed with my teeth tightly grit. I have never experienced pain like this and hope to never again. It was unbearable.
The director of the crisis pregnancy center came to see me. She had become a loyal friend over those months and knew how torn I was. I was sitting in the hospital room with her, my mom and my baby. I held him and couldn’t take my eyes off of him. His little blanket was becoming increasingly wet from my tears. Susan said, “Lindsey- tell God that you know this is His baby first and you trust Him with your sons life.” I could hardly get the words out but I prayed that. A few moments later, I looked up and said the same words I spoke when I found out I was pregnant: “I can’t do this. I just can’t”. I could not spend a lifetime apart from this child and I would do whatever it took to be the absolute best mother I could be. I would sacrifice a social life, college experience, and anything else I had to, in order to be this childs only mother.
I called the adoption agency and cried as I told them I changed my mind. I knew that this meant the precious couple I had chosen, would have to wait longer now. I wanted this couple to experience parenthood almost as much as I couldn’t let my son go. The agency reassured me that I did not need to feel guilty and this couple had not been informed of possibly getting my son. That gave me some comfort.
The women at the crisis pregnancy center, family and close friends rallied together to help me get the basic things I would need to leave the hospital- most importantly, a car seat! I left the hospital feeling like I had the best Christmas gift in the world and giddy like a child, said to myself, “I get to keep this?? And I get to keep it forever?” I vowed that day to put every other dream, goal, and ambition I had under the dream, goal and ambition I had to be a good mother.
Walking through the doors at the Women’s Resource Center was the catalyst for everything that had happened since I found out I was pregnant. These were angels on Earth for my son and me. In Ann’s story she shared that she was so glad there weren’t those “crazy pro-lifers” at the clinic waiting to yell at her because she was prepared to ask them if they would be the ones to watch her baby while she went to school or they would be the ones to get her groceries and give her a job. To answer Ann’s question that she never got to ask: Yes, they would have. There are some who “stand for life” with picket signs and yelling because they see how desperate the need is to get through before this life is destroyed. I personally do not agree with this route but I understand the desperation. Then, there are the calm and peaceful supporters of life and women who vow to hold your hand through the pregnancy and provide whatever needs you may have. They are there for the life inside and for the woman who has to walk this difficult road. So yes, Ann, I do believe (and personally know) that there are people out there who would have helped you.
Over the next 3 years, Michael and I went through a lot. Part of my commitment to being a good mother was to give my son a family that was whole and complete – not broken. In the midst of trying to make this happen, alongside finding out many things about a separate life Michael was living, I found out I was pregnant again. Maybe this is the point in my story that is more like Ann’s. I already had a child. I was already on a tight budget. I was only 22. Already delayed in college. And now, I was very unsure about my future with Michael. The first person I told suggested an abortion right off the bat. No questions asked. No debating it and no conversation. It was just cut and dry and clear to her that day. But I knew. I knew now that what I would be destroying was not just a “clump of cells”, or just a “clot of blood”; what I would be destroying was my sons brother or sister. There was no way I could do that.
Regretfully, I am now divorced and raising the boys on my own. It was never what I wanted for my family. This is a scenario that I feared when I was pregnant and this is a scenario that the pro-choice community could use as one to justify an abortion: What kind of life would a child in this situation have? To answer that I would say: What kind of life would these children have missed out on if they weren’t even here? The hills we have rolled down together, the beaches we’ve played on, the achievements in school, the birthday parties… we all have parts to our life story that we would like to be different. I would say that even more important than our circumstances, is how we adjust to them, how we grow through them, and the lessons we learn through them. We learn that people will let us down and hurt us sometimes. I would say that a life full of love and joy in spite of situations we may wish to change is still better than no life at all. I would say that I believe in the power of God, to help us overcome and endure even the most hopeless of circumstances.
4 more years later, here I am. I finished college and I am a 2nd grade teacher now. I didn’t get to “go off” to school, I had to stay in town where family was. I didn’t get to move out on my own right away. I had to wait tables and make money however I could. I have struggled financially and I am, to this very day, on one of the tightest budgets of anyone I know. We don’t have cable TV and I’m a “crazy couponer” (as my son says). We don’t eat out much or splurge on vacations but we enjoy simple things like beach days, making homemade pizzas together and family movie nights at home. I get to pack lunch boxes for my kids with little notes that say, “I love you. Have a great day!” “You are so special- Have the best day EVER!” I get to watch them wrestle and fall asleep in the same bed together. I get to separate them when they fight and help them up when they fall off their bike. I get to help them with homework and make them re-do everything they get wrong on a test! I get to hear the words “Mommy, I love you allllllllllllll the way to the top of Heaven’s clouds!” This is worth everything I have to give up. It’s worth the tight budget. It’s worth the stress. It’s worth the exhaustion at bedtime, the bags under my eyes, the social life I don’t have and the car that’s a mess. My life with 2 children that I did not plan for, is far greater than any life I could have had without them.
This story is not just a story that was best for me. This is a story that can be best for anyone. It is a story of redemption, perseverance and courage. It is a story that saved the lives of 2 smart, vivacious, loved, beautiful and joyful children. It’s a story that exposed me to the painful, yet beautiful choice of adoption. It could have been Ann’s story. It could be your neighbors’ story, your daughters’ story, and your friends’ story.
I believe women have what it takes to face even the most difficult and seemingly hopeless circumstances. They do not have to minimize their ability to endure this and cling so tightly to one plan they had in mind for their life. I wish Ann had known then that things would not have been as bad as she had imagined. As a matter of fact, they could have been even better than she could have ever imagined.
Love, support, encourage and be there for the “Ann’s” and “Lindsey’s” around you. You never know the vast difference it could make in their stories.
Read more about the lives of Lindsey and her boys here: http://ourradicallife.blogspot.com/