Monday, January 18, 2016

The Truth about Unplanned Parenthood

This Saturday, I missed posting my Daily Dose of Hope. I attended a pro-life rally in which the speakers encouraged us to #speaklife. It reminded me that maybe there's some women out there who are just finding out they are pregnant and who are doubting that they have what it takes to handle what's coming. I share my story in the hope it helps you.

I got pregnant at what could reasonably be said to be the worst possible time for me. I had just moved in with my grandparents after getting kicked out of my apartment. I was working a part-time, minimum wage job and attempting to go to college full-time. I was 19 years old. I was, they told me, too young to be a mother.

My husband didn't want it, but he left it up to me to make the final decision. He didn't want to be blamed for my regrets, he told me. He knew I wasn't going to consider an abortion, we'd already had "what if" arguments over that, so he didn't even bring it up. But he was putting a lot of pressure on me to choose adoption. He was scared. So was I.

I'd always dreamed of being a mother - but not like this. Not when I didn't have a steady job or a home of my own to offer it. Not when I was poor, and not when my future was uncertain and when the father of the baby wasn't welcoming. Maybe, I thought, I should listen to my husband and give the baby up.

Less than a month after I found out I was pregnant, my grandparents found out, too. My grandfather, the only real father I'd ever known, took me on a walk and asked me if I wouldn't consider an abortion. I told him there was no way. He looked disappointed. I knew why. He'd always considered motherhood and pregnancy to be a kind of slavery for women, and he saw my bright future dwindling to nothing. He certainly saw no hope for me to complete my education or have a productive future.

Less than two weeks after that day, my husband's car broke down on the way to our final exams for college. We weren't going to be able to make it to our jobs. My grandparents let us know that our time with them was up. We didn't even have enough money to fill the tank so we could limp back home to Denton, Texas where the rest of our family was. My world seemed to be falling apart, and the pressure to give that child up was incredible. I felt all alone.

I decided that day to take the two dollars - our only money - and play the lottery. I told God if He wanted me to keep this baby, He was going to have to let me win the lottery because I just didn't see any other way forward. He laughed at me and let me win just enough on a scratch off to buy the gas we needed to get home to Denton. We limped the hour and a half drive to Denton, where we informed the rest of our family about our situation.

Only one person came forward to encourage me to keep the child, my mother. She told me that putting my older brother up for adoption was a wound that had never really healed. She still regretted it. She didn't want the same thing for me. She encouraged me to trust in God and have faith He would make a way.

The sad thing was, even though everyone now knew I was pregnant, not one person stepped up to offer us a place to live. My mother couldn't. She was living in someone else's home. It wasn't up to her. None of my husband's relatives did. None of our friends did. The only sibling I did have that could have didn't.

So, for the next three weeks, we lived out of the car the baby's father had inherited when his father passed away during June in Texas. I don't know if you know what the heat and humidity of a Texas summer are like, but just imagine living in a sauna and then moving that sauna inside of a metal box. It was miserable.

We were able to get food stamps and medicare, but housing was a 2 year waiting list. My husband took a job at the fast food restaurant he'd quit just a year earlier because he couldn't find any other work. I found myself struggling to find work for the first time in my life. I'm sure the pregnancy didn't help.

It was at my first prenatal checkup, at 4 months along, that I fell too much in love with my baby to dream of giving it up. My husband still wasn't sold on the idea of being a father and continued to call the baby "it" and to try and encourage me to give it up. I knew I couldn't live with myself if I did.

After three weeks of homelessness, my husband's mother finally took pity on us and helped us with the $100 down payment on an apartment in a run down area of town. It wasn't a good place to live, but it was a place we could afford.

I was collecting, slowly, baby furnishings and clothes. I still didn't know how we would afford a baby. We were barely able to afford to take care of ourselves. I got a job at an answering service, and that helped ease the finances but it wouldn't cover me when I needed to be out for maternity leave. However, I was moving on hope and faith at this point; hope that my faith in God's goodness would not disappoint me.

My husband and I were arguing with increasing frequency and intensity about the baby. He still refused to call our child a baby, refused to acknowledge the life I carried. It made me angry, and so incredibly hurt that he was rejecting what I saw as the greatest gift I could give him. All he saw was one more person he was going to fail and disappoint.

After one of these arguments, I sat in the stuffed arm chair crying. It seemed as if he would never accept the baby. Then I heard something rustling, and I looked over and two embroidered eyes were staring at me. My husband was using the toy to pantomime a game of peek-a-boo with me. It was adorable.

August came and a second sonogram. They were worried that my amniotic fluid was too low. This time I insisted that my husband come with me. He brought the stuffed toy to the waiting room with him. We discovered the baby was a boy, and at that moment I saw my husband's attitude completely begin to change. Suddenly, the baby wasn't an "it". It was a "he" and it was a son!

He practiced parenting for the next few months on that stuffed toy we called Puff. He took her everywhere, buckled her into the car seat, brought her into stores with us, everything a man might do with an infant he did with that stuffed animal. It was probably the best $0.35 cent Goodwill find I've ever made.

Two weeks to the day before our son was born, my husband got the highest paying job he'd ever received. Two weeks to the day after our son was born, the company realized they'd been underpaying him and gave him a fat check with all the back pay they owed him.

I'm not going to tell you everything was rosy. I'm not going to tell you that everything was easy. But I am going to tell you, 20 years later, that keeping that baby was the best decision I ever made. I am going to tell you that my husband grew up and became a better father than he ever imagined he had it in him to be. I am going to tell you that we still struggle with financial poverty, but our family is richer in love because of that little baby who blessed our lives.

I'd dreamed of having a big family some day with at least four children. It turned out, my son was the only child I ever gave birth to. I think of how empty my life might have been if I'd have chosen to walk away from God's gift.

My son has been my salvation, helping me to heal a deeply wounded heart and calling me back to faith in God when I lost mine. He's kept me from making a lot of terribly stupid mistakes simply because I knew I was responsible for another life. He has pushed me to become a better version of myself, to strive harder and try harder to be a mother worthy of the son that he is. I know I wouldn't be the woman I am today if I'd have given him away.

In the 20 years that have passed, I have learned a great deal about life, about love, and about the unplanned pregnancy. Just because you didn't plan it, doesn't mean God didn't. Trusting in Him doesn't mean the road will be smooth or the path will always be certain. You'll face a lot of hardship, and have to make a lot of decisions you'd rather you didn't. You'll have to grow up fast, but you'll be better for it. And God will always - ALWAYS - provide a way if you let Him.

So be scared if you must. Be angry if you need to be. But remember that the baby you carry today isn't a punishment. It's a blessing, even if it doesn't look that way. It's an answer to your prayers, and the prayers of many others, from the past, the present, and the future. Don't give it up, and don't destroy it. Choose to #speaklife, and trust in God.

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