I was 18 years old. I had just walked across my high school graduation stage. I had college applications out to all of my favorite universities.
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 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.
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 child's 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.
The Women's Resource center helped me explore my two options: parenting vs. adoption. They put me in contact with an open adoption agency in my home state and I spent the next several months consumed with this decision. The seven months of walking through the adoption process 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 two 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 and I was sitting on my parents deck with stacks of adoptive parent profiles that the agency sent me.
I was four months from giving birth and still had not made my final decision. Before opening the profiles 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. 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, the next journal page contained a budget on how I could make it 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.
On 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.
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 son's 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 child's 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.
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. 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.
Over the next three 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.
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.
Regretfully, I am now divorced and raising the boys on my own but I've made it. Four more years later, here I am. I finished college in six years instead of four but I finished -- and I am a second 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. 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.