Melissa

Melissa

Pregnancy, Female, 17, High School
“Was I afraid to tell my parents? Um, YEAH!”

Describe the situation of the crisis pregnancy:
I was 17 and a senior in high-school when I realized I had not had my period in quite a while. I was secretly sexually active and on occasion used protection or my boyfriend would “pull out”. So the thought randomly occurred to me one day while at school: missed period + sex = I could be pregnant. I asked a friend to drive me at lunch to the closest drugstore where I purchased a pregnancy test two pack. I went back to school, headed to my next class but popped into a bathroom stall and peed on the stick. INSTANTLY positive. Like, no waiting or wondering. Incredibly clear results. I was in shock. I tore open the second test and tried again. Same results. I buried both in the trash. I was stunned. I went to class but must of been noticeably distracted because the teacher asked if I was ok. I just came out with it… In front of everyone. I’m pregnant.

There was no one person I told, except the person that gave me a ride. I told him what I was buying but assured him that I thought I was just being paranoid about my cycle.

But now, everyone knew. My teacher was shocked and told me to go see my guidance counselor, whom I had absolutely no relationship with. I sat down in his office and told him what I had just found out. He asked if I wanted him to come with me to tell my parents. I remember that question surprised me. I was like “Um, no?!” and thinking why would this guy come with me? He asked if I was worried about telling my parents. I think I was still in shock. I said no.

If you had to name the specific fears, worries, and anxieties you that were going through your mind during the course of the pregnancy, what were they?
Was I afraid to tell my parents? Um, YEAH! I was the first born. I had just visited a college and made a payment to reserve my spot! Yes, I was afraid to tell my parents! They didn’t even know I was sexually active! My mom was the church secretary!

And, let’s not forget telling my boyfriend. He was a year ahead of me, so graduated and in college. I had made some pretty heart breaking decisions while he was away. They included sleeping with another guy. Something my boyfriend knew nothing about & I was determined to keep it that way. It was only one time, but could it have been THAT time?! I wondered. I tried doing the math but couldn’t recall the date it occurred. Looking back I believe from the moment I let it happen, that I instantly regretted it & blocked it from my memory. This was a coping mechanism I would later recognize that I used to forget about being sexually abused as a small child. I told my boyfriend that I was pregnant, and then I told my parents. My mom cried. My dad said “I knew I should’ve bought the Corolla.” My dad copes by telling weird jokes. Like this one. He was implying that the backseat of the Camry I drove on occasion was too big and lent to my getting pregnant.

Describe the process of opening up to others:
Telling my parents wasn’t too hard because I was at a stage where I truly believed I knew it all and wanted to make my own decisions in life. I wanted to prove to them I wasn’t helpless and that not only was I pregnant, but I was going to marry my boyfriend. They tried telling me that was not the answer. They said that just because I was pregnant did not mean I had to marry him. They were supportive either way. They felt like they failed because they too got pregnant out of wedlock. I was the result. But the big difference was they were 21, not 17.

Telling my boyfriend’s parents proved to be much more difficult. I was so ashamed. They wailed and cried for hours. They were deeply religious and made us go before their church to apologize and confess. It was humiliating. My boyfriend, now fiancé, read our letter out loud as we stood trembling on stage.

I felt like I had a scarlet letter on my chest going forward.
I felt as though every old woman was scowling at me.

To make matters worse, my own home church was super conservative and wanted ladies to wear skirts to youth group. They were very worried that having a pregnant teen in the group would send the wrong message. So I stopped going.

What were the practical things people did for you, with you, or said to you that were helpful? Although my parents were disappointed, they showed me love, grace and mercy. They supported me and laid out all of my true options.

What were the things people unintentionally did or said that were unhelpful or hurtful?
People constantly commented on my age, how I looked too young to be pregnant. I felt ashamed already and didn’t need the constant reminder.

What was the pregnancy season like for you spiritually?
God was present in the form of premarital counseling. We wanted to get married in my church so my pastor required 8 weeks of counseling. I am so very grateful he did. We visited on the topic of not doing things in God’s order but how we were going to honor God with our marriage and this child. By getting married, I felt redeemed.

Between parenting, adoption, and abortion, how did you navigate your choices? And what did you choose and why?
My mom brought me to my first gynecological appointment to see how far along I was. I was eight weeks. The doctor explained that I was a high risk pregnancy and that I had my whole life ahead of me. I told her how I was getting married and we were keeping the baby. I felt her disapproving glare as she looked between my mother & myself. I wanted this child. I wanted nothing more than this child. I felt this was my calling in life, unrealized until this moment, to protect & love this child.

With the political and social conversation around abortion often being so argumentative and abrasive from both sides, as someone who could have chosen abortion, what did you find unhelpful, hurtful, or disconnected about how people talk the abortion in public?
As my pregnancy progressed, I attended my OBGYN appointments alone or with my fiancé. I felt my doctor was truly pushing me to either abort or consider adoption over getting married so young. As we approached the time in which it was illegal to get an abortion, my doctor pushed for us to do an amniocentesis test which would “allow for a late term abortion” should it reveal any defect. Repeatedly I had to refuse this test. Repeatedly I had to explain that regardless of how this child comes into the world, albeit Down syndrome or otherwise – I was over the moon to be his mommy and was trusting God to carry us through it. Each time, there was no recognition of this choice other than the unapproving note taking and comments on how I had my whole life ahead of me. And what about college? As if terminating my pregnancy would somehow help me? I struggled to get her to understand that the ball was rolling. I was getting married. The wedding date was set. I was having this baby. It was as if the whole world was against us. Or at the very least doubting us.

What advice would you give to the girl currently facing a crisis pregnancy like yours?
I’d tell her “congratulations!” Even if this baby was not planned. Even if this baby was not wanted. This baby is worthy of celebrating because every life is precious. Adoption does not make you any less of a mom but it does bless another family with a gift of life! There are many couples out there that have been praying for a child. And if you feel alone, but want to parent, there are support groups out there for you, like Embrace Grace or MOPS. You are never alone.

What do you wish everyday people would know about people who walk through a crisis pregnancy?
If you think someone is too young or too old or you are otherwise surprised by their pregnancy, you do not need to let them know. Chances are great they share this thought and could use a friend. Congratulate them and offer to treat them to an ice cream or other treat. Allow them to share as much or as little with you as they want. Too many people ask incredibly invasive or personal questions that tend to put people on the defensive. Try praying for the baby and situation. Pray for the parents. What Satan intends for destruction, God can use for His good and glory.

Society today is becoming more and more aware of how destructive, crippling, and powerful shame and stigma can be. With that in mind, how do you think shame and stigma impact those facing a crisis pregnancy situation?
I was ashamed to be seen without a wedding ring. I was not welcome in my church youth group because it would look like they condone teen pregnancy. Random people at the mall or doctor’s offices would remind me that I was too young to be having a child. All of these things added to the stress of a crisis pregnancy. The stress affects the mother (I gained 89 lbs) and can negatively impact the baby in utero by causing the baby’s brain to react to the stress. No one means to cause harm, but if people would offer helpful hands, like “let me carry that” for an expecting mother at the store instead of asking personal questions about her age or the baby’s father, it would a step in the right direction.

Lastly, if churches want to become the first place hurting people run to instead of the last, they need to break down the barriers of judgment and be welcoming of those that might not look like they fit in. Engage them. Invite them to church or youth group. Do not be afraid of the situation but rather pray for a tender heart & pray over the situation. You do not need to know all the details to pray because I promise you God already knows them. And if you hear that a mom is choosing adoption, celebrate her braveness but understand it’s a tough road. Encourage her to get involved with a support group like BraveLove.

How did you process the reality of the pregnancy impacting your life, education, work, dreams, etc?
I saw getting married to the man who loved me as the answer. It would protect me from the stigma of being a teen mom. It would validate that I am loved. I would never have to be alone. I completely shut out the fact that in searching for my self-worth, I allowed myself to be in a situation that was dishonoring to God & myself and allowed me get me pregnant. I constantly rounded up the years I was married, trying to hide the age of my son behind my years of marriage. My dream became having the “perfect family”.

Was there a turning point in your story where you went from brokenness to peace and hope?
Yes. Unfortunately, it did not occur until I was in my thirties! It was not until I discovered my true identity in Him that my chains were gone. That I was set free to tell my story. I found peace and hope in helping others through embracing God’s grace and encouraging moms by volunteering at our local crisis pregnancy center.

If you could go back and do anything differently during your crisis pregnancy, what would it be?
I wish I dealt with my identity in Christ long ago. Seeking forgiveness for my transgressions from God & my loved ones. Although, I wasn’t even acknowledging my transgression back then and feel that God might have been protecting me because I have a deeper relationship with my husband and understanding of God’s grace because of how it all happened.

Looking back, what do you wish you had known then that you know today?
To quote Tenth Avenue North: “You are more than the sum of your past mistakes, You are more than the problems you create…”

That I will always be fiercely loved by the creator of this universe who can move mountains and has plans to prosper me!

What did you learn about God through this situation?
That His love never fails. He never gives up. His mercies are new every morning! Once I learned that I am forgiven, I can truly embrace His love & Grace!

Looking back, what was the hardest thing about being a new parent to a baby?
I always felt that I was not enough. I let Satan steal some of my joy as I compared my parenting to others and counted all of my shortcomings. And without a doubt, having my heart outside of my body in the form of my baby, unprotected, was incredibly difficult because it meant trusting God!

What advice do you have for new mothers or fathers with a baby from a crisis pregnancy?
You are never alone. Get plugged into a support group like Embrace Grace and find a church to get involved with. You may not have a support system or family but your church group will become like family!