The Discovery – A Look at Unexpected Pregnancy and Adoption
Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources
The discovery of Ashley’s pregnancy came more as a disappointment than a shock. Despite all of the warnings to the contrary, Ashley’s relationship with her boyfriend became increasingly intimate so when the pregnancy test came back positive, the news really wasn’t much of a surprise.
Ashley had just started her junior year of high school. Her mother, a single mother herself when Ashley was born, had since married a man who became Ashley’s stepfather. The relationship between the three of them was amiable at best. Ashley’s boyfriend, Brandon, was not what she felt was “guy of my dreams” material, and Ashley soon realized she liked him more as a good friend who was fun to be with.
Ashley’s Friends Ashley’s closest friends were Emily, Hannah, and Shawna. When she was not with Brandon, Ashley almost certainly was with one or all of the girls. Ashley’s girlfriends were the first to learn about her pregnancy. That’s when the surprises really began.
Emily attended Sunday School and confirmation class with Ashley. They both believed in Jesus but had little use for church after they entered high school. So long as their parents didn’t object, Sunday mornings were great times to sleep in.
Hannah lived with her father after moving into town during her freshman year of high school. Ashley became her first and lasting friend. Hannah had very little exposure to church, but when visiting her mother, she would go with her. Hannah’s other experiences with the church were rather minimal.
Shawna, you could say, was the “religious” one of the four – though not always by choice. As an African American, Shawna and her family had deeply religious roots which made their church services seem more like highly-emotional pep rallies. Other teenage-aged church members, in Shawna’s opinion, seemed happy – though she felt some of them were hypocritical about their faith. She knew about the drugs, drinking, and sex that went on with some of them, and she admittedly felt more of an annoyance – rather than a sense of immorality – with the inconsistency of their actions. Unlike Ashley, Emily and Hannah, Shawna actually seemed to not only to get along with her parents, especially her mother, but both mother and daughter seemed genuinely close.
Regardless of their different backgrounds the girls enjoyed each other’s company, each bringing their own unique characteristics to the relationship. They just seemed to click.
All Sorts of Advice
Ashley decided to go out for pizza when she made the announcement that she was pregnant. The news created an initial awkward silence at the table, and the others almost looked embarrassed at the news – more embarrassed than Ashley.
There were the usual two questions: “Does Brandon know?” “What are you going to do?” No, Brandon did not know yet, and she wasn’t sure what to do. That is when her friends kicked into gear with their advice.
Hannah as the impetuous friend immediately offered to go with her to the doctor for her appointments and help her during the delivery. Ashley was touched by her friend’s willingness to step forward and help.
Emily, on the other hand, seemed more pensive in her response. “Are you sure you want to do that, Ashley?” Then in almost a parental tone, she listed the obstacles Ashley would have to address: 1) What if Brandon wants you to marry him? Do you want to do that? 2) As a high school student, would you want to settle for a GED than a diploma? 3) Are you ready for the pressures involved with raising a baby full time?
During her friends’ exchange of words, Shawna said nothing – though she sat in a misty-eyed stare.
Hannah and Emily continued to banter with each other about Ashley’s options. Hannah felt strongly that friends should help care for the baby. Emily thought such expectations were unrealistic since her personal plans were to go away to college. After all, she wasn’t going to stick around town for the next 18 years to help Ashley raise her baby!
Ashley listened as her two friends continued. Finally, she interrupted to remind them, “This is my decision.”Emily quickly responded, “If you want any future for yourself then have an abortion and have it soon while it is just a pregnancy.”
Emily methodically pointed out the obvious obstacles of Ashley’s unexpected future as a young mom: the anxiety associated with having a child; her lack of a future for herself and the resentment she would likely feel towards the child; Brandon’s irresponsibility; and, the parents’ negativity to the pregnancy. For Ashley’s and the baby’s sake, abortion seemed to Emily to be the right thing to do.
Hannah again reengaged Emily by challenging her friendship to Ashley. “Aren’t you willing to help her through this?” Hannah pleaded. “She can have this baby, and we can help her!”
Shawna, who had yet to speak, excused herself to go to the bathroom. In her absence, the bantering continued.
Upon her return, Shawna observed that Emily and Hannah seemed to have agreed to disagree. In the end, however, all three of them pledged to stick with Ashley no matter what she would do.
The friends left, and Ashley still had a decision to make.
The next day Brandon and Ashley saw each other, and she told him the news. His reaction was mixed. On the one hand, he reacted like Hannah, offering to be there for Ashley and even suggesting marriage. Ashley knew marriage wasn’t the answer – at least not for a while.
After Ashley dismissed that suggestion Brandon seemed relieved, but he felt he should help solve the problem. Ashley told him about her friends’ ideas: Hannah wanting her to keep the child and help her raise it and Emily’s suggestion to have an abortion. Brandon agreed to abide by any decision she made. He would try to help her raise the child, and he would also pay for the abortion.
Needless to say, Ashley did not find much clarity in the counsel of her boyfriend and girlfriends. As the shock of the positive pregnancy test wore off she spent a lot of time thinking through her options. Truth be told, she was leaning towards abortion. It was then she realized that other than pledging to support her in any way she could, Shawna had not really weighed in on the matter.
Advice from Experience
Ashley called and asked to talk with Shawna. The two of them sat outside on the steps of the house in the poorer neighborhood where Shawna lived. Ashley observed Shawna’s silence at the news of her pregnancy and now wanted her thoughts.
Shawna’s eyes filled with tears that obviously came from deep inside – a genuine concern for others that made Shawna a valued friend.
Shawna took Ashley’s hand and laid her own hand in it. “Look at my hand,” she said to Ashley. “I’m thinking this is what my mother’s hand looked like at my age.” It was an odd thought to Ashley because Shawna was very slender and almost lanky. Her mother was stout and chubby. “She was also a junior in high school when she was pregnant with me. She had her entire life before her, and I would guess her friends gave her the same advice that you got from Emily and Hannah.”
This was news to Ashley. Their friendship did not include a lot of talk about family history. She knew that Shawna was very close to her mother, which explained the tears. Ashley also quickly recalled Shawna’s religious roots, and she half expected an impassioned plea for her to “give her baby life” and not have an abortion. That was not, however, the direction Shawna was going.
“My mother, I would imagine, felt like you do now. She knew there was a baby growing within her. She also knew there was no way she could care for any baby at that time of her life. She made a decision back then that changed my life forever.”
At that point, Shawna’s mother opened the front door to offer the girls some lemonade. There was that momentary feeling of awkwardness. Shawna’s mom sensed the depth of the conversation, quickly set down the lemonade, apologized for the interruption and scurried back into the house.
To break the temporary silence Ashley poured the lemonade and handed her friend a glass. “You have a great mother, Shawna. But I am not like her. She is strong, loving, spiritual and all the things that I am not. Your mother made the right decision, and the two of you have a great relationship.”
At this, Ashley broke down with the weight of her decision growing on her. In contrast, Shawna smiled, again laid her hands in Ashley’s hands, and said, “These hands are not those of the woman who gave us the lemonade. My mother did the most wonderful thing for me – she didn’t try to raise me knowing she couldn’t and she didn’t abort me – knowing it would end my life. My mother made a decision for what was best for me, and she placed me for adoption.”
“Those two people in there who I call my Mom and Dad are my parents in every sense of the word except biology. They took me as a foster child when I was a baby and adopted me eight months later.”
Ashley had never known Shawna’s background and had never thought about her decision in this way. And, at first blush, Ashley just couldn’t see herself “giving away” her baby. It sounded so callous and uncaring. “I could never give a baby away to strangers,” Ashley exclaimed. “These are not strangers, Ashley. These people are my parents. They love me, help me, watch over me and care for me. Can you do all that as a junior in high school? Can you do that for your baby if you abort her?
“I think when my mother found out she was pregnant and decided to place me for adoption it was the kindest and most unselfish thing she had ever done. She wanted me to live and to have the best in life, and today I am living and I have the best in life.”
Shawna and Ashley both began to cry. “Have you ever seen your real mother?” Ashley asked. “Well, for the record I now consider that lemonade lady to be my real mother, but if you are wondering if I ever met the woman who gave me life and made sure I had a life, yes, I met her two years ago.
“I had always thought I would try to find her after I turned 18. I told my parents that I really wanted to meet the person who made sure I had the life I have now, and my parents promised they would help me find her.
“Unknown to me they began looking right away. Two years ago, on my 14th birthday, there was a special guest at my birthday dinner. She was 30 years old, very tall, and she had my hands.
“After I was born she finished high school, got some more schooling and got married. She works as a social worker. She lives about 650 miles away, has two children – which means I have two half-sisters – and she, too, was wondering what had become of me.
“There are no regrets for either of us. It meant a lot to her to see that I was well taken care of, loved and happy. It meant a lot for me to see that she was able to go on and have a life that brought her happiness and satisfaction.” Shawna’s words lingered with Ashley. Ironically, it was the lemonade that made the difference. You see, when Shawna’s mother came out to bring the lemonade, Ashley saw love in action. She saw what she wanted for her child and what she knew her predicament could not give her.
Shawna’s words lingered with Ashley. Ironically, it was the lemonade that made the difference. You see, when Shawna’s mother came out to bring the lemonade, Ashley saw love in action. She saw what she wanted for her child and what she knew her predicament could not give her.
The months ahead were difficult. Sometimes her resolve to place her child for adoption became clouded as she felt the baby kick in her womb. The adoption
agency met with Ashley, and at least one time with her three friends by her side, she considered the kind of people she would like to care for her child.
She examined the profiles of each couple. They all came with pictures and a description of their hobbies, homes, and hopes. Emily was convinced she could pick out the perfect couple. Hannah was into the hobbies, almost as if she was going to be adopted. Shawna again remained silent. She watched and listened. And again, Ashley went alone to talk with Shawna about the decision.
Shawna found happiness in love with a family of modest means. The house and neighborhood were not as pristine as those captured in the profile pictures. With her family, the values and hobbies really were centered in their church life. Although she knew that, Ashley had initially dismissed it as more of a cultural thing. But she saw in Shawna and her family an inner peace, joy, and stability and, as she thought about it, that’s exactly what she wanted for her baby.
A New Life
On March 23rd Ashley’s little girl was born. The adoptive couple she chose to raise the child as their own helped her in the delivery room, as did Shawna. Everyone cried with joy. The baptism of this child in the hospital also adopted her into God’s family.
Today that little girl is the object of great love in her new family. The values of faith and hope that surround the child give Ashley a sense of comfort as she continues with her schooling.
Not long after the baby’s birth Ashley and Brandon broke up. Ashley went on to continue her education. She still gets together a few times a year with her three girlfriends. And since the day her baby was born she has remembered them in her prayers. Her child lives and has a life, and so does Ashley.
May 4, 2018