On Happy Endings

When I was eighteen I worked with AmeriCorp (also known as the domestic peace corp) as a mentor for pregnant and parenting teens.  My own daughter was just turning one so, as you might imagine, I had plenty of hands-on experience with the issues teen parents faced.  Still, my role was an ambiguous one; I never quite understood what I was supposed to be doing, or how to measure whether or not I was successful.  I had roughly fifteen girls on my case load and I was charged with keeping track of various aspects of their lives.  Most of them were only a year or two younger than me, so mentoring them proved to be kind of challenging.  My duties ranged from making home visits to speaking on topic during school assemblies.  I arranged speakers for “group” and organized a holiday party for the girls and their babies.  Mostly, though, I sat at a desk and stared at the clock while the girls were in class.  Probably the most important lesson I learned during that time was that social work is really not my thang.

There was something else, though.

I was introduced to a high school junior who had chosen adoption for her unborn child.  I remember thinking–at the time–how lost she must have been.  How sorry she would one day be.  How the choice she had her mind set on was such a colossal cop-out.

Funny how time and a little bit of perspective can change things.

Looking back, I see her through the eyes of admiration.  I’m in in awe of how someone so young could have made such a selfless decision.  And yes, I am in the camp with those that think adoption is a selfless decision.  Especially in contrast to a woman who would abort her baby.  But we won’t go there.  Not today.

Would you believe that I tried to talk her out of it?  I’m almost ashamed to say so.  Ashamed because how dare I think that the life she was choosing for her child was something she came to flippantly.  I spoke with her at great length.  And while I certainly didn’t realize it then, I know now that she was infinitely more mature than me.  Whereas I chose to raise my child because I couldn’t bear the thought of a life without her, this young girl chose adoption because she couldn’t bear the thought of what that life would be like for her child.

I want it to be perfectly clear that I do not–in any way–regret my decision to raise the baby I gave birth to when I was 16.  I most certainly do not.  Our story is one with a happy ending.  My baby–now sixteen herself–has almost exactly the life I wanted to build for her.  Almost.

I would never have wished on her the road it took us to get here.  A road littered with broken relationships and broken promises and broken hearts.  We’ve been poor.  And lonely.  We slept side by side–curled up on my parents’ couch–for the first five months of her life.  I battled in court for the right to raise her the way I wanted to.  If you’ve seen a single episode of MTV’s Teen Mom, you’ve pretty much seen exactly the life we led while we–quite literally–grew up together.  It was anything but ideal.

It is precisely that life that makes me realize now how entirely selfless a gift that young pregnant girl gave her unborn child.  It wasn’t a decision I was capable of making.  I had my heart set on a happy ending of a different kind.  One that wasn’t easy to come by, by any stretch of the imagination.

That girl?  And the child she chose a different life for?  I’ll probably never know what became of them.  But I’d be willing to bet that they each have happy endings of their own.

Happy endings–I now know–come in all shapes and sizes.

 

This is the first in a series of Teen Mom Tuesday posts I’m writing.  I welcome input on any teen mom related topics you’d like for me to touch on. I am an expert on the subject, after all. ;)

25 Replies to “On Happy Endings”

  1. Adoption is a beautiful gift. My girlfriend and her husband have been going through the the process for years now. Last Sunday night, they recieved a phone call; a birthmother had chosen them and she was in labor. They made the long journey from Alaska to Virigina. They are currently living out of a hotel room with their “baby girl” awaiting the green light to make the journey home. They have been in our thoughts and prayers.

  2. You should write a book on this subject.

    You may not feel called to social work, but you’re definitely inspirational, and you have a wonderful ability to touch people and, I believe, change lives with your words.

    xoxo

    1. When I first read it a couple of days ago, this comment made me all warm and fuzzy. Your encouragement means a lot to me. XO

  3. I’m not sure if everyone truly knows just how much work you put in to ensure that she had the happy ending that she deserves – but I do, and it is just one of the many reasons I fell in love with you!

  4. I appreciate you sharing your story and perspective with us and am looking forward to reading more. I’m glad you both got your happy endings!

  5. So excited to read this series! I hope you’ll write about what led you to be in your situation and what you think we can do to help girls not end up there.

    As for this post, thank you for being honest. For admitting that you didn’t understand or appreciate the choice that young girl made. We can all only learn if we can acknowledge that we are sometimes wrong.

    1. Your excitement to read the follow-up posts in the series really fueled my fire, Nicole. That probably comes off sounding cheesy, but it was just really nice to hear. And both of the ideas you provided are like little sparks, waiting to catch on the keyboard. Thank you!

  6. You were raising your baby as a teen yourself, and maybe you were thinking, “If I can do it, you can do it!” Heck, I don’t know what you were thinking so what am I saying! Adoption is a selfless act and I don’t know if I could ever do it if I were in that situation. I would always be wondering whatever happened to my child. Besides, you did get a happy ending – I can tell through your posts. Sometimes we must stumble over a lot of rocks to get to that happy ending but it sure is nice when we get there!

    1. I would be wondering the same thing, Shannon. Not sure I could ever go through with it, either.

  7. Whenever I read your posts, I am truly amazed at how incredible of a person you are. There is no doubt that you have passed these attributes on to all of your kids and know that they see how amazing you are as well. I’m so happy your story has a happy ending because you deserve it so much. xoxo

  8. I’m really looking forward to this series. My sister-in-law had her baby when she was 19. She chose to raise the baby herself, but the biological father wanted nothing to do with the baby. Luckily, she has a happy ending, and she is now married to a man that loves her and her daughter. Her daughter is now 11 and a smart, happy, friendly child. I know, like you, it wasn’t an easy road.

    What do think is the best way to prevent teen pregnancy? Do you think shows like Teen Mom promote teen pregnancy or discourage it? (I have never watched it).

    What can we as a society do to best help teen moms raise their child to ensure they have a happy ending?

    What was the hardest obstacle to overcome as you raised your baby? For my sister-in-law, it was the constant judgment that she faced and continues to face.

    1. I completely agree with Stephanie; GREAT questions. Thank you for asking them! I hope I will be able to touch on all of them over the next few weeks.

      PS. I’d probably make a great friend to your sister-in-law.

  9. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile but don’t think I’ve ever commented. I love everything you write and I’m so looking forward to this series. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I think both you and the girl who chose adoption made unselfish decisions. I truly can’t fathom making a decision that important at 16.

    1. I don’t think you’ve ever commented either, Sue. But I’m glad you did! Thank you for your encouraging words about my series plan. I look forward to seeing you “around” more often.

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