There are people in my life who have aborted their babies. They weren’t ready. They were afraid. They didn’t want anyone to know the life they were living. I love these women. I know them well. My heart breaks for them. They didn’t abort because they were tragically raped, or because their lives were at risk, or any other reason that people use to justify the act in their heads. They treated the procedure like birth control, as an afterthought. My heart breaks for them and their babies, but I love them anyway. I’m glad they told me. I will always advocate for truth, even when it hurts. The truth can help people. It can make them feel less alone. However, I can’t tell their stories. I can only tell mine. I know my story isn’t the same as everyone’s story. I don’t think every couple who gets pregnant should go get married. I don’t even know if every couple that gets pregnant should raise the baby themselves. I know some beautiful adopted children who were raised by families who loved them well. I just know that our baby girl is going to change the world around her, and it was my job to give her the chance. It would have been selfish and small to take such beauty away from this world. When I was twenty one, I had been dating my nineteen year old boyfriend for 6 months. I was a virgin up to this point for so many reasons. I had committed to saving myself for marriage, I wasn’t emotionally ready, and in the event that I were to get pregnant, I was not equipped to raise a child. Jordan and I started dating after I graduated college and lived on my own. He knew and had completely respected my boundaries, but I was starting to get cocky and rebellious. “I am an adult, I should be allowed to do what I want.” So, I did. We talked about it, and used protection. I had only been sexually active for about one month when we heard a sound. Did the condom break? We kind of were freaking out. The Plan B pill came up, and personally, we were not comfortable with that. So, we carried on and waited.
About a month later, I woke up at 4 in the morning and said out loud, “I’m pregnant”. My dog, Samson, just moaned at me and went back to bed. I waited until morning and went to my parents’ house. My sister, Deanna, was staying there and I knew I needed her. I called Heika on the way and told her my worry. She had just gone back to school from her winter break and I always wish she could have stayed one day longer. The house was buzzing with the business that mornings buzz with and eventually everyone left. Except my sister. I thank God that she was there that day. She had only recently come home with her two boys, otherwise, she would have been miles and miles away. I said something like, “This is going to be a lot of information for you to process, but I think I’m pregnant.” She didn’t skip a beat. “You’re going to be ok, stay with the boys and I’ll go get you a test.” I hadn’t even missed my period yet, I just had a gut feeling. I paced around and played with my nephews and chugged water for the three hours it seemingly took for her to come back from the 711 up the street.
I took the test and set it on the bathroom counter. I waited my 3 excruciating minutes and walked back in. Positive. I was pregnant. I was the good girl. I never did bad things. I didn’t break any rules. I never drank in college because it was a dry campus. I went to church every week and led worship growing up. I was a Daddy’s girl. I was devastated and instantly felt shame and anguish and desperation. My sister. She assured me, “No matter what, you’re going to be ok. Even if we move in together and raise our kids together, you will be alright. Everyone will get over it and you will be an awesome mom.” I had no energy to object. I just believed her. I felt oddly strong. Called. Competent. I took her words and internalized them. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to be a mommy. Jordan was out of town and wouldn’t be home for four more days. I had to tell him. So, I called him. I know that sounds terrible, but what was I supposed to do? We were obsessed with each other and called and texted constantly. I couldn’t have hidden it from him and I didn’t think I should have to. I woke him up, it was still early in the morning. I could hear his sleepy voice trying to sound awake and I wished I didn’t have to dump and bucket full of ice cold reality all over him, but I did it anyway.
To those who know me, have you seen me when I’m nervous? Rambly. I just ramble. I keep talking. I speak for the person I’m nervous about. It is not a productive habit. I told him that I took a test and I’m pregnant. Before he could even respond, I told him that it’s ok, he can move on with his life, finish school and be successful without me, but I am keeping the baby. He finally stopped me, all of the sleepyness gone from his voice, and said, “Darla, what are you talking about? I’m not going anywhere. Yes, I’m scared, and this is a lot to think about, but get it out of your head that you are doing this alone.” Oh Jordan, he may not be the most eloquent speaker, but he knows how to get through to me. We talked for just a bit. For no logical reason, we whispered. We both brought up and agreed on three things right away. 1. Abortion was absolutely out of the question. 2. Jordan was finishing school. 3. We are not going to just get married because of this baby. That topic was going to have to wait until we cleared our mind and talked to our parents.
Oh no. Our parents.
I was a Daddy’s girl. Jordan is a Mama’s boy (sorry, bud). They were going to be crushed. How was this going to go? You should have heard our day-nightmare-scenerios we came up with in our heads. It’s no wonder all of the color had drained from our faces when we finally went to tell them. We had already loosely planned to have a conversation with his parents about the future of our relationship the friday that Jordan got back. Jordan wasn’t a Christian and I was. We wanted to talk to them about what that would mean for us long term. Well, for obvious reasons, we changed the topic of that meeting. We met before in the Starbucks parking lot to plan. He was going to lead the conversation with his parents, I was going to lead it with mine. We were going to be strong, and clear. We weren’t going to use negative phrasing like, “Then I got her pregnant” or, “Then Darla got pregnant”. We were going to say something along the lines of, “We are going to have a baby”. Well, we sat down and the trembling ghost that used to be my boyfriend, shakily began, “We wanted to talk to you both about this because we love you and respect you. We love each other and we acted on that and…” “DARLA JEAN! ARE YOU PREGNANT?!” Lisa exclaimed as she pointed at me from across the table. I didn’t get to respond with our well thought out, “Yes, we are having a baby” because I looked over and Jordan began to sob. I think we all did. It wasn’t pretty. When the dust settled, they were kind, supportive and made it clear that they weren’t going to abandon us.
We decided to go over to my parents’ house and tell them too. Rip the band aid off. I had actually already told my Mom earlier in the day. I had asked her when Dad was going to be home so that I could talk to them. She was pretty persistent in asking why. She had even resorted to guessing. I was rummaging through my purse at the time and I actually had the positive test in there. She guessed, “speeding ticket?” and I whipped out the test, showed her and said, “Yeah, kinda”. I was her little girl and she was my mom in that moment. Our history didn’t matter. She hugged me and her eyes were tender. I explained that I had to be the one to tell Dad and we planned to meet all together. I asked Deanna to come into the kitchen ten minutes after our conversation started to just be there and maybe lighten the mood. We sat down, and I had the absolute hardest conversation of my life. Jordan’s and my nuckles were white as we held each other’s hands for strength. I had to tell my Daddy that I was pregnant. None of the yelling, lecturing or shaking of fists that I had imagined took place. What happened was worse. Silence. I looked at the green digital numbers on our kitchen intercom clock. Seven minutes of silence. He got his phone. The summer before, my Dad and I had scanned all of our family photos into his computer and organized them while we watched TV shows at night. He opened the “Darla” album on his phone and began paging through. Silence. He showed a picture of him and me. We were at some pool laughing and wrestling. Being buddies. Being a Daddy and his sweet baby girl. Silence, but we knew what he was saying. There aren’t words for what I felt in that moment. I was a failure. A disappointment. Unworthy. Shamed. He spoke. He stated the obvious. We made a poor decision. My parents bickered and my Dad asked, “What do you want me to say?” I said, “I want to know that my best friend forgives me, loves me anyway and will be here for me as I go through the hardest thing in my life.” He stood and hugged me and while there was plenty more that had to be said, I knew we were going to be alright. I guess we thought that we had stepped outside the bounds of their love, that they would retract it. We didn’t know what it was like to be parents yet. That the love is boundless. That it’s not earned by merit, like other love in this world. I don’t know where we’d be without their love and support.
We had things to do. My good friend and future marriage mentor, Lynn, suggested a local pregnancy center and there, we got helpful information and figured out insurance and next steps. We were too rattled to even think about those things so it was imperative that we were guided through that process. I look back at my first trimester with Lila as a grieving period. I was angry, I isolated, I bargained, I relived, I was depressed. I kept to myself for the most part. I didn’t tell many friends. I just needed to process it all. I wrote in my journal to my future baby. I wrote about who Jordan is, and that no matter how things turn out, he was an amazing and virtuous young man. I had to find a home for my best buddy, Sam. He was my little (big) pal and it just broke my heart, but I couldn’t take him with me. I had to move back home and leave my adorable townhouse and my own little kitchen. In this time, I told my cousin, Tina, and for the first time, someone’s first words to me when they heard the news was, “Congratulations, a baby is such a blessing.” That stuck with me. Soon after that, my Dad and I were driving home from church and he broke the silence, “Okay, that’s enough.” “What do you mean?” “You’re done being sad. I know you’ve had a hard couple of months but it’s time to wake up. You are having a baby. You are doing your best to do the next right things. It’s time to stop sulking and walk proud. You need to be Darla.” I didn’t fight him. It was time for the acceptance stage of my grief. I had to brush myself off again and walk with dignity. Jordan and I had many conversations. Just him and me, with our parents, and separately. We were thirsty for wise counsel. We decided that we would get married. Even though our stats were bad. Even though had been dating for less than a year. Even though Jordan was 19 and was just a sophomore in college. It was a huge leap of faith, and we took it. He proposed, we told all of our friends that we were engaged and pregnant and we probably scared the crap out of them, but we had to just follow the path we had chosen and let the nay sayers say nay. They did. There were a few people who didn’t believe in us. They talked about how we were unequally yoked. They were right. I was a christian and Jordan was young and shaky in his concept of faith. That didn’t matter though, we were yoked already. We were both tied to the same load. It would have been much worse to try to pull in opposite directions. We didn’t have the energy to try to change their minds, we just had to leave them on the sidelines and stick with those who knew us best. Can I just take a moment to offer some unsolicited advice?
- If you are not ready to make real life, monumental, permanent decisions about the life of another human being, you aren’t ready to have sex. If you aren’t married and ready to give your soul to someone the way physical intimacy does, you are not ready to have sex. If you feel the need to keep the fact that you are sexually active from your parents, you aren’t ready to have sex. If you feel shame or guilt and the need for secrecy, you aren’t ready to have sex. Jordan and I made a poor decision sleeping together before marriage. Don’t mistake our story as glorifying what happened. Lila was not a reward for our actions. It is only by God’s grace that Lilliana is in our lives and we are humbled that we have been entrusted with such a precious baby girl after making a decision that we knew wasn’t right. It’s confusing to us, it feels like a contradicting grey area. But we believe that God can make beautiful things out of our brokeness and that is what He did.
- If you are young and find out you are pregnant, and it wasn’t your plan, can you just wait? Go talk to your family, they love you more than you give them credit for. You weren’t ready for the weight of these real life decisions, but here you are. You need to pull yourself together and make the next right choice. Talk to your mentor, someone you trust and look up to. Someone you want to be like. Humble yourself enough to be guided through a really hard time and seek wise counsel. Those who truly love you have your best interest at heart and won’t lead you astray.
- If someone tells you they are pregnant, even if they seem young and unprepared, always say, “Congratulations.” Because it is an honor and miracle to have a baby growing inside of you. Then, be encouraging, be strong. They don’t need your fear or doubt, they have enough of their own. My sister was the first person to know, and she calmed me down enough to think clearly. She empowered me and said she would be there for me. It was a divine moment that steered my course of action. You can be that person for someone, I hope you are.
Back to our story. You know the story leading up to our wedding, and on our wedding day. It was beautiful. It was a very important day. My life began to change for the better. “Over and over. Over again.” 3 months later our baby girl was born. She.Was.Breathtaking. Each day she has blossomed more and more. She has a heart made of pure gold and touches everyone she encounters. She is strong, yet tender, she is intuitive and smart. This world needs more people like her. She is captivating, and here is where I lose it: She was given to us. Two scrappy kids, with no clue what we are doing. I remember after I gave birth looking at her ten fingers and ten toes. I checked her skin and her hair. I waited nervously for her ears to be checked and her blood work to come back. She was perfect. How could this be? I didn’t deserve her. I’ve been taught about mercy and grace my whole life, but I hadn’t lived it until this moment. I deserved punishment that I didn’t get. Mercy. I was given a treasure far beyond what I deserved or even could fathom. Grace. To not only be spared, but to be blessed with the sweetest gift was completely beyond me. How was this possible? I don’t know, but Jordan and I have promised to give this girl everything we’ve got. All of our energy, all of our time, all of our love. We were given the most tender and precious jewel, and we are committed to being good stewards. You have to know this about me. This is why I work so hard. This is why I wake up early and thank God, and pray for wisdom and peace, patience and desernment. Because we aren’t good enough for this girl. She deserves the very best. We don’t have a lot of money, we don’t have a lot of influence, but we give her the very best of what we have and all of our love. I shudder to think of our lives without Lilliana Mae. We are who we are because she came into our lives. We are a family. I’m grateful that abortion wasn’t on the table. We are so indebted to our families who supported us. We will never be the same, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Lila, girl, you are my flower.