As I have walked with my younger daughter through her journey of an unplanned pregnancy and the birth of my precious grandson, I am amazed at what God is doing in my own life. My journey started over two and a half decades ago with my own unplanned pregnancy and the birth of my first daughter. But I’m going to begin my story with last Monday October 7, 2013. I walked into the Embrace Grace event at Gateway Church. I was there with my daughter and a group of her friends that she met through EG. I went to the event to be supportive of my daughter but I was also there for myself. I hoped that just maybe, God might have something there for me, too. And He did provide for me but not in the way I expected.
As I lifted my voice in worship to my Savior, my eyes wandered through the crowd of girls and women around me. I was overwhelmed with gratitude at having the chance to come to this event with my daughter, to see her get loved on by these EG women, but I was also overwhelmed by my feelings from so long ago. While my heart sang out to God in gratitude at bringing us all this far, I heard these words spoken to my heart by my Creator, “You are no different from these girls around you.”
You might think it an odd thing to hear but it is exactly what I needed. You see, 26 years ago, I found myself single, alone, and pregnant. The embarrassment and shame that I felt was only magnified by my mother telling me if I were any younger, she would force me to have an abortion. I was 19 at the time. I was soon sent to live at a home for unwed mothers about 45 minutes away. I felt lost, isolated, and like I’d been thrown out with the garbage. While I lived at the home for girls like me, I seriously considered allowing someone to adopt my baby. I looked through the adoption book over a period of several weeks and finally decided on a couple who was unable to have children of their own. All the while, trying to ignore the ache I felt inside at being forever parted with my child. I moved back to my parents’ house around my 6th month of pregnancy. One day soon after I receive a phone call that changed my destiny. Upon picking up the receiver, I heard the voice of the potential adoptive father I’d chosen. He said they’d decided to adopt the baby of another girl. My heart was broken. I slide down the wall and dissolved into a puddle of tears. But I also had a very real, very deep sense of relief… I was going to keep my baby. And this was God’s way of telling me to do so. My parents, being active members of the community didn’t take my decision well. They asked the pastor of the church we attended for advice. His suggestion was to have me write a letter of confession to every family member and family friend. To this day, I can still feel the keys of the typewriter under my fingers. I couldn’t see a thing for the tears streaming down my face as I begged to not have to do it. My mother, speaking very coldly said, “You brought this on yourself. Now you have to suffer the consequences.” I can still hear the thud of the 40 envelopes as they hit the bottom of the mail box. My shame magnified beyond measure as “my sin” was out there for everyone to see.
A few days later, I was told that I had to write another letter, this one to be read in front of the church board. There aren’t enough words in the English language to even begin to explain how I felt as I stood before that group of people. My body burned like I was being skinned alive. If it weren’t for the life growing inside of me, I would have killed myself. The pain was more than I could bear. In order to survive, I buried it all. I became a zombie. Depression and anxiety became my shadow.
My little girl was born and she became my life. She was the reason I lived. But the pain, shame, and anger lay in my heart and refused to be ignored. It ate at me night and day. I thought that everywhere I went people “could tell” what kind of person I was. While I was NEVER ashamed of my daughter, I was very ashamed of myself, of who I was, of what I represented. I was “one of those people”. I’d brought shame and disgrace upon my family. I didn’t know how to fix it; how to make the pain stop. So I did what I thought would make me look like everyone else… I got married, to the first guy that came along. Just a couple of months into the marriage, I became pregnant again.
Having never dealt with the emotions associated with the treatment I endured during my first pregnancy, my second became emotionally overwhelming. I wept almost all the time and inwardly raged the rest of the time. My hormones already being out of whack just made it all the worse. My anxiety levels were off the charts. I thought I was going to die. But I didn’t; God sustained me. And I gave birth to another beautiful healthy baby girl.
Fast forward 21 years. My older daughter moved to another state, got married, and started college. It was so hard to let her go. I felt the pain all over again at having almost lost her through adoption. A couple of years later she asked for my blessing to find her birth father. With my heart in my throat, I give it; wanting only what’s best for her; knowing God will help me through whatever happens. She did an internet search for his name and in less than 10 minutes, she had an address for him. Being very brave, she wrote him a letter. Soon after, they met in person and began the process of getting to know one another. I’ve done everything I can to not stand in the way of my daughter’s right to know her father and his right to know her although it’s been very painful for me. As I’ve walked this out with my older daughter I’ve been able to forgive her father. And I’m now able to see him for what he is: another broken person in need of a Savior.
Several months later, my daughter and her husband conceived their first baby, a little girl. Gratitude at the blessing of being a grandma filled my heart! But every bit of what I’d stuffed away all those years ago came blowing up to the surface like a volcano. I could no longer ignore it.
I’d already been attending Celebrate Recovery for about a year but it became my life line. I looked forward to the weekly meetings that allowed me to give voice to the old emotions that felt as fresh as a wound incurred yesterday. I cried many tears but I trusted God to hold them all because He says in His Word that He does. It’s been a long and painful process to deal with these old emotions that have only festered and grown with time. But God is ever faithful.
A little over a year ago, my younger daughter found herself pregnant and unmarried. Because of my deep pain, I have been able to give her what I never received; grace and mercy. I’ve cried right along with her; for her pain and for my own. I’m still walking the road to forgiveness for the damage done to me by my parents and the church. But God is so gentle and kind. And just as He walks every road with me, He’ll walk this one.
Yes, the voice of God, breaking through the barriers of my heart, reminding me that I am not alone in this experience was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. There are lots of other girls “like me” and God loves every single one of us. And He loves our babies.