My mind often drifted to thoughts of her. A young woman, who though I’d never met, would be linked with me always.
I often thought of her as a naïve girl, someone who made a mistake, lived out the consequences, and made a tough choice. But at one time, that was as far as my thoughts could take her. Her life sort of ended there, even though she lives on.
She would become one person in my life who I could say actually changed the course of me.
For the sake of this story, I’ll call her Lynn. At merely sixteen, her life, full of insecurity, wove its way into mine.
Needing love and affirmation, Lynn found herself pregnant and feeling more unloved than ever. Judged by the people closest to her, she lived out the walk of shame every time she left the house without a wedding ring on. Even surrounded by the walls of a church, rubbing shoulders with the people in it, she had a hard time finding the grace she so desperately needed.
The details of the next months of Lynn’s life could be recounted by many unmarried young pregnant girls in the 80’s — or in any other decade. She came in contact with others who just didn’t know how to respond or what to say. She lived in both anguish and joy every time the little life somersaulted inside her belly. She was faced with a future that she would have to decide. Any other decision in her life before or after this would certainly pale in comparison.
The day Lynn gave birth to her little girl, I knew about it within hours.
A closed adoption meant all details came to us through our social worker. In some ways it was the most impersonal way to communicate the most personal and intimate moment in life: birth. But this birth wasn’t like any other in the hospital that day. This birth came with a bittersweet ending.
For that moment in time, she made the very best, bravest decision.
Lynn left the hospital with empty arms less than forty-eight hours after her daughter was born. I walked in the same doors she exited, waiting to fill mine. I met my little girl that day. Life was forever changed.
Many years later, another young woman in my life became that same naïve girl. She made a mistake, lived out the consequences, and would face a tough choice. This time, her life was very real — she stood in front of me, pregnant and needing a lot of love for the decision that would affect so many futures.
I will call this young woman Joy. She looked to me as the one who would give her the courage to make the right decision because she knew that throughout her life she could count on me. I wasn’t a perfect mom, and made more than a few wrong decisions as I parented her and each of her three siblings. But for my eldest daughter at this surreal time, I would ask God to give me whatever I needed to walk her through this well.
Though judgment stares and religious answers abounded through the following months, so did grace.
Somehow able to throw aside so many preconceived ideas, I proudly became the missing partner in the string of midwife appointments and shower-planning. I would have never guessed Joy could have handled herself so well in such a time of pressure and uncertainty. I had no idea I could either.
The day Joy gave birth to her little boy, I was there, camera in hand, tears running down my face.
Less than four hours later, we exited the hospital with her tiny, warm son swaddled in his car seat, ready to continue the journey of our lives.
For that moment in time, she made the best, bravest decision.
Almost two decades separated those very important choices that would inevitably shape many lives. The desperation of a pregnant teenager brought me my first-born child. The desperation of that child as a teenager, brought me my first-born grandchild. The legacy of love and grace has been woven tightly through these three women: me, Lynn, and Joy — together a beautiful picture of the power of adoption and redemption.