Feeling Hopeless and Desperate For Warmth
It was what passed for a bleak, mid-winter day in El Cajon, California, even if the cold and hopelessness were mostly in Misty’s heart. She felt thoroughly boxed in on all sides by hard, cruel choices, closing in, with no room for forgiveness.
Some friends had convinced her to take the pregnancy test, and offered her their small comfort when the results came back positive. It just couldn’t be. Misty’s parents were committed Christians who’d always looked on her as their “good” child, their princess. A child out of wedlock would break their hearts and sever her ties to them forever. The young man whose child she was carrying would never consent to marry her. The people of her church, her Christian boss and co-workers … all Misty could see in any direction was humiliation, judgment, rejection.
So, she made the appointment with Planned Parenthood, and now sat in the passenger seat, trembling, as a friend drove her and the child inside her toward the unthinkable. She sat in a daze, staring out at the familiar, passing streets – and suddenly focused on a familiar sight: the Pregnancy Care Clinic, there on the corner, with the “Free Pregnancy Test” sign out front.
A sudden instinct seized her heart.
“I didn’t want to go to Planned Parenthood,” she remembers. “I wanted to go somewhere where – I don’t know – I didn’t want it to feel all surgical and sterile and cold.” She asked her friend to turn the car around, and reached for her cell phone to cancel her appointment.
She walked through the door of the clinic in a blur of confused, colliding emotions. “I was terrified,” she says. “Just really clinging to the thought that maybe I was wrong, maybe the test was wrong,” or, “if I was pregnant, that someone would help me figure out what I would do next.
“My heart was pounding through my chest, and I was so ashamed to have to look anybody in the eyes, even a stranger. But the receptionist was just so sweet and cheerful and full of smiles. I probably was starting to cry. But she was really, really calm and comforting.”
The free pregnancy test confirmed her fears; She was pregnant. Her nurse suggested an ultrasound to learn how far along she was. Misty agreed, but she could not get over the sinking feeling inside. She saw the image on the screen, a small flickering shape recognizable by a rounded head and little arms and legs.
“I was just washed over with love for that baby,” she says. “I thought, That’s my baby … even though he was so, so tiny then, there was barely anything to see.” That was a concern: the baby should’ve been bigger. The nurse warned Misty that she might have miscarried already.
And – in that moment – something changed.
“I was so scared, and didn’t know what I was going to do. I so badly didn’t want to be having a baby when I came in. But then as soon as I saw the baby, and then she told me that I probably miscarried it … I suddenly wanted that baby so bad.”
Now, Misty says, she knows “one of the reasons I didn’t go to Planned Parenthood was because I was so afraid and so ashamed that if somebody tried to talk me into [an abortion], I was in a place where I didn’t really know what I would do if someone tried to show me all the ‘good things’ that could come out of that.” But somehow, after the worrisome ultrasound, “I wanted to keep the baby. I was confident that, if the baby was still alive, I was going to keep it.”
Misty sweated out those next few weeks, waiting to learn if the baby in her womb was still alive. The Pregnancy Care Clinic staff tried to help her keep up hope, giving her some books and brochures to read on her situation, as well as a few baby supplies and a blanket. “Everybody was so kind and comforting,” she remembers.
When a second ultrasound showed that her little boy was in fact alive and growing, Misty’s relief brought some of her other challenges into perspective. She felt “more ready to face those different decisions that had been terrifying me before I came in,” she says. “Once I found out he was okay, I felt like I could take on anything.”
The Clinic staff helped Misty connect with a doctor and sort through insurance options. They set her up with childbirth and parenting and “Moms Helping Moms” classes. A counselor talked with her about how she could broach the baby with her parents, the father, and others.
Support Was The Key
“They just encouraged me not to be ashamed, not to be scared,” Misty says. “To know that I would have support and people helping me through it, no matter how my family responded. And that was really key – knowing that even if my worst fears came true and my parents kicked me out and my grandparents and brothers and cousins all hated me, that I would still have people to turn to that would love me and love my baby and help me.”
Today, Misty gazes on the face of her healthy baby boy, marveling at the difference a year makes. The father of her child married her soon after the pregnancy was discovered, and they’re launching a new life together. The family whose rejection she feared so much has embraced her, forgiven her, enveloped her with love. And more, even than that, she found her faith again.
-Misty’s story used with permission, name changed to protect her identity.