Cover Story: Playing for Keeps

Age: 23 Lives: Deer Park Works: Receptionist The commercials don't lie. It was easy. It was clear. It was blue. Before we took the pregnancy test, my boyfriend and I decided we would keep the b

May 10, 2001 at 2:06 pm

Age: 23
Lives: Deer Park
Works: Receptionist

The commercials don't lie. It was easy. It was clear. It was blue.

Before we took the pregnancy test, my boyfriend and I decided we would keep the baby and we would be grateful for the gift.

He's the man I knew I would be with for the rest of my life. We both graduated from college, and it was time to enter the next stage in our lives.

But I cried, anyway.

Bringing a life into the world was terrifying. I was afraid to tell my parents, and I was afraid I wouldn't be a good mom.

What I learned the next few months, however, has empowered me as a woman and has changed my opinion about single mothers and what a good mom really is.

I needed to immediately get our results verified. Because I didn't have an ob-gyn, we went to the best place I could think of for a pregnant woman to go — a pregnancy crisis center. I wanted information and resources as well as direction. I knew the clinic performs abortions, but I didn't know that many of the pregnant women who went there did so to terminate their pregnancies.

What about women like me who want to keep our babies? The counselor was kind but offered only a skimpy pamphlet when I told her I was sure I didn't want an abortion. I was shown a picture of what was in my uterus at that time. It looked more like the tequila worm Craig T. Nelson throws up in Poltergeist.

For a fleeting moment, I thought, "That's not a baby." But every time the counselor mentioned abortion, I confirmed that wasn't my choice.

The counselor advised turning to a church for support but it would be a waste of time to see an ob-gyn because there was nothing a doctor could do so early on. Before we left, I signed a paper stating I would not come back expecting an abortion for a certain number of days — a mandatory waiting period.

Doubting my 80-year-old conservative priest was the best place to get support, we told our parents. They were extremely encouraging and told us we should see a doctor right away.

My boyfriend took the day off work and within a week we were in the waiting room of a recommended doctor. I was called back and my boyfriend was told to wait.

When the doctor entered, he shook his head at me. "What happened?" he said with a pitying tone.

I told him my boyfriend and I were excited about the unplanned pregnancy. He informed me that I didn't have to continue the pregnancy; that women today have choices and he had names of credible people. I told him my choice was to keep the baby.

He presented names of adoption services that would pay for all prenatal costs. Again, I told him I knew my options and I was there to get prenatal care. "Babies are expensive," he replied.

I was more amazed than angry. I honestly didn't think I would be demeaned for being unmarried. I'm an average, middle-class white woman. I've never experienced prejudice firsthand.

Now, strangers' eyes rise from my belly to my face and quickly fall to my ring finger. It's hypocritical, this ongoing, heated debate between pro-life and pro-choice, because few want to accept the choice of a young unmarried woman to keep her child.

I am proud of my decisions. But if I did not have the support of my boyfriend, friends and family, I'm not sure I wouldn't have gone back to the clinic despite my personal feelings.

I admire single mothers who overcame disapproval from their families and I sympathize with young women who had abortions because they were afraid.

Last month, a woman I never met approached me. "Are you married?" she asked.

Without embarrassment I said, "No." "What will your child tell her friends?" she asked.

She didn't deserve a reply. But I smiled. I know I'll be a good mom because my child will tell her friends not to stand in judgment of anyone. She'll tell them to support all women in all of life's difficult choices.

And my child will know that hers is the only opinion worth anything.