By far the biggest learning experience of my life was experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. It was a terrifying, humbling, and growing period of my life. I learned many lessons the hard way, and they have changed me forever. Here is my story.
When I was seventeen, I moved out of my parents’ home for the first time. My older brother’s childhood best friend was living in the area, and he offered to help me move in. I had a little-girl crush on him growing up, so I was excited to see him again. I didn’t think anything would come of it. He was seven years older than me, which is a lot when you’re seventeen.
Contrary to my expectations, he showed interest almost immediately, and I fell for it. I was scared and alone in a new place, and it felt good to have someone familiar around. At first, I felt comfortable and safe around him. I didn’t realize at the time that many of the things he did to (what he claimed) protect me were really to control and manipulate me. When I got pregnant, he insisted that we get married. It didn’t feel like I had a choice in the matter. It was then that I realized that our relationship was not based on love, but on control.
I learned so much from this relationship. I learned that there is a big difference between lust and love and that I didn’t have to give more of myself than I wanted to deserve the latter. I learned that when you see red flags in a relationship, you leave. Now I am much more careful who I trust, and I take my relationships much more slowly. If I am not treated with respect, I end it. I learned the hard way that it is so much better to be alone than to be in a relationship you don’t feel safe in.
For the first six months of my pregnancy, I was planning on parenting. This was another big growing experience for me. I took a crash course in adulting. I worked full time to pay for my bills and medical care, learned to budget, made a plan for child care, planned a way to balance parenting and getting an education, everything that I needed to be a single parent. Many of the skills I learned during this portion of my pregnancy are skills that I still use today. I am much more responsible with my time and money than I once was.
Logistically, I could have made it work to parent my baby. But the biggest part of growing up quickly was learning to step outside myself and take a look at the bigger picture. Parenting was what I wanted to do, but what about what was best for my baby? Could I give her the life she deserved? Not just now, but in ten years? Twenty? The answer was no. It wasn’t just about money. I was not in a place where I was emotionally mature enough to be the kind of parent she deserved. She needed more stability than her biological father and I could provide. So I had to find somebody who could give her the life I wanted her to have. Learning to put her needs before my own was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever been through, but seeing her thrive with the family I chose has helped to heal my pain.
Choosing the right family was another important lesson. When you place a baby for adoption, you have no legal right to visitation. Any contact agreements are based completely on trust. I believed that the best option for my baby was an open adoption. That way she could have a stable, loving family while still having contact with me so that she would always know that I love her.
I looked through dozens of profiles, trying to decide how I could possibly choose. They all seemed so wonderful, but at the same time, I was terrified of families making promises they wouldn’t keep. I was so hurt by the relationship I had with the birth father that I wasn’t sure how I could have faith in anyone ever again. As I got to know the family I eventually chose to adopt my birth daughter, I slowly learned to trust. It was a giant leap of faith to place, but they have kept their word. They have never made a promise they couldn’t keep, and they genuinely love me. They taught me that there really are good people in the world.
And I learned what love was. Meeting my little baby girl opened my eyes to a whole new level of emotion I didn’t know I was capable of. I love her fiercely, and every time I see her my love grows even more. She is my little sunshine.
The lessons I learned, I learned the hard way, but I am grateful for them. What was once a crisis pregnancy has turned into the biggest blessing I have ever received. I am a much stronger, wiser person because of everything I’ve been through. I can thank my crisis pregnancy for the woman I am today, and I will always be proud of that.