As a senior in college I found myself pregnant after a fling. There was no chance of marrying the father, and abortions were not legal at the time. Besides, it was not the baby’s fault that I was pregnant. With the help of the county’s social services department, I went to a home for unwed mothers in a distant city.
When a small United Methodist Church in the same town asked the home if any of the residents would like a ride to church on Sundays, I accepted the offer, and Hazel came for me each week. Soon she asked if I would like to sing in the choir, and I joined gratefully. Through their loving acceptance of me and through the pastor’s Lenten sermons, I came to understand my sin and God’s provision for salvation through Jesus Christ. I gave myself to the Lord and trusted Him with my future and my baby’s.
During counseling sessions with a social worker, I analyzed my past, my character, and my potential. She emphasized that, in deciding whether to raise my baby or to put it up for adoption, I should consider the results of raising a child as a single woman. It was possible that in trying to be responsible, I could condemn us both to lives of poverty and unfulfilled potential. We could be isolated, as well, for unwed mothers and their children were shunned in the society at that time. For these reasons, I might also end up resenting the child. It was very important that both of us be loved. Ultimately, I realized that an adopted baby was loved twice – not only by the family that received the child, but also by the mother who gave the child to them. I opted for adoption.
In those days, there were no open adoptions that allowed the birth mother to keep track of her child. But I did have one last opportunity to hold my baby girl and say goodbye. I remember looking her over from head to toe and asking God to bless her and take care of her. Then she was gone, given to a young couple who could not conceive and who were anxious to love and guide her.
I felt empty, yet full. Gone was the baby who had been within me for nine months. Present was a new relationship with God that would sustain me into the future.
Some wonder if I ever had guilt over giving up my baby. I can truly say, “Never!” I did the best I could for my child. I gave her life, not death, and offered her to a family that welcomed and loved her.
In 1994 testimony before the federal House Ways & Means Committee, social scientist Charles Murray said, “Illegitimacy is the single most important social problem of our time – more important than crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, welfare or homelessness because it drives everything else.” Isabel V. Sawhill testified in 1999 that “the growth of single parent families can account for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since 1970.” By taking me in, by providing me with tangible support, Christian friendship and love, Hazel and her congregation demonstrated the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ to me and my daughter.
When she was twenty-one, my daughter searched for and found me. I welcomed her, and our families were united successfully. She has blended with her three, younger half-sisters and now has nine children of her own. Her family resides in Germany, where she currently serves as the prayer partner and advisor to the president of the Hessen area military women’s Christian outreach program.
Adoption works. As followers of Jesus Christ, as The United Methodist Church, we can and we must love both mother and baby. Our Lord requires nothing less!