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The right choice.

Her teenage daughter's blunt statement, "I'm pregnant," sent questions of abortion--adoption --marriage racing through her mind

"Mom, I have something to tell you."

The serious note in Janeen's voice caused me to grip the steering wheel tighter. Oh, God, help me compose myself, no matter what it is, I thought, remembering a lunch date with my own mom when I was 17. Mom had asked me if I was pregnant, and I had blurted out that yes, I thought I was.

"Promise you won't hate me?" Janeen continued, now almost in a strained whisper.

"Of course I won't hate you, Janeen. I love you, no strings attached." I saw a red light ahead and put my foot on the brake. I was relieved not to have the responsibility of guiding the car through downtown traffic, at least not for a moment or two.

"I'm pregnant," Janeen said.

I tried not to react, because I knew that my immediate response would set the tone of our relationship for the next several months. Still, questions raced through my mind. Abortion? Adoption? Marriage? I took several deep breaths to compose myself.

"What do you plan to do about it?" I asked.

Janeen had always spoken her mind bluntly, a characteristic I had admired-except when she directed her bluntness at me. This time was no exception. "I can't believe you're asking me this! What do you think I'm going to do, have an abortion?" she asked incredulously. Her voice became soft again. "I need to know if you'll help me raise the baby. I don't know if I can do it alone."

The light turned green. I had just experienced the longest stoplight of my life. I let the air out of my lungs slowly, unaware that I had been holding my breath. "I'll help you with the baby as long as you need me," I replied.

Years earlier, my mother had shown her love for me and had gained my instant forgiveness for all past, present, and future grievances. Never had I felt her support or love more than during those difficult months. She had told me at the outset that even if I didn't marry the child's father, she would help me raise the child. I now saw an opportunity to give this gift to Janeen. My husband, Paul, joined me in the commitment.

Marriage was out of the question. The baby's father felt no obligation toward Janeen and no responsibility for the child. Abortion? That was up to Janeen. Count me out, the father said. He simply didn't care.

Her friends were quick to offer advice. Abortion was the only logical choice, they urged. One woman even offered to pay for a visit to an out-of-state clinic. She assured Janeen that the procedure was simple; she knew firsthand because she herself had undergone four abortions by the time she was 20. The pressure these friends exerted was intense. As I thought about their arguments , I began to understand how any young girl could be influenced to terminate her pregnancy without considering the alternatives or the consequences.

But Janeen never wavered in her decision, and we never waffled in our support. Of course there would be sacrifices, but we would make them willingly, we decided. We had planned a trip to England, our first vacation overseas, but the funds would be needed to pay for the baby, because there was no insurance. Extra cash was designated for a crib, clothes, diapers, blankets, and bottles. We also had to deal with our relatives' reactions, which weren't all positive.

Janeen's pregnancy was difficult, marred by morning sickness for seven months. In spite of her discomfort, she insisted on continuing her education at the nearby vocational school. Raspberry tea and crackers calmed her nausea, and they were adopted as her usual morning fare. Her typically teenage diet of burgers and fries was quickly traded for a more healthful regimen of fresh fruit, whole-grain breads, and yogurt.

Although I couldn't share the physical burden of her pregnancy, I was determined to support Janeen in every other way. We attended childbirth classes together, and I marveled at all I learned. Too well I remembered my own three deliveries: I was drugged at the first sign of pain and was awakened hours later with a baby. I had been so ignorant of the changes going on in my body. But this was another generation, a new age, and vital information was shared openly during each of our class sessions. We learned, for instance, that by the time a woman has missed a menstrual period, the baby's digestive and backbone systems are developing, and the foundations of all the baby's organs are laid. Even the arms and legs have begun to form. The brain develops in the last 3 months, and the effects of medication taken by the mother during labor can stay with the baby for up to 18 months. How I wished someone had told me that years ago!

As "our" pregnancy continued, I noticed my daughter maturing in wonderful ways. Far beyond the obvious physical changes, Janeen began experiencing mental and spiritual growth. She became increasingly sensitive to the tiny being developing inside her. One Sunday afternoon I walked into the den and saw her standing by a window looking out on the sunny autumn day, stroking her tummy and singing a soft lullaby.

Some anxiety-hers and minesurfaced as her due date approached. She prayed for a quick delivery because she was afraid of the pain. One mild afternoon in December the prayers began to be answered. She called me at work, and I dashed home in record time. I found her taking a leisurely shower and preparing for her hospital stay. She felt so good that it was all l could do to convince her that she really was in labor and that we really did have to hurry. She agreed-on the condition that we stop for a snack en route to the hospital.

The doctor barely arrived in time for the delivery. I was in the birthing room throughout Janeen's labor, and together we applied all we had learned during the childbirth classes.

"Pray for me!" she cried as I held her hand and helped her coordinate her deep breaths with her pushes.

Without so much as an aspirin, Janeen delivered Skyler Wayne in just three hours. His presence had an immediate effect on his proud mother. The magnitude of her responsibility quickly overwhelmed her, and right behind it swept a more powerful emotion that strikes new parents: the wonder of creation. She vowed to take her commission one day at a time and be the best mother possible. I made a similar commitment; I promised to help Janeen adjust to her new duties and to share in the care of this lively bundle she had just delivered to us. After all, I had had plenty of experience with diapers, formula, and 3 a. m. feedings. In return, I happily anticipated the months and years of "Skyler firsts" that stretched before us. There would be Skyler's first tooth, first word, first step, first Christmas, first day of school.

Of course, not all "firsts" would be pleasant ones. Skyler's first encounter with pain came too quickly. He had a lactose intolerance that took the doctors months to diagnose while he doubled up his knees to ease the hurt in his tummy. His first swim had to be postponed: just as I had lined up someone to teach him how to maneuver in water, we discovered that he had swimmer's ear, which meant he had to keep his ears away from water. His first childhood illness was chickenpox, and he was covered with sores from his scalp to his toes. I relearned patience, as his mom learned it for the first time.

His first word was "Dada," even though there wasn't one close at hand. His grandpa, "Papa," filled the need. "Mama" came soon after, more as a demand than a request. His mom was thrilled.

Next we encountered Skyler's curiosity as he began to crawl and walk. Cabinet locks were installed, doors were kept closed and ates were hastily purchased. His first real "ouch" was a cement burn gained by trying to climb down the front-porch steps solo.

In his first two years of life he has changed our home from an ordinary house to the offly place we want to be. He surprises us daily with his vocabulary. His laughter is like a healing balm at the end of each workday. His eagerness to learn the simplest tasks, such as brushing his teeth, causes a weary grandmother to feel blessed to participate in this once-mundane ritual. He hides his shoes in the trash and eats blueberry muffins in his grandparents' bed, propped up on a pillow, but he is adored anyway.

The love he has shared has been so encompassing that s mother's best friend has changed her mind about abortion and now anticipates a child of her own. Three other pregnant acquaintances-those who wanted Janeen to abort Skyler-have told Janeen that they have no plans to abort. Lives have been spared because Janeen chose to complete her pregnancy.

The decision to have Skyler took courage and sacrifice. I have seen my daughter mature ftom an irresponsible girl into a loving woman as a result of the choice she made. It has brought our family closer; even Skyler's grandparents are closer.

We feel that God has turned a difficult situation around and has given us a wonderful gift. Fortunately for me, I get to hold that gift for hours every day.
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Title Annotation:a teenage mother decides to keep her baby
Author:Teja, Olivia
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1988
Previous Article:Take my jokes - please.
Next Article:The sea devil.

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