In the late 1950’s, my friend faced an unplanned pregnancy. She and I grew up together in the same neighborhood. We worked at the same pharmacy and ice cream parlor and had more adventures together than I could recount. My friend’s parents were immigrants. Her family had come from Europe seeking a better life. Though they worked hard, they never fully mastered the English language or American culture.
When we became teenagers, our world changed. More of our friends were getting married and starting their own families. However, my friend and I remained single.
I will never forget the day my friend came to me and told me that she was pregnant. In those days, few doctors performed abortions and those who did were very expensive. My friend decided to hide the pregnancy as weight gain, so her parents wouldn’t have to find out. We knew about a local Catholic hospital that would help girls in her situation. In exchange for free medical assistance, they required she place the baby for adoption.
She thought this would be her best option. Nine months later, she delivered her baby boy. She never saw him before he was taken to his adoptive parents and we agreed it would be our little secret.
Life went back to normal and we never told a soul.
I eventually moved away and got married. She later met a great guy and did the same. Despite the miles between us, our relationship remained close. Occasionally our secret would come up. She had children, but still wondered what happened to her first child.
Several years later, we met for a weekend and she once again brought up her son. We theorized together about what he was up to.
What did he look like?
Did he attend college?
Where was he now?
Years later, she called to tell me that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was about to undergo surgery. Two months after her surgery, we talked and she told me she “was doing fine” putting my fears at ease. Then one month later, her child called to say that their mother’s cancer had returned and she had passed away.
I was devastated. One of my closest friends was gone. As we mourned her loss, I kept my promise and told no one about our secret. That is, until I received an unexpected phone call.
Two years after my friend’s death, her son called me. He said he wanted to ask me something very personal about his mother. “Did my mother ever have an illegitimate baby?” he blurted out.
I was speechless. He explained that he had a visit from a man claiming to be his brother. The man had done research and even procured a DNA test to find his birth mother. His search led him to a Catholic hospital and to the name of the woman who placed him for adoption.
It was my friend’s name on the paperwork.
I did not know what to say. I wanted to say he was right, that my friend had a baby and placed it for adoption, but I did not want to break my promise. My friend’s son told me not to worry, that he was thrilled to find out about his half-brother. He explained that he was proud of his mom for what she did and was not upset with her for keeping it a secret.
I couldn’t take it anymore, so I told him the story of a brave young woman from an immigrant family that decided to carry her baby to term and place it for adoption. As I shared her story, he became more and more excited to learn about his mother’s courage. We both marveled at the miraculous reunion that was taking place.
As I look back, I realize that our silence had prevented my friend’s family from knowing the full extent of her bravery and love. We had kept her teenage pregnancy a secret because we feared how people would respond, but I wish that we had shared it sooner.
I can’t begin to imagine how many young women are in a position like the one my friend faced. If that is you, please know that your family loves you and wants to share in your tribulations as well as your joys. Also know that God loves you and your baby and it is never too late for Him to be able to work a miracle in your life.
Just like He did in my friend’s.
This post was written by “Rebecca.” Her name was changed to protect her privacy.