May 2019 – When Tess* was 11, she spent the night with a friend. Her mother ran away with a new boyfriend and never returned for Tess. After days of confusion and heartbreak, Tess moved in with her elderly grandmother.
“I had to grow up really fast,” Tess told AFA Journal. “After my grandmother broke her hip, I had to cook, clean, and take care of her every day after school.”
Pressure mounted, and Tess began sneaking out of the house and experimenting with alcohol and sex. At age 15, a home pregnancy test showed up positive.
Though Tess had attended a private Christian school, prayer wasn’t on the top of her to-do list. But suddenly, prayers of desperation prevailed.
Abandoned by the father
“It was hard for me to comprehend that I was pregnant, so I just started praying it wasn’t true,” she explained.
But it was true. When she broke the news to her boyfriend of five months, he made it clear he had no intention of continuing their relationship or following through with his responsibilities to the baby.
“I was used to people not being there for me,” Tess said. “I was angry but not surprised. It was what I expected.”
She also expected intense pressure from her grandmother to abort the baby. But Tess adamantly refused.
After her aunt took her to a pregnancy resource center, Tess decided on adoption. She finished the school year and moved into the adoption center’s home for pregnant moms nearly 200 miles away.
“OK, God, I’m here,” she prayed. “I obeyed. And now, I need you to change me.”
Soon she faced a new challenge – attending public school in an unfamiliar area, seven months pregnant. Students stared and asked questions, but it wasn’t long before a group of girls rallied around and lovingly invited her in.
The family she selected for her baby invited her in as well – to live with them. A particularly strong bond was formed between Tess and Kelly, the adoptive mother.
Though Tess felt intimidated by her initially, she soon learned they had a great deal in common. The woman Tess saw as perfect had a past that, in some ways, mirrored her own.
Not only did the Williams family adopt Tess’s baby, but they adopted Tess as well. She received the unexpected gift of a loving family – father, mother, and siblings.
Fast forward, and Tess continues to nurture a relationship with her son Jack, now eight years old and living with his (and her) family, the Williamses. Tess married last year on the Williams family’s property and returned to her hometown where she and her biological mother are experiencing a work of reconciliation.
Alone in the doctor’s office
“In October 2006, I was alone in the doctor’s office,” said Kara. “I had been feeling faint at school and thought I was anemic. I knew pregnancy was a possibility because I was having sex. But I didn’t think it would happen to me. I thought I was invincible – in control of my life.”
Kara was 16 and had been dating Justin for a little over a month. And now, a doctor sat in front of her with his shocking diagnosis: “You are pregnant.”
She panicked. She denied it. Then, through a deluge of tears, she saw her life crumble before her.
Raised by a single mother, her life had been difficult – never living in one place for longer than a couple of years. And though Kara was rebellious, she excelled academically and in sports.
“I had a lot of anger issues and would pretty regularly run off,” she explained. “I would be gone for a couple days on end and then come back. My mom didn’t really have a handle on me. I ran wild and just did what I wanted.”
Not only did Kara’s mother know she was sexually active, she suspected she was pregnant. “So when I walked up to her crying, she knew why,” Kara said. “She pulled me into her arms and said ‘Everything’s going to be ok, we’ll figure it out.’
“I knew from the tone of her voice, the baby was ours. Because of my mom, I didn’t even think about abortion. I knew that even if the father didn’t want to be a part of our lives – because I hadn’t told him yet – I had one person who would be stable in my life and my child’s life.”
Justin was shocked by the news and slow to respond in a meaningful way. “But he never put abortion on the table,” she said. “He never suggested it or asked me if I was thinking about it.”
Several months later, an ultrasound revealed they were having a girl. And it was becoming difficult to hide the pregnancy. They knew they had to gather the courage to tell Justin’s parents. Kara was terrified.
“They lived their lives in a godly way,” she said, “His whole family was super intelligent and musically talented. Coming from a very country, poor home, I was so intimidated.”
But Kara will never forget their response.
“We’re very hurt right now,” they said. “But she is our grandchild, and as her mother, we love you.”
“From that point forward, everybody came together,” explained Kara. “Even though it was unfortunate circumstances, everybody surrounded me with love and support. I was very immature, and a lot of growth was still needed
“But I knew there was a life inside of me, and I could feel how powerful that was. Just because we were young, that did not excuse us from our responsibilities.”
Justin and Kara struggled to maintain their relationship in the months before and years after Jacie was born. They stayed with Justin’s parents in separate rooms for a while, on their own in government housing, and they separated off and on. Their lives changed dramatically and included difficult sacrifices. But life wasn’t over for them.
“Now we’re in a place where we have our own home,” said Kara. “We’ve been married for seven years. Our daughter is 11, goes to a private school where she is excelling. And even though it was a rocky road, there has never been any doubt or regret about keeping her.
“I know I couldn’t have done this without the two most incredible women – my mom and my mother-in-law. And my church was instrumental in helping to guide us.”
* Names are changed to protect privacy.
▶ Read Tess’s full story in A Broken Mirror by Sara Berry. Available at afastore.net or 877-927-4917.
▶ Making Life Disciples is an interactive, online course or DVD-based kit designed to train the church to deliver compassion, hope, help, and discipleship to women and men considering abortion. Available at store.care-net.org.
▶ Learn more at care-net.org/why-making-life-disciples.