Many women who come to CPO during their crisis pregnancies choose to parent their child. We are happy to support them in their efforts with counseling, mentors, parenting classes, and more. From time to time we would like to highlight one of our parenting success stories. This is the second installment in our series, again written by Ashley Ledbetter.
Spending time with the parenting women and birth moms who have found their way to CPO is an enlightening experience. Not only because of their strength and determination but because they have tasted parts of this life that go largely unnoticed by those of us who have not shared in their circumstances. Stepping into the shoes of a girl experiencing an unplanned pregnancy triggers some empathetic initial responses. Two of my first thoughts were,“How difficult it must be to choose another family to raise your child so that they can experience a two parent household” and “How draining it must be to finish school while parenting an infant”. Well, I have recently been presented with an aspect to their journeys that had not previously crossed my mind, and it has deeply impacted my heart: “How painful it must be, after making the wisest choice possible for you and for your child, to stand vulnerably in the world and then become the recipient of reproach and rejection.”
Working backwards, Kelsey Fallis (age 23) is a single mother to Lucas (age 6). She is currently student teaching. She is inches away from completing her degree in education and beginning her career as a high school math teacher. She is the first in her family to complete a college degree of any kind, and she is not the oldest child, by the way. Lucas, when asked what he thinks about his mom, immediately says, “I like her.” Bottom line: Kelsey is a success story. She has overcome immense odds, made difficult and beautiful decisions for her and her son, and she is looking into the future with responsibility and newfound wisdom. When she tells her story though, the real obstacle to overcome was not pregnancy or parenting; it was rejection. Doubt. Condemnation. Discouragement. Wrongful judgment. These are the things that stood in her way. These are invisible barriers that reveal themselves in hurtful words and actions shared by relatives, friends, and even strangers. I considered sharing an example of the comments Kelsey has heard but, frankly, they are unworthy of repeating. They can be summarized by the general messages they carry: You are unacceptable. You are unworthy. You are a failure. You are hopeless. Your future is hopeless.
Anyone who has experienced an unplanned pregnancy, whether choosing to parent or make an adoption plan, may entertain the thought that “this now defines me.” So let’s be clear: IT DOES NOT. The girls who have chosen to partner with CPO have responded to their pregnancies with responsibility, thoughtfulness, maturity, and love. They choose to show these unexpected babes a love that surpasses everything else. They are willing to sacrifice their plans, desires, bodies, friendships, romantic relationships, and even family relationships all for one precious soul. These girls, whether they choose adoption or parenting, are heroes. If any decision or action does define them, it is their choice to resist running from their mistakes and to take responsibility for themselves and their children. They are not perfect. They are beautiful, loving, and selfless.
When Kelsey became pregnant at age 15, she knew almost immediately that she would choose to become a parent. She and her mother approached CPO with some curiosity about adoption but soon joined the parenting support group and began individual counseling to prepare to raise Lucas. Although support from Lucas’ father, E, wasn’t consistent, Kelsey did have the tangible support of her family members and E’s family members. She continued to live at home for the next several years to complete high school and an Associate Degree from TCC to prepare the way for her teaching certification. Raising a baby while enrolled in school proved to be one of her most difficult challenges. High school friends couldn’t relate to her new life of responsibility. Teachers failed to empathize with her circumstances and freely expressed their disapproval. Not only did school become an unwelcoming place, the church she was attending also rejected her because of her status as an unwed mother. Romantic relationships were difficult to attempt and sustain. Kelsey didn’t date at all until Lucas was 4 years old. In addition to these difficulties, she also received notable confrontation from strangers many of the times she stepped into public. In Kelsey’s words, “I was a 16 year old pushing a cart with a baby that looked EXACTLY like me. Everyone knew I was his mother or his sister… probably not his sister.” A trip to the grocery store became an opportunity for spectators to throw stones, and they did.
(SIDE NOTE: I’m imagining what someone might say to ME if I went to Target tomorrow wearing a neck sign with a list of mistakes I made 5 years ago. Yikes! Maybe EVERYONE should just start wearing them so that the playing field may finally be leveled. Let’s not forget: We. Have. ALL. Fallen. Short.)
Thankfully, for each of these hardships there were places of relief and encouragement. Crisis Pregnancy Outreach has a long list of resources available to girls like Kelsey. They offer free counseling, parenting classes, housing, mentors, and financial help, to name a few. Kelsey didn’t take advantage of several resources offered to her because many of the girls at CPO do not have any help from family members, and she did. She considered the needs of other girls who were truly “alone” to be in greater need than she was. For her, the greatest gift from CPO was deeply needed moral support and reassurance. Regular counseling and her relationship with the parenting coordinator, Tracie Roesslein, were sources of encouragement and motivation for her to keep moving toward her goals. She mentioned calling Tracie when she would be burdened by a harsh comment in the grocery store or when a relationship had wounded her and created what she now calls a “set back.” April Walters (a longtime CPO volunteer and adoptive mom) has been another support to her, she is currently assisting Kelsey in her search for a teaching position.
Almost 8 years from the beginning of her pregnancy, Kelsey is living with her dad while she fulfills the plan that has been in place for so many years. She will be teaching math this fall, hopefully moving Lucas to a new school and looking to buy her first home. She even has her first family vacation planned for this summer. Their destination is a surprise for Lucas, but it starts with a ‘D’ and ends with ’isney’… SSHHHH! 🙂
Parenting is difficult enough without the criticism of those around you, no matter who you are. Kelsey has encountered significant opposition, but God has been gracious to use it for good. (If you are looking for a good read in a similar vein, I recommend Joseph’s story from Genesis 37-50, ending with one of the most beautiful verses in the Old Testament, Gen 50:20.) Kelsey has continued to learn more about the Lord and His plan for her. Messages of rejection and judgment towards her and Lucas have not ceased; it is possible they never will. CPO has been able to offer her a light in the darkness while also encouraging her toward the true light that is Jesus Christ. It is with faith in His forgiveness and redemption that Kelsey can put out the fiery darts of the enemy. She says “When Jesus comes back, He will be the only one who can judge me.”
Kelsey and Lucas are now attending a church that accepts them with the true love and mercy of Jesus Christ. E has begun taking steps to be more involved in Lucas’ life.
“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:9-12