Faces of Choice
Stories of Women Who Faced an Impossible Decision Under Extreme Circumstances

Alexis’ Story, Part One*

Alexis’ Story, Part One*

*all names and identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of each interviewee

Alexis was swept up in the passion and romance of being 14.   As she struggled to become more independent and differentiate herself from her ‘perfect older sister,’ it seemed terribly grown up to lose her virginity to a junior in high school.  This was something her sister would never do.  Something nobody in her small Midwestern town would ever expect her to do.  Something her parents, who had been married “forever,” would never have done.

Unfortunately, her first foray into the world of all things grown-up resulted in pregnancy.  The first person Alexis turned to was her boyfriend.  Hiding in her bedroom, Alexis silently prayed that her sister wasn’t listening in on the kitchen phone.  He promised to help her in any way he could, but begged her not to tell anyone he was the father.  This sexy older guy was reduced to a frightened little boy.  Alexis was alone.

Alexis lived in the kind of town where one person’s business was everybody’s business.  Her father was on the school board. Her sister was the most popular girl in the senior high school.  Her mother volunteered with several community groups.  Theirs was a typical, traditional two-parent family in the American heartland – Dad worked and Mom stayed home to take care of the kids. They ate dinner together every night at the kitchen table.   Both parents showed up to every volleyball game and track meet.  The girls were expected to get home before curfew, defer to their elders, and get good grades. Alexis and her sister had college funds and volunteered as candy-stripers at the local hospital.  The fear of disappointing her parents was overwhelming, but Alexis knew she had to ask them for help.   One night she sat up waiting for her father to fall asleep before creeping in and tapping her mother on the shoulder.

Through a torrent of tears, Alexis confessed everything as her mother rubbed her back and began to cry.  Together, they woke Alexis’ father and broke the news.  His first quiet question was whether she would consider an abortion.  Without even really registering shock, her immediate response was “no.”  Alexis was close to her father’s sister who had gotten pregnant at 15 and kept the child. With her as an example, Alexis believed she could raise a child with her family’s support. At the time, she didn’t consider her father’s response as a reaction to the same family member.  Watching his little sister struggle to raise a baby as a single mother without a high school diploma had made a tremendous impact on Alexis’ father and he certainly didn’t want the same for his own daughter.

Alexis’ parents were loving and promised to support her in any decision she made.  They did, however, make it clear to her that it would be her responsibility to identify resources to tap into if she decided to raise the child.  She and the baby could live in the house with them, but she had to figure out how to continue going to school and bring in some money to support her baby.  Alexis was relieved that her parents hadn’t reacted with anger and disappointment and began to feel as though things might be okay.

In the light of day, things got a bit more difficult.  Alexis’ sister was furious with her little sister for being “so stupid,” and mortified that this would surely bring shame to the entire family.  Alexis’ mother was concerned about the potentially hurtful comments that would be directed at her daughter from judgmental members of their small community.  The family agreed that, for now, they would not tell anyone about Alexis’ pregnancy.

Despite their initial declaration that Alexis would be responsible for finding help throughout her pregnancy, Alexis’ mother quietly began making inquiries on her behalf.  One day after school, she asked Alexis into the living room.  A brochure for a maternity home in Texas sat on the coffee table and Alexis recalls her mother’s words tumbling out in a rush of emotion as she offered this alternative to staying in town for the remainder of her pregnancy. Alexis’ mother spoke quickly to get the words out before her daughter could protest.  Despite the distance from her family, she argued, Alexis could continue going to school at the maternity home with other pregnant teens.  She could avoid some of the pain of being under constant scrutiny by the members of her community.

While she was nervous about being away from home, ultimately Alexis felt a huge sense of relief.  She would start high school in the fall soon and was worried about falling behind in her studies as her pregnancy progressed.  She was also beginning to feel the difficulty of concealing the pregnancy from her peers.  As she neared the end of her first trimester, Alexis was constantly touching her belly and worrying about getting enough sleep and eating healthy food.  It was increasingly harder to focus on anything but being pregnant and nurturing this baby, so the idea of living somewhere where she could be open and honest appealed to her.

As August and the end of her second trimester approached, Alexis packed up and moved to Texas.  She told her friends that she was headed to a creative arts summer camp and, if she was chosen for a production, she would miss the first few weeks of school.

The girls at the maternity home were housed according to age.   The girls in Alexis’ dorm were expected to attend classes either at the local high school or at the school on campus.  Alexis met with a caseworker once a week to make goals and plans for her future whether she decided to keep the baby or not.  The majority of the girls were there to find adoptive families for their babies but Alexis remained determined to raise this child herself.  She felt somewhat superior to the others because she wouldn’t be “getting rid of” her baby.  She praised herself for taking responsibility for her mistake by keeping her child.  Alexis had been raised to believe that it was important to make things right and not run from your mistakes.

The majority of the operating budget of the maternity home came directly from families who were interested in adopting babies.  Once a couple was matched to a pregnant girl or woman, they assumed the remainder of her medical expenses throughout the pregnancy.  For the few residents who chose not to give their baby up, there were charitable donations from a local church organization.  While the written materials provided by the maternity home made it clear that their ultimate goal was to prevent abortion, the pressure to find an adoptive family was ever-present.  From the weekly meetings with staff who repeatedly asked Alexis if she was sure she didn’t want to give her baby up for adoption to the group sessions where the other teens excitedly planned to return to a “normal” life once they went home, Alexis found herself constantly second-guessing her decision.

One month before her due date, Alexis decided to go through the motions of choosing an adoptive family “just in case.”  She was introduced to a young couple and their two-year-old son and spent a sunny Saturday afternoon on the grounds of the maternity home getting to know them.  She was initially nervous, worried that they would treat her with disdain for making such a stupid mistake.  She was tremendously relieved to discover that they were grateful she took the time to meet with them.  They were eager to please her, laying out their child-rearing philosophies as if Alexis had formed any of her own to compare against.  Despite the easy camaraderie they enjoyed, Alexis returned to her dorm certain she was taking her baby back home with her.

Alexis’ parents were careful not to tell her what they thought she ought to do, and her boyfriend had fled the scene months before.  Her caseworker attempted to prepare Alexis for the practicalities of caring for an infant and the difficulties she would encounter as she worked to complete high school, but Alexis was sure that her family would provide a great deal of help.  The girls in her dorm were part of a tribe who provided a sort of unstructured “group therapy” for each other.

“It was so nice to be surrounded by other girls who were in the same situation as me.  They could totally understand what I was going through, even though most of them wanted to give their babies up and I wanted to raise mine.  We didn’t pressure each other and felt like we could be teenagers together.  Every once in a while we pretended like we weren’t pregnant and this was one giant sleepover.”

Alexis went into labor and was taken to the clinic where she gave birth to a baby girl.  As the nurse placed this bundle, tightly swaddled in a pink flannel blanket, onto Alexis’ chest, she was overwhelmed.  What a perfect little girl!

The rest of this story will be available in the book when it is released. Like our Facebook page to get updates on the publishing process!

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