There is a quote by R.M. Drake that deeply resonates with me: “Your scars have a lot less to do with where you’ve been and a lot more to do with where you’re going.”
When I was 19 years old, I was faced with an unplanned pregnancy the weekend before the start of my freshman year at a private Catholic college. Because of this crisis during the beginning of my undergraduate experience, I plunged into survival mode for both the baby and myself by trying my hardest to stay afloat. Since I was attending such a strict university, my situation was not something I could freely share. I kept my pregnancy a secret for the semester and during those four months my strength was tested. I slept on a second level bunk bed, showered in communal settings, and constantly covered up the reasons for my morning sickness. I borrowed friends’ cars to go to my doctor’s appointments and wore a coat when it was not cold. Every day I would try to process this dark cloud over my head and heart; I was constantly worried about this child’s future as well as my own.
I was scared, tired, uncertain and trying my best to put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis. I decided to take the next semester off to move home with my parents in Ohio so I could focus on my pregnancy and the adoption plan I had decided on. While my classmates were studying for their classes and having fun with friends, I was trying to find the perfect family to adopt my baby. Therefore, my college experience was far from normal and I did just enough to get by and learn to deal with my current reality.
Laura Marie was born into this world in the beginning of summer 2008 and this proved to be the best decision I ever made. She lives an active, healthy life in the Dallas suburbs with her Catholic parents and I am grateful to be a part of her life. I am able to see her about four to six times a year and consider her family an extension of ours. She will grow up knowing who I am as well as my family members. We have been involved in major life events such as my sister’s wedding and Laura Marie’s adoptive grandmother’s funeral. It’s a true blessing that each side of the family, the adoptive and biological, genuinely loves and cares for one another.
After giving birth, I attended college classes four days a week, earned a Dental Hygienist certification that summer and went right back to working for my father at his dental office. A very important goal was that I graduated and tried the best I could to function after experiencing the loss of my child. I decided to embrace this immense emptiness in my heart that consumed every part of me and turn it into something beautiful and to help others.
By facing this challenge, I learned how resilient I am. I have been sharing my story at adoption events, sitting on adoption panels for perspective adoptive couples, mentoring pregnant teens that are choosing adoption, and traveled to Africa in January 2014 to spend time with orphans. I also volunteered for a year as a grief facilitator with children who lost a parent, as well as worked with women in a rehabilitation center. Additionally, this last year I have been volunteering at our Catholic hospital.
What originated as a crisis has turned into tremendous personal development. My heart has grown significantly from my experience; I have a new outlook on life and a positive attitude that is without doubt a result of my challenges and faith. While this was the most challenging time in my life, I am proud of so many things: choosing life, which took courage; dedication in searching for the right family for my baby; graduating on time and learning to embrace hardship and adversity without giving up; and strengthening my faith in our Lord. I can say with confidence that had this pregnancy and adoption not happened, I would not be as successful, empathetic and understanding as I am today.
Through all this, I have been able to identify my chosen career as a Dental Hygienist after two years of trying to get into the program.
I share the story of my journey and continue to help others now that I have graduated. I believe success should be measured by the richness in our lives such as selflessly serving others, being humble and embracing others with empathy, love and compassion. I know firsthand how important it is not to give up, but to move through life’s difficulties from an inner strength and God’s help.