I got an e-mail with a question.
It asked, in the case of a pregnant 16-year-old, whether the baby should be kept or put up for adoption.
It was a simple question, easily stated.
And I blurted out an answer.
It was a simple answer, easily stated.
Yet it glossed over the price. The awful burden of pain and sadness such a decision could cause. It glossed over the cost of love.
This is a hard one for me. Because my mother was unmarried when I was born, and a teen-ager, and I couldn’t imagine a life other than the one I lived. I loved my mother, and she loved me.
But I ruined her life.
She never overcame the burden of my birth. My presence was for years a weight which hung around her neck and prevented her from becoming everything she could be. My presence essentially prevented her from becoming anything she could be.
But in most cases, it’s about the baby.
The tiny life taken hold in the belly of a girl.
First, any 16-year-old struggling to decide whether to keep it or give it away deserves a hug. She’s already taken the first big step toward making things right. She’s decided not to abort it. Or throw it in the Dumpster.
She has chosen to let it live. Now she must decide what kind of life to give it.
And that’s the hard part. Because we believe that love is magical, and that it can solve any problem or move any mountain. And it is natural to believe that if you love your baby everything else will work out.
It is natural, but often mistaken.
Because love doesn’t pay the bills and it doesn’t make a home. It can’t bridge every gap or meet every need.
And the love of an unwed mother sometimes is simply not enough. If it holds to its breast a baby who deserves more.
And they all do.
They all deserve a mom and a dad. They deserve a home. They deserve unflinching love. They deserve parents mature enough to negotiate life’s difficulties. They deserve parents whose lives are together and productive. They deserve a home that supports itself financially and emotionally.
And when they don’t get it they don’t get a fair start.
Sad statistics show that babies raised by unwed mothers are far more likely to go to jail, drop out of school, be illiterate, live on welfare, have behavioral problems, be victims of crime and eventually have children out of wedlock themselves.
While children born to single mothers and adopted at birth by loving, employed, married couples suffer no such statistical increase in suffering and difficulty.
They lead normal lives.
So it’s a pretty stark choice.
A woman – or girl – who has carried a baby for nine months does not take it home with her, she sends it away, probably never to see it again. She entrusts it to the love and care of strangers.
Which must rip her heart out.
But she does it out of the purest kind of love. She does it because she knows it is best for her baby.
That is heroic.
And it touches me to think about it. It is a stirring example of nobility. A young woman who shows immaturity by becoming pregnant, demonstrates great maturity by giving her baby the gift of a quality adoption.
And she buys some things for herself as well.
The first is the contentment of knowing she has done the right thing. That she has done a selfless thing. She can have the approval of her conscience.
She also has a fresh start.
She can continue school. She can go on with her work. She can live the life she expected, and progress as she had hoped.
Adoption saves two lives. The baby’s, and the mother’s. They both get a second chance to live the lives they were supposed to live.
Keeping the baby robs them both of that promise.
And abortion steals life from the baby, and burdens the mother with guilt and regret.
It’s a terribly hard thing, but the answer is clear. Adoption. It’s best for the baby, best for the mother, best for society.
But it requires a hero.
And sometimes she is young and confused.
Which is why the rest of us have to offer our support and encouragement.