My life has been a beautiful, unexpected journey.
When I was 16 years old, I was sitting in the ER at Primary Children’s Hospital. I had been very sick, so my mom brought me in to see if they could figure out what was wrong. I didn’t think in a million years that I’d be having a doctor tell me those words that forever changed my life: “you’re pregnant.”
I was the junior class president of my high school; I got good grades; I had lots of friends. I wasn’t perfect by any means (obviously, I’d been making really dumb choices), but I was the last person that anyone thought would be “that girl” to get pregnant in high school. I was naive, selfish and I thought I was invincible. I was so scared, so embarrassed, and so, so sick.
When I told my mom what the doctor had told me, she hugged me. She cried and made sure to tell me first that she loved me. She assured me that she was there for me and that she’d support me with whatever I decided to do. I don’t know how I got lucky enough to have a mother who stayed so calm and cool during her youngest child’s teen pregnancy, but I am forever grateful to that woman.
I had been dating a guy on and off for over a year when I had found out, and after abortion was ruled out, we decided to keep the baby. We got engaged and made a plan to parent. His family was excited for us, my family encouraged us to consider adoption. I thought of a tiny baby to dress and play with, and dreamed of being the couple that would “make it” and stay together forever. I wanted to prove my family and statistics wrong.
My mom brought me into LDS Family Services and set me up with a case worker so I could review my options. At this point in my life, I wasn’t sure how I felt about my religion or even God for that matter. I was frightened, and overwhelmed. The relationship I was in was less than healthy. I had been dead set on parenting, but decided to take the advice of my case worker: “take yourself completely out of the equation and just think about this sweet baby growing inside of you.”
I knew she deserved two stable, loving parents who were prepared to raise her. I could give her love, but I couldn’t give her the life she deserved. I made the decision to have sex and it was my responsibility as this baby’s mother to provide her with the best life possible. I knew that would not be with 17 year old parents.
I said a sincere prayer for the first time in a long time and asked God if adoption was the choice I needed to make. In that moment, I had never felt more peace and comfort in my entire life. I knew I had my answer. I broke off our engagement (although we stayed together) and made the choice to place my baby for adoption. I looked through 900 profiles. I looked at pictures, read letters and sobbed. I didn’t think it could be possible to choose, I wanted to give all of these couples a baby!
I came across a family who had already adopted a little girl and had everything and more that I wanted. We emailed back and forth and decided to get together at the agency a week before Christmas. Hayden and Cheyenne walked through the door, I hugged them and knew right away. They felt familiar to me, and we clicked. It might seem crazy that within 30 seconds of meeting someone, you can know that these people were meant to raise your baby, but that’s how it was for me. I just knew.
On Christmas day I called them and asked if they would take this baby in and raise her as their own. There were a lot of tears and “thank yous.” It was the first time during that pregnancy that I truly felt some excitement! I continued to get to know them, met their daughter, and saw how they were as parents.
On May 5th 2010, I went into labor more than a month early. I went to the hospital and about 5 hours later Leilah was born. She had tons of (unexpected) brown hair and the sweetest little face in the whole world. Cheyenne was with me through it all and was able to be the first one to hold her. That was very important to me because if Cheyenne was going to be her mom, I wanted her to be the first person Leilah met. The hospital experience was hard. Leilah had to be in the NICU due to some complications with being premature, there were people trying to convince me to keep her, and I was dealing with this intense love I had for this tiny baby.
The day of placement, Hayden and Cheyenne wrote me a letter and gave Leilah and me beautiful matching necklaces. Placing her was the hardest thing I’d ever done. People ask me all the time “how I did it” and the answer is always, “I don’t know.” The only explanation is that I had help from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. There was extra strength with me that day. It was so painful for me, my boyfriend and both of our families. Lots of tears and hugs. But I knew it was the right thing for Leilah. She was getting an amazing family! She was safe, loved and healthy. I loved seeing the joy she instantly brought to her parents.
The months following her placement were very hard for me. I found a job, finished high school from home and kept myself busy. But I felt so lost and depressed. My relationship with my boyfriend was spiraling from bad to worse becoming both emotionally and physically abusive. My self esteem was down the drain and I felt completely worthless. I went through a lot of dark periods where I didn’t even recognize myself. I tried and failed many times to get out of that relationship, but was never strong enough to leave.
About 8 months after we placed Leilah with her family, I started feeling sick again. I went to Wal-Mart and took 4 pregnancy tests. 4 positive pregnancy tests. I was once again terrified and embarrassed, but I was filled with strength I didn’t have before. I had put up with a lot, but I wasn’t going to put a baby through all of that. I knew this baby needed to be placed as well, and I wanted him to be with his sister. I finally had the courage to leave the relationship, and contacted Hayden and Cheyenne. First and foremost, all of their concern was for me. Their hearts were broken knowing that I was going through this again. When I asked them if they would adopt from me again, they were more than willing. I was so grateful to know I had them and their support through this entire pregnancy. I called my old case worker and began seeing her again along with going to a group for girls that either had been or were in a similar situation. My mom helped me start over in a new apartment in a different town. I changed my number, email address and started focusing on getting myself on the right track.
That pregnancy was very healing. I started college, gained a great relationship with my mom, my Heavenly Father and began mending relationships with my whole family. I was able to finally understand and use the atonement of Jesus Christ and find my testimony in Him and in God. I met many new friends, reconnected with old ones, strengthened talents and learned to love myself. That baby saved me.
On September 11th, 2011 I went into labor a month early and barely got to the hospital in time to give birth to a beautiful, healthy boy named Greyson. My sweet mom helped me breathe through the pain. Cheyenne sped all the way to the hospital and made it just in time to see me through the last pushes and hold that perfect boy. Cheyenne meeting Greyson for the first time was so special. The love and spirit that filled that room was indescribable. I’m thinking that’s a whole lot what heaven will feel like. I had some nasty complications with this labor and delivery, but I survived and although Greyson came early like his sis, he was healthy. I got to see Leilah meet her brother and had an amazing hospital experience with those closest to me. Placing Greyson was just as difficult if not even more difficult because I knew exactly the pain I was getting myself into.
When you relinquish your rights as a parent you need to sign a whole stack of papers so you understand the gravity of your decision. I remember sitting in my hospital bed with that clipboard full of papers in one arm and sweet Greyson in the other. Each signature felt like a marathon. I’d look at him, sign, breathe, repeat. This time around I felt more peace with my decision. I was given another beautiful necklace and a ring from Hayden and Cheyenne to help me think of Greyson. Once again, I know that I had help from my Heavenly Father and Jesus to place that perfect boy in his mothers arms.
Apparently, God knows that I need big, grand gestures to get me where I need to go. I needed both of those babies to change my life. We have a wonderful open adoption where we text often, I get emails with loads of pictures every year on their birthdays and we meet up once or twice a year. I’ve been able to see them grow up from the side lines, and I’m so incredibly grateful for the life they have. A life I know I could not have given them at the time. I do miss them. I do still have hard days. I always say that adoption can be a bitter sweet situation that becomes mostly sweet over time. They are worth it! I would go through all of it again for those kids. Hayden and Cheyenne are some of my closest friends. Our relationship is based completely off of love, gratitude, and respect for one another. It’s a beautiful, unique thing.
A little less than a year before Greyson’s first birthday, I sat down next to a handsome guy at a friends missionary homecoming. When I met Eric, I had the same familiar feeling I’d had when I met Hayden and Cheyenne. He was only planning on staying a few minutes, but we ended up talking for two hours. He asked for my number and we started dating shortly after. When I told him about Leilah and Greyson his response was full of love and understanding of the atonement. He applauded me for my decisions, and assured me that I wasn’t going to scare him away.
We were engaged 3 months later, and married 4 months after that in the Bountiful, Utah Temple. Some of the most important people from my journey, including Cheyenne, were there in the temple that day when I was sealed to my sweetheart for time and all eternity. I had experienced some of the lowest lows, but in the moment I was experiencing the highest high. I had worked SO hard to get myself in a good place, and I was finally truly happy. On my wedding day I wore Leilah’s necklace and Greyson’s ring for a constant reminder that they helped get me here.
One month after we got married, I felt sick. Pregnancy didn’t even cross my mind, but Eric told me to take a pregnancy test. The 3rd unexpected positive pregnancy test I’d had. But this time I had an eternal husband. This made all the difference in the world. Ellie was very healing for me. Having her so soon was a wild ride that brought Eric and me closer together. We’ve been able to live in California, Boston and now Utah where 7 months ago I gave birth to my sweet boy Max- my very first planned pregnancy! I had given birth to 4 kids by the time I was 23.
My life hasn’t gone how I would have ever planned or expected, but I’m so grateful for Leilah and Greyson, their parents and the path they led me on. I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m proud to be a birth mother, proud to be a wife, proud to be a mother and proud to be LDS.
I’ve gone through a lot so far, but my story is just beginning.
If you or anyone you know is going through an unexpected pregnancy, please feel free to contact me! I had so much help through my journey (I still do) and I want to be able to help others through theirs.