Tears slipped down my face as I stared down at the files spread across the kitchen table. How was I supposed to do this? How could I possibly make this choice?
Last week, Mom and I had contacted and adoption agency at my suggestion. Really, adoption was the only option; I’d told myself that over and over again. I was in no place to have a kid. Someone who really could take care of this baby deserved to have it. Not me.
Bringing me back to the matter at hand.
Littering the table were packets of information. They all had different names – Johnson, Gatkin, Montenegro – but they were essentially all the same. These couples all wanted to adopt a baby. Possibly my baby.
More tears seeped out from under my lashes as I imagined some other couple holding the baby I would give birth to. Loving it. Raising it. Would it be red-headed like me? Would it look like Kurt? Maybe that would be for the better if it did. Kurt was a very attractive man while I…well, I wasn’t.
I jumped and looked over at Mom. She stood in the entryway with a concerned look on her face. I sniffed and wiped my tearstained cheeks. “Hey, Mom. Do you need me to clear the table off?” Today, I’d skipped school because of the morning sickness. Instead, I’d sat down here to look at these files, but I couldn’t even remember what time that had been. It could be time for lunch or even dinner, and I wouldn’t know.
“No.” Mom walked over and sat down next to me. “Honey, talk to me. You’ve been so closed off over since we found out about the baby.”
I rubbed my eyes, not looking at her. Of course I’d been closed off. Just look at what opening up had done for me. “It’s just hard, is all.” I gestured to the files. “I don’t know how to choose.”
Mom reached over and put her hand on my shoulder. “You don’t have to do this, you know. If you want to keep the baby, you can.”
I shook my head, more tears stinging my eyes. “I can’t. What kind of mother would I be? Grade A decision-maker, I am.”
“Oh, honey.” Mom stroked my hair back from my face with her gentle hand. “Life is making mistakes. You know I’ve made my own share of them.”
I shrugged, staring down at the table. “Not like this.”
“Nora, honey, when I met your father, he was married to his first wife. He told me after we’d already started seeing each other, but I didn’t stop seeing him. I kept right on doing what I was doing – and I got pregnant with your brother.” She grabbed my hand and squeezed. “I made some terrible, selfish decisions when I was young. But I’ve done my best with you and Josh and the twins. Whether you raise this baby or wait to start a family when you’re older, you’re never going to be perfect. Nobody is, honey. Life is about making mistakes, learning from them, and moving ahead.”
I sniffed, wiping my eyes on the back of my arm. What she was saying was making sense, but I couldn’t let go of this gnawing guilt and shame. “It isn’t just that,” I said, deciding to drop my previous argument and move on to yet another one. “I don’t want to be one of those girls who brings home a kid that her parents raise for her. You’ve already got me and the twins; I don’t want to put this on you, too.”
“Honey,” Mom said with a kind smile, “you won’t be like that. I wouldn’t let you even if you tried. But I don’t mind helping at all. I can watch the baby while you’re at school and hand the reins back to you when you get home. You’ll be responsible for yourself and the baby whenever you’re here.”
Though that sounded fair, it was still too much to me. “I can’t ask you to do that.” This was my mother after all. She would never say I couldn’t keep the baby if I wanted to. There was no way she actually wanted another infant in the house.
“You’re not asking – I’m telling you. Nora, this is my grandbaby, you know.” She leaned in and kissed my temple. “You need to do what you feel is best. I’ll support you with whatever choice you make, one-hundred percent. But you don’t need to feel like you have to give your baby up. We will all love it and help you however we can.”
I leaned my head on her shoulder. Maybe I could keep it. A tiny, almost microscopic bit of hope flared in my chest. “I do want to keep it,” I confessed in a choked voice. This might even be my only chance to be a mother. Nobody wants me. Nobody will definitely want me now that I’m a teenage mother.
“Then you should,” Mom said firmly. “You’re not going to be a teenager forever, you know. One day, you and the little one will move out on your own. You’ll have your own life, and look back on this as the beginning of something beautiful, I know it.”
I didn’t believe that at all – the part about my future being beautiful. I was going to move out as soon as I could so I didn’t have to be a burden on Mom and Carter longer than necessary. But I really doubted I’d ever have anything more than this baby. Everything I ever have, I thought, I’m giving to it. I was going to make sure I gave it the kind of life these adoptive parents might’ve.
“Is it selfish to want to keep it?” I asked. “Any of these families would give it a great life.” Even if I was able to someday give him or her everything, I had no doubt that it would be a long time coming.
“Watcher, no, honey.” She leaned back to look at me. “You can and will give your baby a great life.” She wrapped her arm around my shoulders and squeezed tight.
In a small voice, I asked, “You really won’t be upset if I keep it?” I ached to keep it, I realized. The very idea of letting some other family raise my child caused a searing pain in my chest.
Mom squeezed me again and kissed my hair. “No, I won’t be. I will always love you and this baby.”
I turned and wrapped my arms around her. “I love you, Mom.” More tears burned my eyes as her soft arms held me close, but I didn’t let them fall. I couldn’t cry anymore. Determination flickered in my chest, giving me the strength that I’d been missing for longer than I could remember. I had to be strong for this life I was going to bring into the world.