My Unwanted Pregnancy Saved My Life
by Jessica Kastner, author of Hiding from the Kids in My Prayer Closet
I never wanted kids. Never. At least that was my stance as a self-absorbed 20 year old finding myself pregnant during my senior year in college – a living nightmare, for me. I’ll never forget those feelings of absolute dread, fear and panic staring at those double red lines while crouched sobbing in my friend’s bathroom… this isn’t happening, this isn’t happening.
I thought having a baby would literally end my life. All I cared about was me. My friends, my fun, my travel plans, my eventual dream job and not once did I think of having children. Marrying a tall bearded husband with a flair for wit and humor? Absolutely. Giving birth to an infant at 21 just when I was about to finally experience the intoxicating excitement of adulthood? Never.
But for me getting pregnant before marriage posed more than an inconvenience, or burden. It brought shame in more ways than I expected. I was raised a pastor’s daughter in a strong Christian home, but totally rebelled in my teenage years after losing my dad when I was 12. And although everyone knew I was living far from the Lord at that time, I still felt a huge sense of guilt at the thought of my mom, sisters and Christian family members knowing I was pregnant. I couldn’t even imagine.
So after about a week of denial and binge drinking that was it: I made an abortion appointment. I’ll never, ever forget visiting my college’s nurse’s station, weepily sharing my guilt and fear about ending the pregnancy. Her response was, “It’s just cells, honey. Nothing more than that.” Or the eerie words of the abortion clinician’s voice confirming the appointment via phone: “Just make sure someone’s there to drive you home, and bring a change of thick underwear-you’ll bleed heavily for a day or two.” Something about the casual coldness and the indifferent, muted tone of the women’s voice made the experience a thousand times more unsettling.
I had tremendous anxiety leading up to that day, not only because it was scary, but I knew it was wrong. I knew my selfishness and fear would be taking the life of another human, however unwanted it was. I cried for hours to every friend who would listen, asking them if maybe I should consider adoption, or making just give it a couple weeks to think.
“Just do it, you’ll be so happy when it’s over.”
“You’ll regret it for the rest of your life, if you have a baby now, Jess.”
But the more I was reassured that an abortion was the obvious choice, and apparently as simple as taking out the trash, the more stressed I felt. The oppression and heaviness was almost unbearable. And then just like that, God came to my rescue.
The day before the appointment, He gave my sister a dream telling her she was pregnant, and when she burst into my room in tears that morning, begging me to keep the baby, I knew it was over. I was so upset and terrified she knew, but honestly, it felt like I was surrendering to a war I never wanted to be in the first place.
I don’t know how long I cried through that next morning sitting in my window seat, staring at the minute hands pass through my 10 a.m. abortion appointment, but it was definitely a mix of relief, worry and mourning the life I was soon to lose. And thank God it was.
Nine months later I locked eyes with the child I believe God used to bring me back to him, to the path I was meant to walk, and to a total healing of my heart. And if I’m honest with myself, having a baby saved me from a pattern of harmful living that included heavy drinking, recreational drugs and serious long-term bulimia that had all started in my younger years. It just almost seemed as if I felt too deeply about things, and never had God to help me handle and sort out my emotion. So numbing myself became my coping method.
Pregnancy forced me into this foreign stillness I hadn’t experienced since youth, with no substances or vices to escape with, as I instantly traded my wild lifestyle for solitude after moving back to my mother’s. I lost my party friends, my identity and my pride. I started going back to church to make my mom happy and I went to bed sober and quiet, for the first time in years. I felt scared, and overwhelmed, but I also felt a strange, comforting and vaguely familiar peace, as I slowly realized God was gently leading me back to him. He was ever so kindly showing me he didn’t blame and judge me for my rejection of him. And even more shocking, he wasn’t giving up on me.
I gave my life to the Lord about a year later, and I thank God, every day for turning my biggest fear into my greatest blessing. I’ll never know if I would have made it back to him if he left me to my own devices, but I think he knew my hard, wounded heart needed a dose of love that only a child can bring. I remember just curling up in a ball on my bed that first day after brining Jack home from the hospital, thanking God for stopping me from losing this little person who made parts of my heart come alive for the first time. It’s been 16 years of absolute joy mixed with the admitted worry, struggles and hilarity found in every parenthood journey, but man, what an adventure. I have three boys total, now, and wouldn’t change a thing.
While the point of my book is to bring laughter and a sense of camaraderie over the ridiculous experiences we encounter as “unmoms,” or less natural mothers, my greatest hope is that even one woman wondering whether to continue her pregnancy would stumble upon this book. Because the message is this: motherhood is hard, but it’s is so worth it. God specializes in the impossible, so even when a relational, economic or living situation makes having a child seem impossible, it really isn’t. None of us are meant to do this alone. We need to rely on him, and he’ll give us the strength, guidance, provision and grace to not even just “make it,” but to flourish.
Not everyone has an amazing Godly sister waiting to bring heavenly guidance and support. I know this world can be dark and complex, but don’t let fear, the lie that you’re not quite “ready” or the commonly held belief that unplanned lives are expendable take your child from you. Nothing in this world is worth losing your child, and few worthwhile treasures in life come easy. If you’re pregnant, this is your path. And he’ll make it a beautiful one.