Children at a Crossroad
By Karen Treharne
A cold, dreary January morning in the Pacific Northwest stared back at me through the window and that awful stench of a hospital matched my mood. Larry helped me put the hospital-green robe on and gently guided me into the wheelchair. It should have been a happy moment – instead, a sense of gloom enveloped us. We would see our baby son, Mark, for the first time since his breech delivery the day before. Because of the difficulty in his birth, he remained under constant nursing care.
We passed room after room of loving parents rejoicing over their own tiny miracles as we approached the nursery. Watching their joy made my arms ache to hold my own precious child. I yearned to feel the warmth of his soft skin and to kiss him with tender affection.
What a journey we have been on, I thought. Six months had passed since our abrupt marriage. At 16, I struggled to understand what went wrong. All I could do was wait until my suspicions were confirmed. There was no one to confide in and I was ashamed and scared. I prayed for God to give me strength. I prayed for His forgiveness for my disobedience. I prayed for His mercy.
When I was finally sure, I mustered up the courage to tell Larry as we drove home from a movie. "I'm going to have a baby." I blurted out. The tone of my voice seemed very loud in the silence that followed.
He looked at me in astonishment, pulled the car over and stared at my stomach with wide-eyed disbelief. It seemed like hours while I waited for his response. Finally, he reached out to hold my sweaty hands. "Are you sure?"
"How can I possibly tell my parents?" Larry sighed sadly. "They expect me to go to college and become a minister."
"Don't you want the baby?" I was afraid to ask, but I couldn't help myself. After all, we were just kids ourselves.
"Yes. Of course I do ... it … it's just going to be so difficult."
Understanding his apprehension, I volunteered, "I'll tell my folks first – tomorrow."
We drove home in silence and kissed each other good-night.
The next day, after the breakfast dishes had been washed, I broke the news. "Mom, I have something to tell you."
"What's wrong, honey? You look upset."
"I'm pregnant with Larry's baby."
Mom stood there digesting my words. She motioned for me to sit down with her at the kitchen table. "Well, what do you both plan to do about it?"
"We've decided to keep the baby and get married."
She didn't smile, but nodded to acknowledge that she had heard me. As she stared down at her tightly held hands she asked, "Do you want me to tell your father, or do you want to tell him?"
"Oh, Mom, please tell him for me", I begged. I was so grateful that she had suggested it and swallowed hard to keep from crying.
Later that night when Dad came home after his shift at the plywood mill, I heard their mumbled voices as I lay cringing in bed – waiting. Part of me wanted to know what they were saying, but the rest of me was afraid. I moistened my dry lips with the salty taste of my tears. Clutching the cool, satin edge of the blanket under my chin, I managed to say, "Come in" when I heard the knock on my door.
Dad walked over to my bed and to my shocked surprise, he grinned down at me. "I understand I'm going to be a grandpa," he said tenderly. Then he took my hand in his, sat down beside me and supported my head on his chest as I wept and silently thanked God for the love of my parents.
Larry's confrontation was not as easy. His parents didn't speak to him for three days, and then to make matters worse, his mother insisted that I submit to a procedure that was meant to induce an early miscarriage, which would only work if my body was going to reject the fetus anyway. Throughout the month we waited for the results of the procedure, which proved unsuccessful.
Now, waiting outside the empty viewing window for a glimpse of Mark, I shivered as I recalled the long road we traveled and the decisions that were made along the way. I couldn't help but wonder if it had been worth it.
Before too long, a skinny, wrinkled baby boy, wearing only a diaper and hosting a full head of pitch-black hair, was rolled up in front of us. He was camouflaged protectively inside a plastic-hooded incubator.
We stared in awe and amazement at the product of our love. It was then that he cried out weakly. It startled me, and I looked more closely at him. Somehow, I began to feel his ... pain (at least I think that’s what it was) in the pit of my stomach. And without knowing why, I turned to Larry with a tremor in my voice. "Take me back to my room, please ... now."
He looked bewildered and appeared to want to speak, but instead he turned the chair around. With Larry's help, I got back into bed.
I looked at his young, smooth-skinned face and told him my fear. "Our baby isn't going to live."
"What do you mean? What are you saying?"
"I just feel it. I know he isn't going to live. I don't know how I know, but when I heard him cry I got this sick feeling, and that's when I knew." Tears fell down my cheeks as we stared at each other. What had we done?
Now even 45 years later, whenever I remember our lost child, my heart still aches ... my stomach tightens and I feel queasy ... and tears persistently threaten. We were too young to foresee the possible consequences of our actions, and even though we chose to take responsibility for that innocent life, our loving God had already predetermined the course of our journey. Sin has consequences even though God forgives the repentant sinner.
I believe that our lives are in the hands of the Lord and the results of our choices are used by Him for good. There is no anger in my heart ... only gratefulness to a merciful, loving God who teaches us to trust Him even when we suffer pain and loss.
If even one teen decides to abstain from premarital sex because of my testimony of how hard sin can be when we stray from the way of the Lord, it will bless us both.
Karen Treharne is the author of "Women Wearing the Baggy Pants", a newspaper article about clowns, and a soon-to-be published story, "Prom Night", in one of the FaithWriters’ quarterly books. She is also the Editor of The Joy of Family. Karen and her husband have two sons, one daughter, and three granddaughters. They live in "God's Country", the Pacific Northwest, in Tacoma, Washington.
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