Dec 17, 2014
Seven years ago, Jennifer was in a very dark place—she was alienated from God and in the depths of a grueling nine-year drug addiction that dominated every aspect of her life.
“I could not see past one day,” she said. “I assumed I would just keep using until I died. I had even pictured that.”
Then, at 24, Jennifer learned she was pregnant. Rather than leading her further into despair, this was the seed of Jennifer’s salvation, her path back to God and to health.
“I immediately stopped using when I knew I was pregnant. I started going to church again and I went to Narcotics Anonymous meetings. I needed help to get better and to learn how to take care of myself,” she said.
She considered what would be best for the life she was carrying and talked to her then-boyfriend about adoption. Although he was in jail, he said no; he wanted this baby in his life. But Jennifer was frightened by the prospect of raising a child on her own. Most nights, she cried herself to sleep.
Rather than let her daughter’s depression deepen, Jennifer’s mother suggested they take some time away and visit her aunt and uncle in California.
Jennifer shared her story with her uncle, including the conversations she’d had about adoption. He replied, “It sounds like you’re still thinking about it,” and she realized that she really was. And that’s when she reached out to Bethany Christian Services.
“Our first step [with expectant parents] is to listen,” says Dawn Baker, an infant adoption and pregnancy counseling supervisor at Bethany. “We review the pros and cons of the different options available and help them understand the impact of their actions and how their life might be, depending on their choice.”
Not all pregnancy counseling sessions end with the expectant parents moving forward with adoption; some may decide that raising their own child is the best decision. Bethany’s pregnancy counselors support parents as they consider their options.
Jennifer’s one-week vacation turned into five months. Her expectant parent advocate at the Bethany branch in La Mirada, California helped her think through her options and then after Jennifer decided she wanted to move forward toward adoption, developed an adoption plan and provided profiles of potential adoptive families. The birthfather also changed his mind after deciding adoption was best for the child and signed the adoption papers allowing Jennifer to move forward.
As people heard her story, Jennifer had a few inquiries from supportive families interested in adopting her baby. But Jennifer had already found a couple through Bethany, Scott and Brandi, that she wanted to meet.
One evening, her uncle ran into some friends he’d known for 20 years. As they caught up, he shared some of Jennifer’s story and asked them to pray. As others had done, they offered to introduce Jennifer to their nephew and his wife who were waiting to adopt. Her uncle laughed, explaining that several families had expressed interest, but that prayer was primarily what was needed.
Jennifer’s counselor set up an appointment for her to meet Scott and Brandi. Shortly before they were to meet, her uncle’s phone rang. His lifelong friends that he’d asked to pray were calling to say, “We think your niece is meeting with our nephew and his wife, Scott and Brandi!” Everything was becoming clear: God had a plan for this adoption.
Although Jennifer connected right away with Scott and Brandi, she was nervous to share her story, fearing that they wouldn’t want her baby because of her history with drugs. But that was never the case. As God began to confirm His plans, Jennifer could feel her fears melting away. They talked about open adoption, and Scott said, “Jennifer, if you decide to pick us, we’re open to as much openness as you want. If it gets hard, and you need to back away, that’s okay.” That’s all Jennifer needed to hear. She responded, “You are it.”
“The old school approach to adoption was seeing it as a closed, finite event; but this is not the scenario that happens today,” says Dawn. “The trend has been toward open adoption, which makes it a lifelong process – a relationship that starts in pregnancy and continues on.”
Today, Jennifer enjoys a close relationship with Scott and Brandi and her son, Garrison, who recently turned 7. She and Brandi talk regularly, and she visits the family once a year in California. Jennifer enjoys spending time with Garrison, reading stories, taking walks, going to baseball games, and visiting his school.
“He knows me, and he knows I love him,” said Jennifer. “This is the benefit of open adoption. I understand it can be hard for some birthparents; but for me, knowing is easier than not knowing. And for Garrison, he doesn’t have to wonder or struggle with questions; he can just ask me.”
Now an administrative assistant at Bethany, Jennifer embraces the opportunity to advance our mission: to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting and enhancing the lives of children and families. She has shared her story with expectant mothers, on panels about open adoption, and at fundraising galas. But the days she finds most meaningful are those when she sees God use her testimony to connect with adoptive families.
“Some adoptive parents can feel intimidated by birthmothers,” Jennifer said. “They may not know what to say or how to act around her; they may feel a lot of fear. As I tell my story about open adoption, I can see their faces change; I can see them open up.”
Jennifer is quick to give thanks for the blessings of her health, close relationships, a career she loves—indeed, her very life. “There was a time when I was angry at God,” she said, “but I have no doubt that He saved my life. Even though I didn’t acknowledge then that He was there, I can see now how He had His hand on me.”
“Our goal is to remove the stress of an unplanned pregnancy,” says Dawn. “We come alongside expectant mothers and help them find the resources they need to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy delivery, regardless of whether they decide to parent or place their child for adoption.”
If you or someone you know is facing an unplanned pregnancy, visit Bethany.org/UChoose, where you can chat live online with a pregnancy counselor and also find information on resources in your area, or text “Pregnant” to 88769 or call 1.800.BETHANY toll free, 24/7 to be connected with a counselor in your area.
If you would like to help an expectant mother struggling with her decision to continue her pregnancy, consider “Giving Her Hope” through your purchase from Bethany’s gift catalog—either on behalf of yourself or someone else. Through your gift, you are empowering Bethany counselors to provide expectant mothers help with buying food, paying bills, or a place to live so that she has the support needed to have a healthy pregnancy and give her child life. Thank you.