Share on Facebook  |  More Articles

Published Friday May 22nd, 2009 at 10:51am

Original Article by Jacquielynn Floyd

Michelle Hurst, facing the hardest task of her life, needed all the support she could get.

Instead, her best friend tried to talk her out of it.

"It was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Michelle said. "And she said, 'You're making the wrong decision.' "

Michelle was making the right decision. A single mother of two young children, she was unexpectedly pregnant again. She decided to place the baby with an adoptive family.

Her friend came around – eventually, she became a rock of support, staying with Michelle during her delivery and hospital stay – but some women's friends and families do not.

I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone would find fault with such selflessness, but they sometimes do.

There's sometimes a disturbing undercurrent of bias out there, a disapproving snap judgment that supposes there's something discreditable in a young woman who could "give up her own baby."

Sadly, I have seen it, once or twice, in the courtroom. I saw it in the sickening 2001 case of an 8-year-old Hutchins girl who was rescued after years spent locked in a trailer-house closet, where she was starved, beaten and assaulted.

The little girl's mother, who was largely responsible for her torment, had actually placed her with adoptive parents years earlier. But the mother's own family, fearful of the giving-up-your-own-baby stigma, badgered her into withdrawing from the agreement, and into taking the child back.

The result was a gothic horror of a story, a sick case of abuse in which the only salvageable thread of hope is the fact that the girl survived, and has long since been reunited with the adoptive family.

As a culture, I sometimes wonder why we don't do more to recognize placing an unexpected baby for adoption as an act of profound wisdom.

It's common ground between those who view abortion as a moral evil and those who believe every child should be planned, loved and wanted.

Michelle worked with Fort Worth's venerable Edna Gladney Center, where a new program provided her with additional post-delivery help.

With the help of a counselor in Gladney's year-old "Next Steps" program, she completed a training program in data entry and started applying for new jobs to help her better support her two older children.

Funding for the program, which is largely about helping birth mothers learn to successfully manage their own lives, is offered by the Dallas-based Council for Life.

"Everybody knows about the baby, but what about the mother? What are her needs?" said council board member Fiona Richards. "She's the one we really wanted to focus on."

I love this positive message. While some groups who promote a pro-life agenda are out shouting at Planned Parenthood clients through bullhorns, this program is a triumph of pragmatism over politics, of compassion over self-righteousness.

"We're not a political organization," Fiona said. "We're about support."

This view delivers on the frequently voiced but sometimes hollow mantra of the child's best interests, by offering supplemental support to women who have chosen adoption.

They need it, said Gladney spokeswoman Jennifer Lanter, especially those who are overwhelmed by the weight of their problems.

"It's not like she's living in a vacuum, with just this pregnancy to think about," Jennifer said. "About 85 percent of them have been through a breakup" with the baby's father, she said. "And their friends and family may be struggling with what they're doing."

Next Steps is helping other Gladney birth mothers earn their high school diplomas, look for jobs, further their educations. Two of them are now in nursing school, said program coordinated Beth Cox.

Michelle's healthy baby boy, Asher, was born six weeks ago.

Placing him in his new mother's arms was so hard that Michelle, blinded by tears, fled from the room.

But she knows he is secure, happy and cherished by his parents. She put her child's welfare before her own.

That's the definition of maternal grace.