Expecting teen chooses adoption, stays a part of her daughter's life
Kelsey was two months away from high school graduation. Soon, the seventeen-year-old would be stepping across the stage in her cap and gown marching into her future. She was quickly becoming a young adult, but not in the way she had planned. Kelsey was pregnant.
“I was surprised and really scared,” admits the Durham resident, who is now 30. “I came from a good Christian home, I went to church every Sunday––you never think it’s going to happen to you.”
Frightened of disappointing her parents and not wanting to do anything to derail her graduation, Kelsey kept her secret except for confiding in close friends.
“All my girlfriends were saying, ‘You don’t have to tell your parents,’” she shares, “They were willing to take me to an abortion clinic, but in the back of my mind, I always felt God saying, ‘I have another plan for you.’”
The teenager did conceal her pregnancy from her family. When she told her parents, the conversation was difficult. Kelsey had a younger sister and brother and her parents were concerned about how a baby would impact the dynamics at home.
“They were not ready to be parents to my child, and my mother felt I was not mature enough to be a mom,” Kelsy admits. “She was right. I was young and immature, but I did know that I needed to take care of myself and this baby.”
Kelsey began to educate herself. The process included an appointment with a staff member at an abortion clinic––simply to ask questions.
The same week, Kelsey was introduced to Christian Adoption Services (CAS). Now a ministry of Baptist Children’s Homes (BCH), CAS offers domestic, international, and foster-to-adopt services. CAS staff members work with expectant parents who have decided to place their baby for adoption as well as those who are already parenting but have decided to place their child(ren) for adoption.
What she learned from her visits remained on her mind, but Kelsey’s journey took her to another important place––Lois’ Lodge. The family-style maternity home, unaffiliated with BCH, was familiar to her family as its residential program had successfully helped the daughter of friends. Reluctantly, Kelsey made the difficult decision to move in with the other expectant girls and caregivers.
“I’m very close to my family so when I left for the maternity home, it was very hard,” she says.
Kelsey credits Lois’ Lodge for helping her grow and learn essential life skills like cooking and basic home finances. They also helped her in begin courses at the community college. These opportunities were needed as she considered the possibility of being a young parent.
“My viewpoint on the world changed while I was there,” she confesses. “I lived with girls from all walks of life. Some had been living on the street who never had their parents’ support. I learned so much from those girls.”
It was during her time at Lois’ Lodge that Kelsey’s path came into focus. Instead of parenting, Kelsey chose adoption. More specifically, the teenager desired an open adoption where the adoptive and birth families have contact with each other during and after the adoption process.
With the guidance of Gretchen Goers, her caseworker at Christian Adoption Services, Kelsey began the process of choosing a family who would potentially be her unborn child’s adoptive parents. CAS works with families who want to adopt by helping them find a child for adoption. Prospective families create albums that share photos and information that give a glimpse into their lives. As Kelsey sifted through album after album, she was drawn to one in particular.
“I picked out Joy and Todd’s book. I felt connected to them immediately,” Kelsey says.
Gretchen arranged for the three to meet the next day. After spending time together, Kelsey decided Joy and Todd, who were unable to have children, would be her unborn daughter’s parents.
“We all cried,” she remembers. “It was special.”
Joy and Kelsey drew closer together over lunches and attending doctor appointments together. Joy was there for some of the sonograms and the couple included Kelsey in the baby’s naming. Joy and Todd determined two things: their daughter’s middle name would be “Grace” and her first name would begin with “K” in honor of Kelsey. Together, the three chose Kaylee Grace.
When the long-awaited day arrived,
Kelsey invited Joy and Todd into the delivery room for Kaylee’s birth. Todd cut the umbilical cord and Joy held their newborn daughter immediately afterwards.
“Watching that moment––watching them become parents––is something I will absolutely cherish for the rest of my life,” Kelsey says. “They were meant to be parents.”
In the weeks and months ahead, Joy and Kelsey would text. Photos of Kaylee would pop
up on Kelsey’s phone so she could see the growing little girl.