Part one of four: Amanda's Story
Amanda is not her real name and stock photography has been used to protect her privacy.
"I was 5 when I first saw hardcore pornography. I was playing alone in the woods near my home when I found it. I knew it was something to keep hidden but also something I wanted to keep. It permanently changed my childhood and perspective on life. I developed deep depression, suicidal ideation, and a sexualized view of nearly everything.
As a preteen, my parents divorced, I was provocative, and I was into witchcraft. As a teen, I was determined to get away with having sex and not get pregnant or get an STD. I first had the notion of only being with virgins, but as I got older, that criteria no longer needed to be met.
I was disrespectful of men, thought I was better than them and should control them. This especially applied to one boyfriend who I thought that I loved. But I really couldn't comprehend what love was.
In college, the issues I had progressed to partying and getting myself in dangerous circumstances. Until recently, I hesitated to call one particular circumstance rape. I knew what I was doing, but I didn't know what he would do and I didn't like where things headed. I was drunk and figured I put myself in that position so I had asked for it."
Part two of four: Amanda's Story
"Soon, I saw an ad in a local paper that a strip club was hiring. I knew that I could do that, so I took my boyfriend at the time and we checked the place out.
Shortly after that, I broke up with that boyfriend. I was also still deeply depressed. I began working at the strip club and loved it. I worked there six nights a week if I could. I drank heavily, tried drugs, and felt like I was being paid to party. My depression seemed to be gone. I still managed to keep decent grades in most of my courses, and eventually I met another guy. I moved in with him, quit college, and continued working as an exotic dancer.
My depression resurfaced, and I began romanticizing the idea of having a child. I thought having a baby would solve everything, and soon I became pregnant. Before long, I started to look more deeply at the situation I was in and realized that I didn't love my baby's father. I started despising being pregnant and looked into getting an abortion.
My mother took me to get that abortion. I was an empty shell of a person and couldn't shake the memory of the process - feeling like the life was being sucked out of me in some horrible way."
Part three of four: Amanda's Story
"The months after my abortion, I deeply desired to die. I went back to work at the strip club and sometimes I would leave the dance floor to cry in a bed in their basement. I never thought about God until I had that abortion, the first time I remember praying I was in the basement of the strip club.
About three months later, I was pregnant again. Nothing had changed and I felt stuck in a bad relationship. I didn't know how to escape. I contemplated getting a second abortion, I even made the appointment. Something was different this time, and I canceled the abortion appointment. I stopped living with my boyfriend and moved in with one of the girls I had danced with.
Pregnancy was beautiful. I appreciated walking with this child within me. I tried to learn to knit but it didn't go very well. I really wanted McDonald's Happy Meals. I was also thinking that my baby would someday really want the toys from those happy meals. I was diligent about getting to doctor's appointments. One lady at the doctor's office was especially kind to me. She told me about places that could help and prayed for me and my baby. Her help and prayers made a huge impact on me."
Part four of four: Amanda's Story
"Eventually, my friend's parents didn't want me living with her anymore and I was forced to move into my boyfriend's home again. My depression came back. I went into early labor and he took me to the hospital. My baby was born unable to cry but looked healthy. I knew something was wrong but the doctor didn't seem concerned. They kept giving her to me to be held, but I would say, 'Please take her and get her help, something is wrong.' Eventually another doctor came in and he had her moved to another hospital with a NICU. He later told me that she was turning blue by the time she got there and we were lucky she was alive. Her lungs hadn't fully developed.
I pumped milk for her and visited as often as I could. It was unbelievable the love that could be felt for that little person. Everything in my life started changing because of that little girl. She got to go home with me after several days. I eventually got my own apartment, I went to one of the Bible Studies the kind lady from the doctor's office invited me to, and I went back to college part time. I started going to church.
When my daughter was a toddler, I trusted in Jesus as my Savior. I wanted for her to know a different life than I had. About three months after I trusted in Christ, things started getting really bad. I ended up hospitalized for my mental illness. Some parts of my mental illness were intense fears that the child I had aborted had been condemned to a life of abuse and hell and that the nurses would gleefully try to remove my ovaries so I would never be able to be pregnant again. My recovery deeply affected my daughter, and at this time she is rarely in contact with me.
Even though we're not in touch often, I am always praying for her. I know that God can work in any situation. Jesus' love for me has helped me understand what love truly is. The walk isn't easy, but it's worth it.
Having my daughter not only taught me to value her life, but to value mine and the lives of those around me. I am so glad I chose life for her, and even though I have been far from perfect, I love her deeply."
Part one of three: Allyssa's Story
“We found out when I was 21 that we weren’t going to be able to have biological kids. The doctors said it wasn’t impossible but that it would be hard. They immediately started trying to push procedures on us. We started one, but it didn’t feel right. So, we stopped it. I was so discouraged. We really wanted a family. But, we knew that [reproductive technology] wasn’t the right path.
My parents were fostering children at the time, so because of that, it was on our minds. We weighed our options, but we were afraid to try fostering – we were afraid we would become attached to a child and then they would have to leave.
Then, my parents got a call about a newborn baby that needed a home.”
Part two of three: Allyssa's Story
“Aireyell was so small, and so distressed. She was having a hard time withdrawing from drugs her biological mom had taken during pregnancy. You know how babies are warm, cuddly, and snuggly? She wasn’t like that. She was suffering, and it broke my heart.
I instantly fell in love with her. I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of our bond.
It’s hard to foster a newborn, because you know you will probably have to give them up. The state’s goal is to reunify the child with their family. It’s incredibly sad, but nobody in Aireyell’s family was able to take her. Her case just kept dragging on.
We knew we loved her, and we wanted to be her parents, but it wasn't easy. She knew us, my parents were fostering her, and she loved us. But, we had to prove that as a white family we could give her what she needed. We love her as our own, but not everyone sees it that way. Once the state realized nobody in her biological family could take her they agreed to let us become her foster parents.
When she was six months old, we finally became certified foster parents. We were able to bring her home.”
Part three of three: Allyssa's Story
“I didn’t get the mommy/daughter bond right away. She was used to my mom. While the transition to our home was very smooth for her, it was sometimes tough on me and on my mom. Shortly after she came to be with us, Danny was laid off from work, so he was able to form a strong father/daughter bond with her.
It happened, though, my first “mommy moment” was when she grabbed my bologna sandwich and started eating it. I knew she finally accepted me as her mom. We've been inseparable ever since.
When she was 2 1/2, we were finally able to legally adopt her. It was a huge weight off of us. We knew she would be ours, and we would be hers, forever.
I hate it when people ask me if she’s mine. Yes, she is. I don’t say, ‘yes, but she’s adopted.’ Just, yes. She’s mine. So many women want to be mothers and they can’t. I want to encourage them that adoption is different, but I think it’s just as special. It’s an amazing process.”
Part one of two - hearing from Becca.
"I knew from birth that I was adopted, my mom was awesome about that. I started asking more about it in 8th or 9th grade. I wanted to know my medical history and I wanted to know if I had siblings - especially sisters.
I'm so glad I was adopted, because being adopted gave me my life. It's amazing that I have a college degree, I've worked tons of different jobs, I own my own house, and I started my own business when I was 25.
I got my work ethic from my mom and dad. My mom is a rockstar. I know I was given to my mom by a higher power, and even though my birth mother didn't want me she thought I was worth saving. She gave me the opportunity to live my life even though she wasn't in it.
Adoption is really special. People think you need to keep your baby or abort your baby; they don't know there's a middle option. I want to adopt a child someday. It wouldn't even bother me if I couldn't have my own kids.
At the end of the day, the gift of life is the most amazing gift you can give."
Part two of two - hearing from Becca's mom, Suzy.
"I wanted to have kids. We waited 17 years to adopt Michael, when he was a couple years old we were ready for another child. We found out about Becca through a friend.
I saw her the day she was born. She was tiny, less than five pounds. The agency brought her to us when she was ready to come home. It was fun, because they were as excited as we were.
How did adoption change me? It's not the big stuff, it's the day-to-day, the little things. Going to parks, doing fun stuff with the kids, having someone to be with. Now that she's an adult we have developed a really close bond that I wouldn't trade for anything.
I highly recommend adoption. Without it, we wouldn't have a family."