all the way to Wyoming
My single year of post-secondary education at a secular institution across the country from my evangelical family had given me two options for handling an unplanned pregnancy: 1.) I had the right to choose to end my pregnancy and 2.) I could be a 90’s feminist women and “have it all.”
At first, I thought I wanted option one. It wasn’t about not wanting a baby, it was about the sheer, unmitigated terror in every possible direction if it got out that I was pregnant.
I knew exactly what it would look like in my small town.
I was the teenager “full of zest and promise,” the teachers’ pet, the student body president, the swim team captain, the daughter of a popular businessman, the one who went to a snobby East Coast college. Now, I would be the girl who thought she was too good for everyone who got knocked up.
I knew exactly what it would look like in the Christian community. I was the former president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the girl who said the prayer before the sports events, the daughter of the church warden, the girl who got the other kids to go to youth group hayrides instead of keg parties. I was the girl who was allowed to drive all the other kids around because she could be trusted. I was the defender of the bullied and the encourager of the timid. I had no real self-identity outside of being a good and helpful person who didn’t do bad things. Now, I would be the girl who had sex and got pregnant by some guy that no one knew—the girl no one could trust or respect.
I knew exactly what it would look like in my family. I was the oldest daughter who took responsibility for my little sister from day one. I was the apple of my grandparents’ eyed. I was the one on whom my parents put their ambitions for education and accomplishment. I was the one whose responsibility it was to make sure my mom didn’t experience the kind of shame she felt when she was growing up.
Now I would be the pathetic and failed daughter who got knocked up and embarrassed her family.
Premarital sex was really, really bad. I sincerely believed it would have been easier if I had got addicted to drugs and had to go to rehab or had failed out of college. I had been taught that girls who had sex before marriage were whispered about and called whores. That girls who got pregnant either gave the baby up for adoption, after carrying it to term under the mean-spirited glances of everyone in the high school, or dropped out, got a GED and got married. The only girls that I knew of who had got abortions were the ones who were at the state correctional center on the outskirts of town. I had heard them confess their sinful use of birth control and abortion clinics at “campfire” night at Bible camp, had circled up with my fellow campers to pray that Jesus would wash away their sins and give them a new heart and new hope.
Anything, in my world, was better than getting pregnant by having pre-marital sex. There was no aspect of my life that would not be an explicit, extensive, and public shaming. None.
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