But What Was Best for the Baby?
July 1999

“But What Was Best for the Baby?” Ensign, July 1999, 62

But What Was Best for the Baby?

My heart ached for my young daughter who was pregnant out of wedlock. How could I best help her?

I cannot describe the feelings that engulfed me when my 13-year-old daughter, Mandy (not her real name), told me she was going to have a baby. I was shocked, and I didn’t know what to do. How could something so wonderful as bringing a life into the world carry so much pain? As a single parent who knew much of the difficulties of rearing children alone, I ached for my daughter.

I pleaded for direction from Heavenly Father. In my heart I knew that if I really wanted the help I was pleading for, I needed to follow all the promptings I received—even if they led down difficult pathways. Slowly I began the process of helping Mandy face her many challenges.

First we chose a doctor and set an appointment. I spoke with our bishop and then encouraged Mandy to visit with him. We both found him understanding and helpful, and he recommended we contact LDS Social Services and make an appointment. My heart began to feel a measure of peace. We would not have to face this alone. We both needed help and felt we were blessed with people to turn to for support.

A harder step was deciding who needed to be told—and how to do it. Because of our concern about public disclosure, LDS Social Services offered to arrange a home for Mandy. However, because of my daughter’s young age, we decided she should continue to live at home—and that meant friends and family members would need to be told. I worried they would harshly judge our family—especially Mandy—or that we would suffer from speculation, gossip, and rejection. I prayed constantly for help.

After talking with Mandy, we spoke with our ward Young Women president. On her advice, we called the young women of the ward together and told them about Mandy’s pregnancy; this meant the girls would not find out through gossip. Grandparents were told, then a daughter who lived in another state and a son serving in the mission field. These too were difficult bridges to cross.

Through this time my heart ached for my daughter. She was so young—only in the eighth grade. The school counselor requested she transfer to an alternate high school for girls who were pregnant. That presented new problems, for the school was miles from our home, and she would be much younger than the other girls who attended there. It also meant leaving behind her friends. At times she thought it would be much simpler to just drop out of school altogether.

We met with a counselor at LDS Social Services. The counselor helped us explore the options of single parenting and adoption. We even attended a weekly discussion group sponsored by LDS Social Services that included others who were facing similar difficulties. The magnitude of the decision facing my daughter seemed overwhelming. Who should raise this, my first grandchild? Who would it be sealed to? Who would love it and care for it?

At this point my own feelings were tender. How could I go through the months ahead at the side of my daughter, watch her give birth, and then not bring a baby home? However, the counselor explained that placing a baby through adoption meant giving a baby a home where it could receive all the blessings that we could not provide at this time, including being sealed to a worthy couple. But in my heart I could not accept this at that time. After all, the baby was my first grandchild. How could I allow this baby—my posterity—to go to another home? I was sure the Lord would bless our efforts if we sacrificed and did our very best to raise this child. Yes, there would be years of struggle, but I hoped that the day would come when my daughter would marry a worthy young man and be sealed to her child in the temple.

Weeks passed, and the initial shock wore off. We had established a support group of friends and professional help. I didn’t know where the road led, but after much prayer I felt confident we were on the right path. We continued to talk often about whether Mandy should keep the baby or place it for adoption. I knew it should be her decision, not mine, and prayed for Heavenly Father to direct her. But I still ached inside. I had not realized how deeply my feelings were entwined in the decision.

As the months passed, my understanding of the adoption process grew. My testimony was strengthened as I watched my daughter begin to feel promptings from the Holy Ghost. We also studied the counsel of Church leaders, which was the same then as now: “When the probability of a successful marriage is unlikely, unwed parents should be encouraged to place the child for adoption, preferably through LDS Social Services. Adoption through LDS Social Services helps ensure that the baby will be reared by a mother and father in a faithful Latter-day Saint family” (letter to priesthood leaders, 15 June 1998). We also read that “placing the infant for adoption enables unwed parents to do what is best for the child and enhances the prospect for the blessings of the gospel in the lives of all concerned.” We felt such advice should be seriously considered, and we continued to pray sincerely to know what was right for Mandy and the baby.

About midway through the pregnancy my daughter received a strong confirmation that she was to place the baby in another home. Peace came to my daughter, but my heart mourned nevertheless. Part of me acknowledged my own difficulty in accepting that this precious grandchild might never be a part of my life. Coming to terms with my feelings was difficult.

LDS Social Services spent time with my daughter reviewing couples who were waiting to adopt a baby. After much prayer and pondering, she chose the couple her child would one day call Mom and Dad. As I reviewed the information, I knew they seemed to be exactly the kind of people I would entrust with a precious child. Our heartache would become their blessing.

We received many priesthood blessings in the remaining months that gave us assurances that the baby would be born healthy and that my daughter’s young body would carry the child to term and through a successful delivery. The day finally came, and my daughter gave birth to a beautiful little girl. While others in a similar situation might choose not to see or hold the baby, Mandy decided to keep the baby for two days, then place it for adoption on the third. Those two days were filled with love as we held and rocked this tiny child.

On the third morning we kissed the baby one last time, handed the infant girl to the social worker, and left the hospital with tears in our eyes. Somewhere there was a young couple also shedding tears as they held a newborn baby girl for the first time. I felt gratitude for Mandy’s mature and unselfish decision that assured her baby a good start in life.

Since that day I have seen my daughter grow into a mature and lovely young woman with strength of character and maturity beyond her years. I have come to appreciate the correctness of the decision made by a 13-year-old girl who followed the prompting of the Holy Ghost and the advice of Church leaders as she made a wise and eternal decision in a difficult situation.

[illustration] Illustrated by Michael Malm