I recently watched Look Both Ways on Netflix starring Lili Reinhart. It’s an emotional, but adorable, romantic comedy about Natalie, a senior at The University of Texas who finds out on her graduation night that she might be pregnant. The show has a unique double perspective from that point on and follows both possibilities Natalie could face in that pivotal moment. One storyline shares how she becomes a mom, co-parenting with her college friend, and father of the baby, Gabe. Another shows how she is able to still pursue her original goals after finding out that it was just food poisoning and not pregnancy that made her ill. That Natalie goes on to move to Los Angeles and starts a job at an illustration company. Both storylines boast heart-filled moments of love, resilience, and perseverance. But the biggest takeaway is that through both lives, she found herself looking back and realizing she was still ok.
As a woman who has experienced an unplanned pregnancy, this movie hit me like the waves of the ocean on a red-flag day. I couldn’t feel just one thing, I had to experience the entire spectrum of emotions. However, I too found myself at the end wishing I could go back and tell that girl holding two pink lines at 18, that she too would one day be ok.
I found out I was pregnant at an early age, and I truly wasn’t mature enough to be my best advocate back then. There are so many ways that one (really big) decision could have changed my life and the lives of others. I looked into my options but decided to try to parent. In full transparency, I failed to be a good mom. I was a child raising a child and I knew that he deserved more. I chose kinship adoption six months after giving birth to him. My parents have been raising him for the past 15 years. Life pivoted again a few years later when I found out that I was unexpectedly pregnant again at 21. With more life experience behind me, I was able to make a more confident, yet difficult, decision to place my daughter for adoption through an agency. I am lucky enough to have a relationship with both of my kids through open adoption plans. But, even though I have seen how my choices and actions have played out over the past 15 years, I still have moments where I wonder, “What if?”
What if things would have gone differently? What if I would have parented them both? Would I still have graduated college and begun a career in nonprofit? Would I have met my fiancé and gotten married? It’s impossible to say what could have been in another life, but what I do know is that I have been through a lot. The resiliency I and other birth parents exhibit in moving forward after such a monumental loss, is genuinely impressive. The shame, the peanut gallery’s opinion on how we should have faced our crisis pregnancies, the rejection, and the pain of not successfully parenting or being separated from our children can all be extremely overwhelming. The strength it takes to pick yourself up and continue to move forward is worthy of respect. But aside from learning that I am tenacious and strong, I have also learned that life is full of pivotal moments. We all find ourselves in seasons of life where things seem overwhelming, impossible to move forward with, or just simply feels like the end of the world. But in those moments, there are so many flickers of hope, joy, and light.
When I was pregnant, I saw people support me and encourage me when the odds were stacked against me. I have seen my children forgive me for the choice I made for their lives and realize that I truly love them and prioritize my relationship with them. I have seen other birth mothers find hope that they would have a relationship with their child one day, and I’ve even gotten to witness the seasons of reunion for some of those women, too. I have created an organization with another birth mother that supports adoptees and birth parents through support groups, events, and sharing stories: The Table DFW. I have seen adoptees find community in other adoptees helping them no longer feel alone. I have watched my children thrive in their lives and the family and friends that rally around them with support. I have graduated college and gone on to have a successful career in nonprofit fundraising. I even met a dreamy guy after many rejections (dating as a birth mother can be really hard) who looked at all of my past as an asset and testament to who I am today. I even get to marry that stud in December. I have accomplished so much. Sure, it came at a great cost, but I have gained so much as well.
While life throws us curveballs in each season, we have to adapt and sometimes make impossible choices. What used to be so clear as right or wrong, black or white, or yes and no quickly focused into possibilities, gray areas, and maybes. We learn from each choice, we grow, and we continue to dream and press through challenges. Humans are resilient. It doesn’t negate the difficulties we face, but rather it speaks to our identities and who we are becoming. The truth is, I don’t believe that anyone can decide what is right or wrong for someone, except yourself. You are the author of your story and there are so many possible outcomes for your life. My hope for anyone in an overwhelming moment, or perhaps you’ve just found yourself at the crossroads, is that you take a deep breath and look both ways. In the end, I wish for you to find that one day you look back at everything you’ve been through to get to where you are in that moment and think to yourself… “I’m OK.”