The audience cheers wildly as I lean forward in the saddle, urging Cinco around the next barrel. The dust swirls around us, and the glare from the rodeo lights beats down as we hurl towards the finish line, the seconds rapidly ticking on the scoreboard screen. My heart is pounding.
I hope my parents watching from the bleachers are proud of me as I cross the finish line in good time. But there’s one face in the audience whose opinion I value more than all the rest — even though she stands barely two feet off the ground.
My daughter Delia loves nothing more than to watch me compete at the rodeo, and to ride in front of me in my saddle as I trot around the yard. She has silky blonde hair that’s usually tied up in a mini ponytail, and big, beautiful brown eyes. She is only two and half years old, but one day when she’s old enough I’ll tell her the story of how her daddy and I chose life, and how this decision transformed our lives forever.
I was just 14 years old when I discovered that I was pregnant. My boyfriend Cole and I were terrified. We were just entering high school and had been anticipating a year of homework, extracurriculars, and maybe a party here and there. We certainly hadn’t been expecting to be thrust into adulthood so soon, the jarring double pink lines on my pregnancy test leaving us in shock.
Abortion seemed like the best option to us at the time. For both of us, it was this vague idea we’d heard of but never really had a reason to care about. Why should we? We were only 14. My horseback riding and Cole’s visits to the gym were far more relevant to our daily concerns than the divisive moral and political debate over abortion.
My grandmother stepped in to help. Googling “closest pregnancy center,” we found a place called Reliance with many positive reviews. We made an appointment, where test results confirmed I was undoubtedly pregnant. The women at Reliance offered me a free ultrasound, so I lay down on the ultrasound chair nearly weepy, my thoughts darting from one extreme to the other.
I can’t keep this baby, I thought. I imagined trying to compete in the rodeo pregnant and shuddered. It was impossible. I would have to quit. What if Cole dumped me? What if my parents refuse to support me?
Then I saw something moving on the black screen and my heart nearly stopped. I saw arms and legs moving slowly, and the side profile of a tiny baby’s face — my baby’s face.
“That’s my baby!” I thought in shock. Suddenly nothing else mattered except that tiny, beautiful, moving baby on the screen. That was my baby, and I was her mother. How could I do anything but love and protect her?
The next few months I was blown away by the love and support that was showered on me and Cole. Contrary to my fears, my parents were incredibly supportive of my choice to keep my baby. I couldn’t have managed my pregnancy and beyond without the women at Reliance, who were there with Cole and me every step of the way and helped to lighten our burden as young parents. They helped us to see that our baby was more than just a clump of cells — that she was a beautiful girl, and that her life mattered.
They also offered us information and resources throughout the pregnancy, from childbirth classes to formula, diapers and so much more. Heather Lawless at Reliance was constantly checking in to make sure that Cole and I were doing ok. She connected me with a local unplanned pregnancy support group called Embrace Grace, where I was able to get to know other young moms facing unexpected pregnancies, as we shared and received practical, spiritual, and emotional support. Cole also attended the men’s Embrace Program when his schedule permitted.
Today our small family is thriving. The journey has been extremely difficult at times, but I am constantly reminded that it is worth it when I see the joy and love in Delia’s eyes and the way that her life has inspired Cole and me.
I recently started the rodeo again, and I love to bring Delia with me so she can watch me compete. I hope that one day she will grow into a little “cowgirl” like her mommy.
Sometimes as I see Delia’s bright eyes watching me adoringly through the rodeo gates, I think back to the time when I thought two double pink lines meant my life was over. Little did I know then that a whole new life was just beginning.