STEVENS WAS 16 when she became pregnant in 1990. During the previous 11 months, her dad, grandmother, and baby cousin had died. She relied emotionally on her boyfriend, Josh, she says, so “I just got pushy … because I was scared of loss.”
Friends and family were critical when they learned she was pregnant. Her mom was in denial for months and didn’t actively help Stevens until the baby was born. Some people had encouraged her to abort. Others suggested adoption. She remembers an extended family member telling her, “If you don’t give up this baby, you’re going to ruin your and Josh’s life forever.” She knew the statistical link between teenage pregnancy and poverty, but she decided against adoption because she had help from Josh, who later became her husband.
Stevens’ main sources of support became the local crisis pregnancy center and Josh’s Christian family. She was at the center when she took the first pregnancy test. Stevens knew she had messed up and was shocked by the kindness the staff showed her. “Nobody in that building … judged me,” she says, “and I thought that was weird.” She also remembers the day Josh’s mom brought her to a supermarket in Midland to buy toys for the baby. Throughout the rest of her pregnancy, Stevens often looked at the red rocking horse rattle and yellow chick toy from her future mother-in-law as reminders that someone cared. The thought gave her courage.
Meanwhile, other people continued to remind Stevens of her mistakes. Baby Samantha arrived during Stevens’ junior year in high school. A year and a half later, she was bringing her toddler to the Midland Roll Arena to play. She remembers pulling into the parking lot, driving the blue station wagon she and Josh had purchased. As she took Samantha out of her car seat, a middle-aged woman who had parked nearby began berating her. She called Stevens “too young” and “too unfit” to have a child and scolded her for using “Mommy’s car.”
Stevens knew how hard she and Josh were working to finish school and provide for their little girl. But she says those hurtful words stuck with her. Today, memories of moments like this fuel her desire to show unconditional love to her own clients and to help them know their past mistakes do not define them.