Showered with love
My name is Elaina, and I am a wife of almost 18 years. We’re going to celebrate our 18th anniversary soon, in a couple days, and I am a mother of three. I say I have two littles and a big. My littles aren’t really little anymore. They’re nine and 12. The older one is 23 and we’re coming up on a year, or actually just celebrated a year, of being in Texas. I don’t know if celebration is the right word. Ha ha. And we kind of have our story that started in California and moved to Colorado, and we’re here in Texas now. But the part I want to share started in California.
Growing up, I was raised in a church. We always went to church, my parents were involved in church, I was in the youth group. If the friends weren’t in the neighborhood, they were at church. And with that culture as you grow up – it’s now termed “purity culture” – and so it was this, you don’t have intimate relationships, physical relationships until you’re married. But there was never a “why” behind it. It was just, “God said so” and so there was never an explanation. It was just, we were just expected to obey, if you will. And that’s not a bad thing. I actually never questioned it. It was just, that’s how it is, like, you just don’t do that. There’s a lot of reasons now that I know why. But at the time, we didn’t question it, it was just how it was.
I had epilepsy all the way until…Well, I was diagnosed in middle school, and I had seizures and they were grand mal seizures. So like the whole shaking, and they’re like biting your tongue and like not breathing. And we don’t know why or how, like what happened to cause it. I would have seizures at school and I would get super disoriented at school and, and then they had to experiment with different kinds of drugs to figure out which one worked with my body chemistry to stop it. But that made me gain a ton of weight. In middle school I was super chunky, because of this medicine I was on and I was having seizures, and it was just a whole mess in middle school. But by the time I was in my 20s, they had regulated the medicine and I was pretty consistent. I was making sure that I was consistent with it. So I grew up with that and then I went to college.
I went to a private Christian school and the private Christian college that I went to was even more conservative than the house I grew up in and the church. The college even frowned upon dancing. So there, I started to push the boundaries of like, is dancing really, like awful? I don’t really think so. Because those rules were, in my opinion, ridiculous, that’s when the boundary pushing started.
Um, it was kind of well known at the school that there were three women, three girls for every one guy. So to catch a guy was kind of important. I was not really interested in getting married. But my second year there, I joined a sorority. There were three sororities on campus. There were the ones with the girls that were the “friends,” there were the girls that you “wanted to marry,” and then there were the girls that you “wanted to sleep with.” The girls that were the friends were kind of the frumpy nerdy ones. But the girls you wanted to sleep with were the popular pretty ones. As a young girl going through a very ugly stage in middle school and being fat and bullied relentlessly and to have the contrast of now I’m the person that gets to be in the cool crowd and the one that was desired and the one that was looked at as pretty.
So I rushed that sorority and it ended up that’s how I met one of the brothers. He was in a fraternity. So I started kind of eying this guy. He was cute. He was rebellious. There was, you know, word on the street that he had been kicked out, but was let back in, so he’s kind of a bad boy. Which, I guess, has something to say about me because it was something I was attracted to was that little bit of edge to the person. And looking back, you’re like, Oh my gosh, that’s ridiculous. What were you thinking? But when you’re 17-18, a lot of things are ridiculous. So we kind of watch him and then he ends up being in the fraternity that does everything with my sorority, so you kind of like, pair up. We just kind of gravitated to each other and started hanging out and kind of became exclusive. I say that loosely, because the premise we were together in dating, but it was questionable if that was really happening or not because I think he was seeing other people. But it didn’t matter because I was in the sorority, I had the hot guy, it was a self promotion for me. It was about how I was feeling, not necessarily too much about me actually liking him. It was more about how I was feeling about myself. We weren’t together that long, maybe eight months.
Through my teenage years the “cycles of a woman” were more sporadic. So missing one didn’t really put off any alarms and there was no reason to worry anyways, because nothing was happening, that would give me an alarm, right? But once I started dating this guy, one thing led to another and that became the focus of our relationship – those acts together. So when there should have been alarms of like, your relationship is really based on just this one thing and now your body’s telling you something’s off here. Those didn’t occur to me until, like, probably six, seven weeks had gone by and I’m like, “Maybe we should go check this out.”
So I called him up and we decided to go to a clinic and I take a pregnancy test. I was kind of a little bit concerned, but I wasn’t worried. I was concerned. Then we went and sat on the beach for a while because they said, “Call us back, call us back in such and such time.” So we go to the beach –we don’t have cell phones– and I’m not about to have this conversation at the dorm where there’s a lot of girls and I’m sharing a room. So I have to call them back from a payphone. For those of you that might be listening, a payphone is no longer a thing, you actually had to put money in and call.
I remember we’re at a gas station or something and he’s sitting in his car, and I get out and I make this call from a payphone to the clinic and they said, “You are pregnant.” and I melted. My legs crumbled from underneath me and I’m just bawling, and I can’t breathe and I’m, I’m crumbled on the ground. He gets out of the car and he’s kind of panicking and like, he could tell by my reaction that it was a positive test. And, he’s like, “We can’t tell anyone. Don’t talk to anyone, don’t even call your parents. We need to figure this out.” And I just remember being super angry at him for like, trying to tell me what to do right now. [I was] like, just be compassionate. Like, just help me through this because you’re just as much a part of this as I was, and now you’re trying to hide it. I remember feeling very angry at him and I just wanted to yell at him. So I was like, “Just take me back to my dorm room. I just, I can’t be with you right now.”
So some time goes and I call a sorority sister. I go over to her house, I talk to her, I’m crying, we talk it out for a while and I eventually decide I need to call my parents. And that was hard to make that phone call. So I call my mom and she was at work and she was obviously shocked, but she came down. I was within driving distance, so she came down and we had lunch and I don’t actually remember what we talked about at that lunch. I just remember her listening and just kind of thinking like, Okay well, what do you think? Like, what should happen?
Over the next couple of weeks, I had to take finals and that was extremely difficult to take finals knowing I was in this space of crisis. But then after finals, I just felt like I needed to move back home. Like, I can’t continue this life with him here, with all the drama that has surrounded the circumstance. I don’t even know what my life is gonna look like. Everybody has an opinion on my life now. Everybody is telling me what I should and shouldn’t do. I felt like there were voices shouting at me constantly. Like, Oh, you need to do this. Oh, you should do that. Oh, blah blah blah…All these people and ugh, I just [felt like]… Everybody needs to like, back away and let me think.
Well, his parents were on pastoral staff at a huge church, in Orange County. So my parents reached out to his parents, just to kind of get all of us together and see what we can do to figure out whatever the circumstance is. And that was not helpful. So they came down, and I’m only telling this part of the story so that you can see the contrast later. They were telling me all the reasons I should not have this baby. Like, they were telling me all the bad things about single moms and how your kid’s gonna grow up to be this, that and the other. They were giving me statistics. They were not supportive. They were super judgy, all the things, all the stereotypical things church has, all those things that you don’t want. So that meeting did not go well.
Again, in the late 90s, the correct thing when you’re a Christian and you find yourself pregnant, was to get married and to make it right. Well, I said to them very plainly, “If we get through this crisis, and we’re still together, then we can talk about marriage, but I am not going to get married because of a crisis. I don’t want to be divorced by the time I’m 21.” Like, I just, no. So that was taken off the table right away. Which, that was not the right answer, that was not, but I didn’t really care because, I mean, I don’t think he wanted to get married either. So it was probably a relief for him that I was like, “No.”
Basically, from that point forward, he was not a nice person. That’s putting it kindly. So we definitely broke it off. But, I’m still not sure what I’m going to do if I’m going to keep this baby, adopt this baby, I didn’t know. I remember sitting in my bedroom, the door closed, and it was evening and I remember sitting there and being like, “God, I need to hear You. I need You to be very clear about what I need to do. I need to hear Your voice and I need to know, without a shadow of a doubt, what is the right choice here.” And God spoke to my heart. He said, “The only reason you would be getting rid of this baby is for selfish reasons.” And I was like, “You’re right, like I have a place to live. But I’m giving up my dreams. I’m not going to finish college, I’m going to be like…” All these things are going through my head. But ultimately, it was my dreams, my things, all about me of why I couldn’t have this baby. So I decided in that moment that I was going to keep the baby and figure it out. Figure out whatever that looks like, I wasn’t sure. But when God speaks, it’s probably best to listen.
So I went into my mom’s room, my parents room, my mom’s washing her face and I stand behind her and very matter of factly I was like, “Mom, I’m going to keep this baby.” So I told her and she was like, “Okay. We’ll figure it out.” And, and we did. There was some shame associated with this whole situation and when it finally came out at church, what I anticipated was what I had experienced from the bio dad’s parents. That’s what I anticipated, but instead, I had women that embraced me, that hugged me, that prayed over me. I remember standing in the foyer of this church, and [this woman] looked at me and she grabs my hands, and she says, “You will find a husband who will love you and your baby as his own.” And she said, “Your plan B, God will bless you in this, no matter what, because our God is a big God.” So she said that to me, and really spoke life into that situation for me.
From that point, I had to figure out logistics. Like, I had to get state insurance, I think it was like Medicare, Medicaid and for me, that was like ugh, really hard and then I had to get WIC, which is like the groceries. I had to suck it up and do that. Then I was at the doctor, and I was taking medication for the epilepsy, and they told me that this medication was going to cause birth defects in the baby. But I couldn’t go off the medication, because then I would have seizures, and that would put myself and the baby at risk. So now I’m not only unplanned pregnancy, I’m a high risk pregnancy as well. And the dad’s M.I.A. He’s like, doing his thing. So I’m really at a crossroads again.
Even though I’ve decided to keep this baby, it’s still a lot to process. So again, I’m crying all the time. But women are encircling me with love. I had five baby showers. They just literally showered me with love. I had boxes –They would give me hand me downs. –so I had boxes, all the way until she was two, of clothes I didn’t have to buy. Once, you know, I decided to keep that baby, they really stepped in the gap for me.
I remember being like, Okay, I need to take a year off from school. I can’t go to school right now. I just kind of need to get my life back on track. So I wanted to get a job and my old preschool teacher was the director of a community rec center. I explained my situation to her and she gave me a job on the spot. I said, “I don’t know how long I’m going to be able to work here for you.” And she said, “It doesn’t matter. You can work as long as you need to or can. You have a job here.” So she just gave me a job! Which, again, was like God stepping in for me. So not only were the people that were closest to me stepping in, but like, people I hadn’t talked to in like 15, 16, 17 years. Like, she was my preschool teacher, I’m like 20 now. So she just handed me a job and said, “It’s yours for however long you need it.”
So I started going to a Bible study with one of the girls that I was working with, at her church. And those women again, different church, stepped in the gap. They prayed over me. They were one of the ones that threw the baby shower. Again, I just saw the hand of God like blessing me and that was not what I was anticipating from the purity culture where, “no no, no.” So it was very beautiful that I was given love and kindness when they could have shown judgment and condemnation.
I ended up having a baby girl and after that a woman at the church, Kim was her name, she was homeschooling her girls. This was like back in the day before homeschool got big, like she was homeschooling. Actually she had two girls and a boy and she was homeschooling them and she said to me, “Hey, if you want me to take Natalie and watch her during the day so you can work or go to school, I’ll do it for free.” And I was like, “Wow!” At the time I knew it was a blessing, I didn’t know till probably 12 years after what a huge blessing that was. So Miss Kim took Natalie and I was able to finish my degree.
I went back to the state school. I didn’t live on campus but I commuted in and I dropped Natalie off with Miss Kim who was homeschooling her just along the side of her girls, teaching her ABCs. She even had a little desk. It was so cute, a little preschool desk, and she just accepted Natalie into like their family during the day and then I would pick her up after school. That was a huge game changer. I didn’t have to give up on my dreams to finish school because of her, because she was able to step in the gap for me.
So I’m going to school and I’m finishing up getting ready to graduate and my friends call me up and want to go out. This is rare, because at this point Natalie’s two, and I was not going out with friends. Like, that was the days gone by, so I was not going out anymore. If I did go out, it would be to the park. So I went out with my friends and had no intentions of anything, other than to have a good time with some friends.
I ended up meeting this guy on the dance floor, and we start talking and I’m kind of at that point where I don’t want to mess around with games. At 22 and two, I’m just kind of off the bat, like, “I have a two year old.” You know, I’m just like, let’s just get this out of the way. Let’s not play games. Like, I said it with the intent of giving him an out. Like, you’re able to leave now. I have a two-year-old. Like, see you later alligator kind of thing. And when I said that to him, he goes, “Oh, that’s really cool.” And I was like, I looked at him and I was like, “Did you hear what I said?” I said, “I have a two-year-old at home.” He’s like, “Yeah, I have this friend who has a baby…da di da. He starts talking and it really didn’t even faze him. It didn’t bother him at all that I had a kid, like not at all. He wanted a family and this was kind of a jumpstart for him to have a family. So we date for a couple of years and then when he asked me to marry him, he says in the proposal, “Will you marry me?” And, “I want to be Natalie’s dad.” Of course I’m like crying. So we have this engagement for about a year and get married. Then we move across the street from my parents.
I wanted to tell this story because what started off as what I perceived as a tragedy, and there were all these different reasons of why I should not have this baby, except God spoke to me and He offered hope. Then He put His people in my life to really back up His word. Like, “I’ll take care of you. I’ll take care of you and this baby.” I had no way of knowing all the blessings that would come after this event.
From what I could see, my life was over. My life had taken a sharp left turn and I was sacrificing everything and that was pretty much it. I didn’t even know if this baby would be healthy and she was, there were no birth defects. Again, another miracle because they told me she was going to have pretty severe birth defects because of this medicine and she didn’t have any! So high risk pregnancy, single mom, unplanned pregnancy, giving up on your dreams, all sounds really terrible – until God steps in and changes the story to make it a good story, make it a good ending.
I’m not gonna say ever since then everything’s been fantastic and rainbows and sparkles. It hasn’t. But I feel like with our political climate of Roe vs Wade being overturned, and all we hear is a lot about “My body. My choice. How can you force women to have this?” I wanted to speak to women in situations that seem dire, that there’s other options available, there’s not just one way, and give them hope! Like, if I could ever just speak to a girl that was in a similar situation and give her hope, that there’s something bigger for her like those women spoke into my life…“Hey, I know that your situation is hard right now and I empathize with that. I have been there. But God works in amazing ways and fills those gaps in amazing ways. It is really hard to trust something that we can’t see. But I’ve lived through it.”
Getting ready to come onto the show, I had people say, “Well, you’re the exception.” Like, “You just happened to get lucky in your situation.” Maybe! But I really feel like God inserted Himself from that decision that I made on my bed by myself, forward. Like, I feel like God just, His fingerprints are on my life and I don’t feel like that’s luck. I feel like that was God in my life affirming me of the decision that I had made.
So I just want those women, those girls, to know they have options. And their story might not be the same as my story. But it’s probably something they can relate to, and see themselves and identify with parts of my story. If we don’t share our stories, then how are they supposed to know any different? Because all they hear is the bad. All they hear is the negative, all they hear is how horrible their lives… I mean, people will say to women in my situation, “Your life is over. Your life is ruined if you do this.” And I want to be speaking life into these women and speaking hope into this – what is perceived as a dark situation. So that’s where we are. That’s my story and I want to make sure that people understand I’m not trying to put rose colored glasses on and say well, because my story turned out good, so is yours and everything will turn out fine. I don’t, I don’t want to say that. But I do want to say that God’s bigger than our circumstances.