Choosing Life: Changed by a Heartbeat

Lisa and her daughter
Tara Becker Photography

The timing is never good when life falls apart.

Lisa was in a relationship at the time, but she'd never felt more alone. Her boyfriend was not well-liked by her friends or family, and Lisa responded by isolating herself from the disapprovers. It was a huge mistake, of course, because when Lisa discovered she was pregnant by a man with whom she fought all the time — with whom she dreaded the very thought of a future together — that's when she needed those friends and family more than ever.

"I barely ate, slept — or lived, really," Lisa says. "Never had I felt more scared in all of my life."

The decision

She had always been the good girl. Lisa was a home-schooled, Bible-studying, youth-group-attending daughter of ministry-minded parents. She entered college at age 17 and after graduation began working for a faith-based adoption agency. Still living at home, she started making choices she would later regret — including the relationship that led to her pregnancy.

The boyfriend was the first person Lisa told, and he frankly didn't believe her. "He looked at me, laughed, and told me to quit worrying," she says. "Inside, I was screaming."

It was her boyfriend's idea to visit the Life Network pregnancy center — the kind of place that offers counseling and free pregnancy tests. Lisa broke down when she got the results. Anger. Panic. Worry. The counselor tried her best to comfort and encourage, but Lisa was too upset to listen ... to care.

Lisa knew full well what the Bible and others around her said about the value of the life inside her. But with her job, her family and her shame, she decided to end it quietly.

"I did not want to go through with having the baby. My life was just beginning, and facing an unexpected pregnancy literally makes you feel like your life is over."

She scheduled an abortion. Actually, she made three appointments. But each time, she never showed. She couldn't. She just couldn't.

Yet she did return to the pregnancy center, prompted by her boyfriend and a gnawing urge in her stomach. The staff offered her a free sonogram using a machine provided by Focus on the Family's Option Ultrasound Program.

"I heard the heartbeat, and it made it all real," Lisa says. "There was a real life inside of me."

Once again Lisa panicked, but she was also in awe — devastated, curious and excited all at once. "The ultrasound made me realize that no matter what I was feeling or thinking at the time, I had a little one to worry about."

There would be no fourth appointment.

A difficult road

Her decision made, Lisa was convinced that news of her pregnancy would cost her everything: respect, friendships, even a place to live. So she hid the truth for months — as long as she could — for fear she would be kicked out and abandoned. Lisa found her own apartment on the sly, but when moving day arrived, a man was stabbed outside the complex and she found bedbugs inside. She broke the lease.

That night Lisa stayed at a friend's house. Back home, she left a note for her parents. It was time they knew.

"My parents called, and through tears they told me they would help — no matter what."

That was six years ago. The boyfriend took off for another state shortly after the baby was born, and Lisa began life as the single parent to a sweet, flaxen-haired, strong-willed, pistol-of-a-girl named Selah.

"We've been on our own for quite some time," Lisa says. "It has been a very difficult road, but I have the most beautiful 'mini-me' I could have ever asked for."

Joy in the everyday

It was the summer of 2016, and Laura Howe had just struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to her at a local park. When Laura mentioned her job at Life Network, the woman pointed to a little blond girl on the nearby swings.

"The pregnancy center saved her life!"

Even before she encountered Lisa in the park that day, Laura had met other young mothers who couldn't see past their circumstances — a child they're not ready for, a relationship they'd rather escape. But then, thanks to Option Ultrasound, they see their baby's heartbeat, tiny fingers and toes.

"Daily we see the impact of our ultrasound machine," Laura says. "Even those [mothers] who are so determined to have an abortion — you see the struggle they face as they see their little one moving across the screen."

Thanks to that same struggle, a little blond girl is alive today.

This article first appeared in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Focus on the Family magazine and was originally titled "Changed by a Heartbeat." If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
© 2017 Focus on the Family.