A Pennsylvania woman who got pregnant at the age of 19 was at the peak of depression and felt hopeless, wanting to end her life. However, after an incredible epiphany, she realized that, although she didn’t want to live, she had no right to kill an innocent life. Choosing adoption for the infant, she then moved on with her life with faith and the support of her family.
Twenty-eight years later, her son reached out, and the pair reunited.
Rebecca L. Crist, now 74, shares her story of choosing an alternative to abortion with The Epoch Times.
Rebecca grew up in the neighboring states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. One of 10 children—four girls and six boys—she was raised as the "middle child" when a sister died shortly after birth.
At the age of 19, Rebecca discovered that she was pregnant by her steady boyfriend from high school, who was an alcoholic.
"He promised he had stopped drinking," Rebecca said. "After he showed up drunk three nights in a row, I told him we were finished, and he was to stop contacting me. For the first time in five years, I knew it was finally over."
After finding out that she was expecting a baby, Rebecca was devastated, and spent three months in denial. She had just undergone serious spinal surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, had ambitions to attend college, and work. At this time, Rebecca did not want to marry the birth father, who she knew would go on to have lifelong struggles with addiction.
She had moved back to her parents' home following surgery, and confided in a handful of people about her pregnancy, but found being around her father—an alcoholic—distressing.
One stormy night, her depression reached its peak.
"I felt totally hopeless," she recalled. "I got in my car and took off, thinking I would just end my life. I drove and drove and didn’t know where I was.
"I was trying to decide what I could hit, to put an end to everything, when I almost hit what looked like a man walking on the side of the road. I heard a thump, and was horrified to think I may have hit him."
Terrified with the ordeal, Rebecca pulled over and searched the area, but found nothing. Soaking wet, she got back into her car and burst into desperate tears. It was then she had an epiphany: "I don’t want to live, but I have no right to kill this innocent baby."
"In an instant, an unexplainable peace seemed to wrap itself around me," she said. "The tears stopped and I headed for home, feeling like everything would work out somehow."
Rebecca, who was five months pregnant at the time, prayed the whole way home. The next day, her sister-in-law called and invited her to stay at their home in Missouri while she decided what to do; her husband, Rebecca's brother, was a medical student.
Despite everything she was going through on her journey, Rebecca said, never once did she consider abortion. She knew she had the support of her loving family, come what may, but she didn't want to "live with an alcoholic," nor be forced to hand her baby off to him every weekend, "or whatever the courts might order."
For Rebecca, the idea of adoption felt right. However, it was imperative to her that the adoptive parents be Christian, and she hoped they would love music and sports, like her own family. At the hospital, she received counseling to help confirm her choice.
For the last few months of her pregnancy, Rebecca was busy as she spent her time providing childcare for some of the medical students' families at her brother's medical school. She was also caring for her niece and helped her brother and his wife with whatever possible. The rest of the time, Rebecca read, played the guitar, and wrote songs.
Whenever she felt her baby move and grow, she would pray to God to keep the baby healthy and strong so that he/she could be a perfect blessing to the family that was going to have her.
"I tried to consider myself a 'vessel' that God was using to answer the prayers of someone else," Rebecca said.
Due to her spinal surgery, Rebecca was booked in for a Caesarean section three weeks before her due date. Her brother would be present at the birth, and she had already mentioned that she didn't want to know the gender of the baby.
"I guess I thought the less I knew about the baby, the less difficult it would be to get through the trauma," she said.
However, after the delivery, an uninformed nurse exclaimed: "Congratulations, you have a beautiful baby boy!"
Rebecca recalls crying so hard that she almost fell off the delivery table, as her brother held the baby and left the room.
It was a closed adoption, as per the protocol of the time. When Rebecca sat up to sign papers the day after delivering her baby, she triggered a "spinal headache" from the special sedation she had received, and remembers having days-long pounding pain like nothing she had felt before.
"I think perhaps it was God’s way of protecting my heart from literally breaking apart because my head commanded all my attention," she reflected.
The baby's adoptive family had been chosen by then: a banker and a college professor, both Christian, with a 2-year-old son, who had also been adopted. Rebecca's sister-in-law, a social worker, bumped into them by mistake and claimed they seemed "so happy and excited."
In the aftermath of the adoption, Rebecca's relationship with God gave her strength. She prayed to find a loving life partner, and for children of her own in the future. Shortly after turning 21, her prayers were answered.
She returned to Pennsylvania and her old job. A month after her return, Rebecca received a call from a fellow high school alum; formerly a multi-sport athlete while she was a cheerleader. Surprisingly, he invited her to a Broadway show.
"He was thought to be one of the nicest, smartest, kindest, most capable young men in our school," said Rebecca. "That date turned into many."
Months later, Rebecca shared the story of her birth son with her new love, who assured her that she'd made the right decision. He claimed the "man" she feared she had hit on the night of her epiphany was, in fact, "an angel."
The couple married two years later, welcomed two daughters in Baltimore, and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to raise them as they attended elementary school to high school. Every time they moved, Rebecca made sure that she sent a letter to the social worker who arranged her son's adoption.
When her daughters were old enough, Rebecca told them about their half-brother.
"The oldest sat there and cried, and the youngest was so astounded ... then said all her best friends had a brother and she always wanted one, too," Rebecca recalled. "I told her I promised God I would not interfere in his life, but if he wanted to find me, I made it possible for him to do so."
Five years later, after welcoming her first grandchild, Rebecca received the phone call she had been anticipating for the last 28 years of her life. Her brother informed her that her birth son, Steve, had made contact.
Steve had been recently divorced and had a 5-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter. On becoming aware of the news, Rebecca felt like she had "just drunk a dozen cups of coffee and might possibly faint," but she instructed her brother to please put her in contact with Steve.
Their first phone call lasted three hours. Rebecca discovered that her son had had a happy, peaceful childhood and was supported by his adoptive parents in connecting with his birth family.
"One of the first questions he asked was whether I considered abortion," Rebecca shared. "I told him I never gave that a thought."
The mother and son then arranged to meet in person a few weeks later, in the fall of that year. Rebecca was shooting baskets on the driveway when Steve and his children pulled up.
"I was very nervous and excited," she recalled, lamenting that a chatty neighbor who knew nothing of the reunion wouldn't leave. "It was rather awkward as we saw each other and embraced for the first time in our lives while this neighbor looked on, totally befuddled and amazed!"
Rebecca chaperoned Steve and his kids to Pennsylvania to meet his extended birth family, who hosted a party, stopping at Ohio University on the way to meet Rebecca's daughter. Bonds were formed immediately; Steve "fit right in" with Rebecca's funny brothers, and quickly learned where his love for sports and music came from.
Rebecca still had peripheral contact with Steve's birth father through her older brother and his wife, who ate at the same bar where he did his "nightly drinking." Steve's birth father, who never knew he had a son, wanted to meet Steve, and they happily reconnected.
For Steve, his origin story had finally come together.
Rebecca had always been troubled by the stigma surrounding adoption.
"It always astounded me how a decision to place a child for adoption seemed far worse than killing one in the womb," she reasoned. "I believe a human is created the moment the egg and sperm unite; what is created at that exact moment is the person he/she will be at birth, when he/she is 10, 50, or 100 years old."
Over the years, Rebecca credits faith as playing a central role in her enduring belief that life is sacred. She was raised by a family for whom "going to church was as natural as eating a meal together." As a child, she also loved Sunday School, and she was confirmed into the Lutheran Church in ninth grade.
"I memorized several Bible verses that helped me navigate through some very difficult times later in life," she said. "I learned to pray to God and believe that He was listening, no matter what I had to say. I also learned to believe that God always loved me, even if I didn’t feel lovable."
As an adult, Rebecca became a writer for Cincinnati's Living Magazines and for her family's church and schools, was a folk and church choir singer, ran her own event planning company, and has been a dedicated foster parent and volunteer advocate for children, for which she received The Friends of Children Award in Hamilton County, Ohio.
Her husband is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries.
Meanwhile, Steve, now 53, works as a salesman and is living in Missouri with his father, helping to take care of his mother, who is presently quite ill.
He has also become an integral part of Rebecca's happy, blended family. He was one of the groomsmen in her youngest daughter’s wedding, has accompanied the family on several vacations with his kids, and invited Rebecca and her husband to his college graduation after returning to school to earn his degree.
Rebecca once wrote a song for her son. The chorus reads: "My son, this is a love song that I’m singing just for you; I never held you in my arms, but I hold you in my heart, and that’s where you’ll remain my whole life through."
She reflected: "Thank my almighty Lord who does answer prayer, I held him in my arms when he was 28."