“When I was 17 years old, I had sex on the first day of my senior year of high school and got pregnant.”
If that were the first line of your story, could you tell it? This is, in fact, the story of my old friend, singer/songwriter Rachel Wilhelm, and she’s telling it here today on my blog. If you are wrestling with shame because you’ve conceived a child out of wedlock or you were conceived out of wedlock, please read this post. Thanks, Rachel, for your fearless vulnerability.
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When I was 17 years old, I had sex on the first day of my senior year of high school and got pregnant. I was a pastor’s kid, and since my parents always had a high view of appearances, my mother was particularly mortified at what this would do to her.
Pregnancy in its seemingly unnatural form — out of wedlock — is a situation that no one quite knows how to handle. It’s eventually very outward, so it’s shameful because you’re unmarried and you’ve been doing something you weren’t supposed to — but at the same time, babies are fun, right? So you feel this mixed joy and pain, but you don’t know where to place any one emotion.
My particular demon was the emotional abuse I endured from my mother after my pregnancy. All the way up until my child was ten years old, I heard that my main sin was that I “got pregnant.” You really, truly have no idea how sick I was of those words. From the beginning of my child’s life, I was wedged between weird feelings of love for my son and awkward feelings of shame over how bad I should be feeling about it. My mother had a way of making sure those awkward feelings of shame stayed front and center.
I lived at home with my mother for a period of time after having my son, and I was told constantly, if not daily, to serve her in some way because I “got pregnant,” because I “owed” her. My horrendous act was paraded around the house to get me to clean, run errands, and shell out the little money I had. It literally made me a physical and emotional slave to my sin.
Paying for it
No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake it. I knew God forgave me, but I was always paying for it. Even after I met and married my wonderful husband years later, my sin was still a running conversation with my mother. And when an argument arose or a favor was needed, it made its ugly appearance nearly every time.
I was even told things like, “Well, you would’ve had the same baby with your husband if you hadn’t had sex with that other guy.” Really? To say the least, it took me years to unravel the tight hold my old sin had on me.
Don’t get me wrong. I always loved my son no matter what. But again, there was this taint when it came to all of those good things mixed up with the bad teenage pregnancy. There were no separate boxes for the love of my child and the hatred of my sin. My son was always thrown into this sinful soup, and I had no way of mentally separating him from the broth.
As a result of the guilt under which I lived, I didn’t embrace motherhood fully. I struggled with feeling like my child was my little brother rather than my son. It was like getting pregnant was my identity, and I was forever trying to live it down or avoid it, waiting for the years to go by so experience, good deeds, and love for my neighbor would eventually counteract the vile work I committed years before.
Six Words that Opened my Eyes
Then one day it dawned on me. Call it an epiphany. Call it God speaking to me directly. Call it a miracle. Yes, it was a miracle. The sentence, “Getting pregnant was not a sin,” entered my mind. It just entered. I didn’t read it anywhere. I didn’t hear it anywhere. I just thought it. Well, it certainly wasn’t me.
The seed grew, and the Scriptures I read soon after watered it:
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” (Psalm 127: 3-5).
The truth hit me: I had spent years of my life feeling guilty for something that was not a sin. Yes, I committed a sin when I had premarital sex, but my sinful act produced something – someone – beautiful. And I saw that these were two separate things. One was my own sinful act, and the next was God’s gracious gift to me. Again, the Scriptures affirmed it:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16).
Then that means I got lucky — actually, God favored me.
Yes, He favored me.
Despite my sin, He chose to grant me a grace, a beauty, a life, an entire blessing.
This child changed me. God used this child to mold me into His child. And I felt joy. I knew this was true about me. About my son.
A few days ago I was talking with my now 17-year-old son about his past. Our past. And I said, “No, I shouldn’t have been having sex. But God gave you to me.”
He said, “So technically, I should never have been born. I wasn’t even planned.”
“Oh son,” I said, “you were planned. You were exactly what God intended. I know this more than anyone. God Himself is the opener and closer of wombs. He put you there.”