Minnesota teen's unplanned pregnancy leads to open adoption and new definition of familyMOORHEAD - Terae DeMarais grew up living a normal life outside Monticello, Minn. Her home consisted of two parents, two sets of grandparents, great-grandparents, one older brother, a boyfriend and good friends. She played tennis, was captain of the basketball team and was a lifeguard at the local pool. She especially loved learning spelling in school and dreamed one day of teaching kids. Then came an unplanned pregnancy at age 17.
By: Merrie Sue Holtan / SheSays Contributor, INFORUM
MOORHEAD - Terae DeMarais grew up living a normal life outside Monticello, Minn.
Her home consisted of two parents, two sets of grandparents, great-grandparents, one older brother, a boyfriend and good friends. She played tennis, was captain of the basketball team and was a lifeguard at the local pool. She especially loved learning spelling in school and dreamed one day of teaching kids.
Then came an unplanned pregnancy at age 17.
Now a sophomore elementary education major at Minnesota State University Moorhead, Terae reflects back on her earlier decisions both tearfully and joyfully. Her baby boy, Ryan, now 2, became the focal point of her decision process. It wasn’t about her but about what was best for Ryan.
“I remember the day my pregnancy was confirmed,” the 20-year-old says. “My biggest fear was that I had let everyone down. So I kept it to myself except for telling a girlfriend.”
Terae’s mother, Kristi, noticed a certain sadness about her daughter and that she wasn’t eating or playing basketball as aggressively as usual. She asked Terae several times, “What’s wrong?” She always received the same “I’m fine” response, until one day Terae broke down and told her mom.
“Her father and I determined that our role in Terae’s situation was to be supportive,” Kristi says. “We let her take the lead, and she handled the whole thing beautifully.”
“When I told my boyfriend Mitchell he was speechless, stressed and didn’t know how to react. After all, he was a 17-year-old boy. He didn’t know what to do,” Terae said.
In the following days, Terae told her basketball team, coach and extended family, whom she describes as “tight knit” and very supportive. She lost her eligibility for the basketball season and signed up for online high school classes.
“I needed to be away from people pointing and staring at me,” she says. “It would be better for my health and the baby. Friends and Mitchell came by to check on me, and I really found out who my real friends were.”
Terae researched the decision that she and Mitchell had to make. Her mom helped her find a St. Cloud Lutheran Social Services pregnancy counselor, Dianne Delaney.
“Dianne was just the best person possible to show me the options and help me make a pros-and-cons list,” Terae says. “She helped me make my own choice.”
Both Terae and Mitchell wanted financial security and stability between parents for their baby.
“I wanted my baby to have a normal life like I did and be able to have hopes and dreams like I did with an intact family,” she says.
Six months into pregnancy, Terae made a decision for open adoption.
“I admire Terae’s strength, maturity and self-confidence,” says Delaney. “She had a surprisingly realistic grasp on the importance of the decision she was making as well as the long-term impact it would have on her child, herself and her family.”
Dianne became a neutral but caring adult presence for Terae and continued to educate, inform and give faith in Terae’s ability to make a good decision. Through open adoption, Dianne explains, the baby will not only know the birth mother but will have her love and support as well. This is one benefit of open adoption over closed adoption.
Terae began researching LSS scrapbooks for potential parents.
“I was very thorough,” she says, “And then I found it. ‘Country life, big yard, one adoptive daughter.’ It was perfect. Diane called the couple, and we had a match.”
The first meeting with the adoptive parents was nerve wracking for Terae and Mitchell. They essentially made a contract and set guidelines and boundaries for when they could see the baby.
“As time went on, they became my second family,” Terae says.
The first two days were rough for Terae as she requested those days to be alone with baby Ryan.
“When I saw him physically, I lost it and needed time to rethink my decision,” she says. “But I kept thinking of Ryan first and what we wanted for his life. I was able to relax with him, talk to him and share my feelings and dreams for him.”
At Ryan’s transfer to the adoptive parents, Terae says she nearly dropped to her knees in sadness.
“Watching your child go off with someone else is not easy,” she says. “A part of me went away as well, but I was confident in my decision because there will be a lot of people who love Ryan.”
Terae took the summer to work, reconnect with friends and regroup her life. She mustered her courage to walk back into school, and was pleasantly surprised how many people supported her, were proud of her and wanted to see pictures of Ryan.
“They made me feel welcome,” she says. “I became closer to faculty and felt like I had matured beyond my years compared to other students my age.”
SHARING THE STORY
Terae has begun to take her story on the road and has spoken to high schools, middle schools, nurses who may care for a patient who has made an adoption decision, and prospective adoptive parents. She hopes to speak with more groups because she “loves helping people out, giving them pros and cons and advice for their lives.
“Some adoptive parents have told her that she had a profound impact on the way they view the relationship with the birth mom,” says Terae’s dad, Brett. “We do not know whom she will touch, whom God needs to reach through her, but we are certain Terae is making a difference.”
Today Terae and her parents see Ryan often, sometimes babysitting him on weekends.
Brett and Kristi agree that open adoption has been a journey of grief and a journey of great joy.
“Our daughter has shown amazing love for a child,” Kristi says. “She is brave and strong. The adoptive parents have shown amazing trust to invite our family to be part of theirs.”
Merrie Sue Holtan is a regular contributor to SheSays. She lives near Perham, Minn., and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.