What you need

When Josie was in high school, she used the birth control pill as contraception. She’d heard hormonal birth control was more reliable than barrier methods – and her boyfriend at the time didn’t like using condoms anyway. She knew there was a margin of error with the pill’s effectiveness – that it’s “99% effective at preventing pregnancy,” but she didn’t think much of it and assumed it was probably just human error. She took her pill at the same time every single day without fail – she was very serious about pregnancy prevention; she knew she wasn’t ready to have a baby, she knew it would upset her parents if she got pregnant, and she knew she absolutely did not want to raise a child with her then-boyfriend. 

“I tried to break up with him once,” Josie said. “He threatened to kill me if I left. And he used to beat me up, so I believed him.”

The first time Josie remembers feeling sick, she was seventeen, walking around the mall with a friend. With no warning, she was hit with an overpowering wave of nausea. Her vision blurred, she saw spots. She sat down on a bench and took deep breaths while she waited for the nausea to recede. After a short rest, she felt better, and she didn’t think much of the incident until the next time she felt it. Her and her sister lived with their dad at the time, and one night, while the three of them were having dinner at his girlfriend’s house, Josie felt the same wave of sickness. She left her dad in the dining room and went to the kitchen to ask his girlfriend for a cold washcloth – her skin felt hot and flushed. She described her symptoms, she had no idea what was happening.

“[My dad’s girlfriend] was like, ‘I think you might be pregnant,’” Josie said. “I was like, ‘What? There’s no way.’ She was like, “I think you are.” 

That night, Josie drove with her sister to the drugstore to buy an at-home pregnancy test, which she took as soon as she got home. Sure enough, it came back positive. Her biggest concern, at first, was how she could tell her dad. She thought he would freak out – especially because he hated her boyfriend. For a few days, she put it off. In the meantime, she confided in her boyfriend. 

“As soon as he found out I was pregnant, he moved away to the city,” Josie said. “I might have never broken up with him, but he left me. And I only heard from him a couple times after that. But by then I wasn’t afraid of him anymore. I think things really do happen the way they’re supposed to.”

When she did eventually tell her dad, he didn’t freak out. He took about two weeks to process, and when he finally came around, he was ready to talk about a game plan. Josie had three options: she could keep the baby, give the baby up for adoption, or have an abortion. In her heart, she knew the right thing for her to do was to keep the baby. 

“I think women should have the option to have an abortion if they want one,” Josie said. “But I didn’t want one, I could never choose that for myself.”

She did look into adoption to appease her parents. Her mom begged her to give the baby up. But Josie knew that wasn’t the right decision for her, either. She’d always loved kids, she’d worked as a babysitter and got so much joy just from being around children. She knew she couldn’t carry a baby to term just to give it away. 

Josie gave birth to her son, Carter, a month after she turned eighteen. She had been due the day of her high school graduation, but luckily he was two weeks late, and at nine months pregnant, Josie walked across the stage to receive her diploma. Today, Carter is 24 years old, and he is Josie’s only child. After she finished college in her mid-twenties, she married her now-husband. For a while, she used depo provera shots for birth control, but when she suddenly began suffering from ovarian cysts, she discontinued use. In her early thirties, Josie and her husband tried for three years to get pregnant, but never did. She suspects the ovarian cysts she had as a side effect of the depo provera shots may have impacted her ability to conceive, but she never looked into it.

“Maybe high school was the only time in my life I could have had a child,” Josie said. “Maybe that’s why it happened. The universe gives you what you need. When my son was eighteen I couldn’t imagine him having a baby. I was just a kid, but I did it. And I did it without ever going on welfare. I just worked my butt off. I don’t regret anything.”

Interview conducted October 19, 2022 in person.