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It’s a scenario probably every parent of a teen has thought about at some point: What do you do if your child comes to you with news of an unplanned pregnancy?
One couple, Chris and Linda Padgett, faced this situation a few years back. And they responded in the best way possible: with wisdom, grace, and unconditional love.
Chris and Linda were high school sweethearts who are now the parents of nine children. They have their own homestead in central New York, and you can follow along with their adventures on their YouTube channel, Happy Place Homestead.
The story of their daughter Sarah and her unplanned pregnancy appears on their channel in Episode 7: “Sarah’s Story.” At the time it was filmed in 2019, Chris and Linda’s nine children ranged in age from 26 to 7.
“Sarah’s our second oldest and she lives right across the road from us in the tiny house, and that’s been pretty awesome for us,” Chris says in the episode. “Every day we get to hang out with little Audrey.”
Audrey is Sarah’s daughter and the Padgetts’ precious granddaughter. She adds so much joy and light to their lives, but her arrival was initially quite a surprise.
Sarah had recently graduated from high school and was in her freshman year of college when she unexpectedly became pregnant at 18 years old.
When she saw the positive pregnancy test, she said, one of her first thoughts was, “How am I going to tell my parents?”
“I felt guilty and sad for them to have to hear this news,” she said. But her parents were “instantly encouraging” and she said, “I’ve always been grateful for that support.”
Linda recalled, “Chris said, ‘The way we respond to Sarah right now in her greatest moment of need is what she’s going to remember for the rest of her life.’”
Chris described his reaction after Sarah told her parents: “Sarah came up to me and I gave her a big hug and I said, ‘Praise God for this baby. I’m so grateful for this child. I said, ‘Your timing is horrible, but praise God for this baby.’”
Sarah recalled, “Right when he walked through the door, he just ran over to me and hugged me and said, ‘You know, I don’t know what your next step is or what you’re going to choose to do with this baby, but I’d love to be a grandpa.’”
Chris’s fatherly instincts were spot on. Her parents’ reaction in that moment stayed with Sarah and ultimately changed her life and the life of her unborn daughter.
Aleteia had the chance to catch up with Sarah last week. Little Audrey is 7 years old now. But Sarah still remembers that moment of telling her parents with crystal clarity.
“My parent’s reaction is something that feels like it was just yesterday,” she said. “It’s a feeling and a moment that’s stuck with me to this day.”
“I instantly felt a weight get lifted and like I was going to be okay, no matter what was going to happen next,” she said. “I recognize parents need to deal with their own reactions and emotions to this news, but to put that aside and embrace their scared child makes all the difference. Dealing with the details later can still be addressed but that initial response is what will forever stick.”
As the years have gone by, she’s realized even more how much her parents’ reaction impacted the decisions she made after that. “I’ve had many friends, or people I know, who didn’t have this kind of response,” she said.
“One of my best friends found herself in an unplanned pregnancy a couple years ago, and although she was now an adult with a job, her mother’s disappointment and opinion on her getting an abortion, because she wouldn’t help her, led her to get an abortion. No matter what age or circumstance, young, scared girls want their parents’ approval and support. When that’s given, it can be life changing. If not, then it can be detrimental for everyone.”
Time has further shown the wisdom of Chris and Linda’s response. Their support helped Sarah to raise her daughter alone for a time, and as the years have passed, their relationship has remained strong.
You really see what a person is made of when they face a crisis, such as an unplanned pregnancy. It’s precisely in those difficult moments that a parent is called to love their children like God loves us.
“You can have an idealized version of what your marriage is going to look like, what your kids are going to look like, but the reality of that—that’s where you need to be a mom and a dad, that’s where you really need to be a husband and a wife,” Chris said. “In that difficulty, in that struggle, that’s when you need to step up to the call that you have as a parent.”
“I felt like in that moment for us, as parents, we really needed to love our daughter who is facing the most monumental thing in her life,” he said.
Best of all, their family was blessed with a precious granddaughter to love. “What has been the ultimate gift for us is just recognizing how we as a family needed Audrey, and how she was going to teach us what it looked like to love authentically,” Chris said.
Sarah added, “She’s been nothing but a blessing in my life… When I see Audrey, I see God.”
Sarah went on to earn her nursing degree and work as a nurse. She is now married and has had another baby. Through it all, her parents’ loving response helped her find the strength to do the hard but incredible things she has accomplished.
“I’m very proud of Sarah,” her dad said.