Mom chose adoption for her baby’s sake

When faced with an unplanned pregnancy, some women choose to abort, some to raise their child, others to place their child through adoption.

This is the story of one young woman who faced that decision:

“I found out after my first week in college I was pregnant,” said Sara Imker, then 18 and attending Minnesota State-Mankato.

“I was really afraid,” she said. “Crying, really afraid; not how I’d seen that part of my life happening. I wanted to finish college and have a career.”

Imker knew she had a choice, at least theoretically.

“I never considered abortion; not an option for me,” she said. “I decided I couldn’t go through with abortion, medically or morally.”

Imker got a lot of advice. She sought counseling from the college, and talked to family and friends.

“A lot of mixed signals from people in my life,” she acknowledged.

“A lot of my family thought differently about what I should do,” said Imker, noting that all the viewpoints were “very confusing.

“One person was very pro-abortion” and when Imker let it be known she didn’t want to have one, “they didn’t talk to me for two months.”

She got advice from friends who had faced the situation themselves.

“My friends who were single parents urged me to parent, mostly because of assistance from the state and county,” Imker said.

“That bothered me on a personal level,” she said. “You should show your children how to be strong and independent. I didn’t want to show a child you can depend on others to take care of you.”

Complicating the situation more was the fact she was in a relationship she describes as unhealthy.

“He wasn’t happy about it,” she said of her boyfriend’s reaction to the pregnancy. “When I realized he wasn’t going to be around, I thought I’d be superwoman and do it all by myself.

“I’d never considered adoption as an option,” Imker said. “I thought [adoption] was for others who couldn’t take care of themselves, suffering from addiction.

“[The adoption option is] not brought up a lot,” she said, adding that what everyone wants to know is, “‘Are you pro-choice or pro-life? Are you going to have an abortion or parent?'”

She thought she had made up her mind to parent her baby, until a chance encounter.

“The birth father and I had a mutual friend who talked to us about meeting with his sister and her husband, who were having infertility issues,” Imker said.

“I was really hesitant about it,” she said. “I agreed to meet them to appease the birth dad.”

She and her child’s father went out to dinner with the couple, whom Imker identifies only as “Kelly and Chris.”

“They talked about their marriage and relationship and fertility issues,” Imker said.

“After I met them, that’s when I changed my mind,” she said. “They were financially and emotionally more prepared for parenthood than I was. A home, careers, all those kinds of things I didn’t have.”

Her child’s father was in favor of the adoption, but Imker needed peace in her own mind. She wanted to be sure of her decision, that no one had pressured her into it.

“I wanted to know that I’d made that choice so I didn’t regret it,” Imker said. “If you end up in not a very good place, you end up resentful to the other person.”

She considered her options, including having a grandparent raise the child until she was done with school. She stayed in touch with Kelly and Chris, and talked to Marlys Ubben, executive director at New Horizons Adoption Agency in Blue Earth.

“Best thing about Marlys: she and I sat down and made lists of pros and cons of me parenting versus Kelly and Chris parenting,” Imker said. “You just know what’s the best choice for your child.

“They were such wonderful people, had a wonderful marriage,” Imker said. “If anyone deserved to be a parent, it was them.

“I made the official decision about a month after meeting Kelly and Chris,” Imker said.

Imker included the couple as much as she could in her pregnancy, which was in the early second trimester.

“I wanted Kelly to be as much a part as she could because she would never experience it personally,” Imker said.

While Imker was certain of her decision, it was almost taken out of her hands. At five months along, she says she was pushed on purpose while in the school dorms. She went to the emergency room for cramping and found that her placenta was partially torn from the uterus.

“I thought I’d miscarry,” she said. “I’d already told them and I felt so guilty.”

Two weeks of bed rest took care of the tear and she had no problems for the rest of her pregnancy.

Legal paperwork was filled out at New Horizons, with an open adoption and liberal visitation.

Imker gave birth to a girl who was adopted by Kelly and Chris.

“I’ve never regretted it, not for one second,” Imker said more than six years later. “Every visit, it reinforces the good choice I made for her.”

Imker can’t help but think what might have been.

“Obviously, I miss her,” Imker said, admitting she does cry sometimes. “I’ll suffer and I’ll grieve, but it’s for her. That’s what being a good parent is. You sacrifice everything to give them what they deserve.

“If I had parented her I know where we’d be,” said Imker, seeing a bleak life in income-based housing and working a low-income job. “It’s hard to support myself. All those things cost so much money.

“I could have loved her enough, but love doesn’t raise babies, love doesn’t buy clothes and diapers,” Imker said. “She deserved more that just love, she deserved stability and comfort.

Imker also got someone to look up to.

“Kelly is like an extra sister,” Imker said. “If something good happens to me, I call her and we talk about it. Wonderful, close relationship. It’s not just about the adoption anymore. We’ve grown into a family.”

Imker plans to keep them a part of her future family, as well, when she gets married and has other children.

Imker says she believes in honesty, even though it costs her.

“Actually, I tell people very openly about my situation,” she said. “I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of.”

This leaves her open to comments from people who have told her,?”You gave your baby away.”

“I gave her a family,” Imker insists.

Imker said the reaction from her family varies from person to person.

“Some family are uncomfortable with it,” she said, noting that others go with her on visits.

Imker hopes her openness will cause others to think.

“I’d love to talk to the health class,” Imker said. “Talk to these young girls; this is what parenting is. There are some things you can’t do by yourself. Parenting a baby is not something you can do well by yourself.

“Young women should consider adoption,” she said. “It’s not like it used to be. More options for young women, you can give your children so much more.”

For more information about adoption, call New Horizons Adoption Agency at (507) 526-3518; the New Horizons’ birthparent hotline at (800) 314-3370, or e-mail online