BY TANYA ROBINSON It was on November 12, 1992, that I signed the papers. I asked myself for almost a year if giving him up would be the right thing to do. I had been hearing so many reasons that adoption is best. I remember the smell of John’s skin. His cheeks were soft and round. His hands small and trusting; I picked him up and placed him on my lap one more time just to inhale the scent of my son. At 17 I did not know who I was, let alone how to choose to keep John or give him to another family. I had to get to a point where I could tell myself why I should make the choice of adoption.

It’s not to say that someone as young as I was couldn’t raise a child, but how would I do it? I wanted the best for my child. There were those who thought that being pregnant at 16 eliminated most if not all of my ability to think responsibly. I understood that being pregnant so young added tenfold to the issues that I faced as a teen. I understood that by choosing to carry my baby to full term I had become a part of the statistic in my community. I understood that by choosing adoption I would, in my very own community, be seen as stupid, brainwashed or even a traitor. I understood that if I wanted to change the outcome of not only my life, but the life of my baby, I had to free him.

Unplanned pregnancies happen every year. A lot of them happen to teenage girls. Parenting starts at the time the pregnancy is confirmed. One of the greatest gifts that we can give our children sometimes leaves us momentarily breathless. It was at 17 that I felt breathless. I had to choose between what my family thought was right and what I knew was right for my child and me. Right up until the moment I signed those documents it was as if a ping-pong match was going on between my family’s opinions and the type of future that I wanted for my child.

I was wearing a plaid pleated skirt with a holiday green sweater. I remember being super nervous that day. “Am I doing the right thing?” I asked myself once again as I looked into John’s eyes. Then I had a thought. John trusts me to be the best mother that I can be right now in this moment. Following that thought, I did what I had done in choosing to carry him in my belly for nine months — I supported John. I let him go, so that he might choose a life that superseded any life that I, at 17, could help him have. Adoption wasn’t the only option; adoption was the best option.

Mothers, this is the day that has been designated for us to celebrate sacrifices that we have made for our children and our families. The Florence Crittenton Program has been helping young mothers for many years, and it helped me when I was 16. Many of the young mothers who enter the Florence Crittenton Program need assistance with medical care, counseling, and training to improve their life skills. Please show your support for the tireless efforts given by the ladies and gentlemen of this organization. You can honor the women in your life by adopting a mom at Florence Crittenton. Where to start? Share what you know about Florence Crittenton Programs. For more information visit our website, www.florencecrittentonsc.org.

Contribute your time. If you own a business you are in the perfect position to create internships and help these ladies build life skills. Become a mentor, share your life experiences. You never know when your words will inspire.

Tanya Robinson is a writer and former Florence Crittenton client.