Frequently the first thing someone asks when they approach us about Baby Steps is, "How did you come up with the idea?" Baby Steps isn't so much of an idea as it is a calling in light of an experience that Matt and I had together 30 years ago.
It was my (Michelle) junior year at Auburn University, and Matt was already working, when we found ourselves in an unplanned pregnancy. In a moment of uncertainty and fear that "my world had ended" I chose to terminate my pregnancy. I thought there was no way I could be pregnant and finish school. I was convinced that if I told my parents I was pregnant, they would never forgive me. I even felt that Matt didn’t have a voice in the decision. All I could see at the time was how easy it seemed to walk into a clinic and move on to continue my degree and our plans for the future. I had no idea the magnitude of that decision and how it would leave lifelong scars on my husband, our marriage, our children, and me.
Before those scars could heal, I spent years numbing the pain of a large, open wound. In hindsight I can see how so many of my unhealthy behaviors during this time were a product of that decision. After experiencing for ourselves the power and freedom that comes from bringing things to the light, Matt and I began sharing our story with high school and college students nineteen years ago. Our hope was to help young people understand the depths of making such a decision. This opened the door of opportunity for students and their friends to feel free to come to us in times of crises. We were able to guide those who made similar decisions as our own to find the healing they so longed to experience. On top of this, we began recognizing an overlooked, isolated population of people in desperate need of support. There was a need to help college women in unplanned pregnancies that wasn't being met at Auburn University or on other campuses around the country. Thus, in 2013 the vision of Baby Steps was born. Matt and I realized we needed do whatever we could to prevent others from experiencing the pain and suffering we experienced. We wanted to allow women the freedom to come as they are, even in the midst of the great unknown. We wanted to help combat the lie that it isn't possible to have both your education and your baby.
Our first of many affirmations that Baby Steps was needed at Auburn was when I met Kaitlyn Willing in the spring of 2013. In a moment of doubt that Baby Steps was really what we were being called to do, she dropped into my lap. In August of 2011 as a junior at Auburn University, Kaitlyn discovered that she was pregnant. She shared the same fear I had experienced almost thirty years ago - the fear that her life was over. The difference was that she understood the weight of the decisions in front of her. Thankfully, Kaitlyn reached out for support and was given resources to see her options more clearly than I had been able to: she could keep her child, place her child up for adoption, or terminate her pregnancy. When Kaitlyn made the decision to continue with her pregnancy and parent her baby, all financial and emotional support were cut off by her family. Despite all odds, she not only continued and finished her education at Auburn, she also built a beautiful life and family. Although Kaitlyn courageously made it through, looking back she says, "I couldn't think of anything else I could've possibly needed or wanted more than Baby Steps."
Hearing Kaitlyn's story further convinced Matt and me of the need for Baby Steps. Although very different, Kaitlyn's journey and ours were and continue to be the inspiration that fuels our desire to create a place where young women can thrive, having their education AND their baby.