Felonee Joo was 16 when she found out she was pregnant with her son Trinidy in 1999—the first of two challenging pregnancies that would set her on a course to serve other women in similar circumstances.
“I was scared because I was certainly wondering what I was going to do, how I was going to bring this child into the world because I wasn’t working and I was still going to school,” said Joo, now executive director of Hope Pregnancy Center, located in Cape May County, New Jersey. “I knew how upset my parents would be.”
Kicked out of her house and required to switch schools to attend an alternative high school with a daycare on site, Joo moved in with friends.
In the midst of Joo’s struggles, she received support from a pregnancy center in Twin Falls, Idaho, near where she grew up, providing her first experience with the pro-life pregnancy help community. Joo’s best friend who was also pregnant took Joo to the center where Joo received a pregnancy test, options-based counseling, and even a onesie as a baby gift from the center.
“They were nice and supportive and just let me know it was going to be okay,” Joo said.
Then, early in 2000, Trinidy was born premature at 34 weeks. For six weeks, Joo stayed with Trinidy in the NICU from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. He was released on his due date, March 22, 2000.
“It was one of those things where you wonder, ‘Why?’,” Joo said. “And it wasn’t anything God did. It was my own choices that got me to this situation and God used it and let me be a testimony to these young girls at the pregnancy center.”
As it would turn out, Trinidy’s birth was just the beginning of that testimony.
Over 15 years later, Joo was faced with another challenging pregnancy. Now married with five kids, Joo was told her baby Zoie had a trisomy disorder based on fluid around the baby’s neck. The doctors advised Joo to terminate. She declined and got blood work done which determined her child did not have the disorder.
But that wasn’t the end of it.
Doctors next diagnosed Zoie with a fatal heart condition and said that she wouldn’t survive to birth. Then, they suggested Joo’s kidney disease was a reason to abort, predicting that she would only have a 50 percent chance of surviving the pregnancy.
As the diagnoses berated them, Joo and her husband clung to their faith in God.
“When we found out we were pregnant with Zoie, that’s when we knew we just had to put 100 percent of our faith into Him because He was the only person who knew the outcome, regardless of which way it was going to go,” Joo said. “The doctors were only operating basically on their opinion.”
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The decision to continue the pregnancy was enough to worry Joo’s family, who told her it was selfish for her to do so with the odds against her. Joo’s family didn’t understand why she couldn’t just abort her sixth child.
“Ultimately, we had to forgive our family,” Joo said. “They see firsthand our faith and our dedication to the Lord, and I think it’s kind of a testimony for them that you can go see millions and millions of medical doctors and they can give you their opinion, but it ultimately doesn’t really matter and ultimately it really comes down to who’s in control.”
Thankfully, Zoie was born in September 2016 with a clean bill of health—no trisomy disorder, heart problems, or any health issues at all.
(Left) Felonee Joo with Zoie when she was born. | Photos Courtesy: Felonee Joo
“She has none of that, literally nothing, except maybe an attitude here and there,” Joo said.
After all the years between Trinidy’s and Zoie’s births, Joo remained connected to the pregnancy help movement. Her difficult pregnancies had made her all the more linked to their mission.
Some time after Zoie was born, an opportunity to become even more connected opened before her. Last year, Joo was dropping off baby clothes at Hope Pregnancy Center when she learned that there was an opening for the executive director position. She showed the job posting to her husband, who encouraged her to apply based on her testimony. In August 2017, Joo was hired as executive director of Hope Pregnancy Center.
Today, Joo can’t imagine her life without Trinidy, Zoie or any of her children
“It’s a blessing each and every day to be with them,” Joo said. “I feel so much love and support for my family and I couldn’t share that with anybody else.”
LifeNews Note: Jen writes for Heartbeat International and Pregnancy Help News and is a fellow at the Baton Exchange, a Christian leadership development program for millennials. She recently graduated from Cedarville University and grew up in northeast Ohio. File photo.