When Antoinette Garcia walked out of the abortion facility and told her parents that she chose life for her baby, they told her she was on her own.
More than a decade later, despite all the struggles she had to overcome, Garcia said she could not imagine life without her daughter.
In a column this week published at USA TODAY, the New Jersey intensive care nurse encouraged pregnant mothers to recognize that their unborn babies are a gift even in the toughest circumstances.
“My ability to bring new life into the world is a gift that has enriched my life, not limited it. I have been able to achieve everything I always wanted while also having the honor of being a mother,” she said.
Garcia discovered she was pregnant with her daughter the summer that she graduated from high school. While her peers were getting ready for college, she said she was telling her parents about her unplanned pregnancy.
But instead of encouraging and supporting her, Garcia said her parents scheduled an appointment for her at an abortion facility.
“They told me that at such a young age I would never be able to raise a child and that if I followed through with the pregnancy, my life would be over,” she remembered.
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Uncertain about her parents’ advice, Garcia said her doubts were confirmed when an abortion facility staffer performed an ultrasound and she saw her baby for the first time.
“While I was overcome with emotion and fear, I noticed a small flash on the screen out of the corner of my eye. My baby’s heart,” she remembered. “As I turned to face the screen, my baby turned with me and I was able to see her spine. I asked the woman performing the ultrasound what I was seeing and was told that they were ‘just buds.’”
But Garcia knew she really was looking at her daughter. On the ultrasound screen, she saw her baby girl’s tiny arms and legs and beating heart.
“I decided in that moment that I would keep my baby,” she continued.
When she informed her parents, she said they were “deeply disappointed” and told her she would have to raise her baby on her own. Then, she said a friend told her about Choices of the Heart, and the local pregnancy center quickly provided the love and support that she needed.
“I was assured that I was capable of raising a child. I was told that I was strong,” she said.
Garcia gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and, a few years later, went to college. She graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in nursing and now is working on her doctorate.
She also volunteers at the pregnancy center that helped to change her and her daughter’s lives, giving hope to other struggling mothers. She wants women to understand that “keeping my child took nothing away from my value or success in this world.”
Garcia concluded: “I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I had remained on that table in that cold abortion clinic all those years ago. The light in my daughter’s eyes would not fill this world had I believed that she was anything less than the miracle she is — if I had believed that I was any less than the strong, capable woman that I am.”