Brookanne, 15, the darling of a Texas family that includes three older brothers, was just beginning to enjoy her sophomore year in high school when she learned her life was about to change. She was pregnant. "I actually knew the moment it happened. The next day I was nervous thinking about, oh, how am I going to tell my mom?" Brookanne said. "It was a big shock for me."
Many miles away, 18-year-old Erin had just received a financial scholarship for college and was happily anticipating this next milestone when she too discovered she was pregnant. All her plans for her future were dashed.
"I denied it for a little while," said Erin, "And then when I kind of got up the guts, I told mom, 'You might want to sit down.' And I told her [I was pregnant] and she said 'Oh, God.' She was floored."
Decades ago, a hidden population of pregnant girls carried a secret so shameful that their families sent them into exile, far from the whispered suspicions at home. Generations of parents, fearful of the social taboo of illegitimacy, concealed their unwed daughters' pregnancies and sent them to maternity houses across the country to give birth among strangers.
Most of these new mothers would never know anything about what happened to their babies, who raised them, or how. But times have changed. Today most adoptions within the United States today are what are termed "open adoptions." That is, some information is shared between birth mother and the adoptive parents.
It is in this new world that Brookanne and Erin, who asked that their last names be kept private, each found their way to a unique dorm, run by a not-for-profit agency called the Gladney Center for Adoption in Fort Worth, Texas. There, within a close-knit community of other pregnant women, Brooke and Erin would prepare themselves for the life changing events to come: choosing parents to adopt their child, giving birth and then just a few days later, placing their newborns for adoption.
"This will be the hardest thing I've ever done," said Brookanne.
Brookanne recognized early on the difficulties being such a young mother would pose, knowing she would be a child herself bringing a child into the world. "Me and my mother and my father, we all decided trying to raise a baby at fifteen is hard. I'm not ready to be a mother."
Brookanne's mother, Barbara, said her daughter's decision was made with what seemed to be a firm resolve. "Her mind was made up when she told us she wanted to give the baby up for adoption. This was such a big, life-changing decision that it wasn't ours to make. It was ours to support."
For Erin, the discovery of her pregnancy just before starting her first semester at college was further complicated by her family's financial hardships. Erin's parents, Ron and Marie, were bankrupt and had to sell their home. There was no health insurance to help buffer the costs of doctor's visits. But despite this, Marie told her daughter she shouldn't let money troubles stand in the way if she really wanted to keep the baby.
"We would still love you, we would be supportive of you 110 percent," said Marie. After considering her options, Erin decided to place her baby for adoption.
When asked if she considered raising the baby, Erin said "I did a little bit at first, but then the father decided he wasn't going to be a part of it." She said doing it all on her own would have been "almost impossible."