In the movie "Juno," a pregnant Ellen Page makes the brave decision to have her baby and give it to a woman unable to have children of her own. While such a sympathetic act makes for good cinema, it doesn't happen that often. A government survey found that just one percent of unmarried American women put their babies up for adoption, throwing those hoping to adopt into the extremely competitive private adoption market.
So what would you do if you saw a scenario in which a pregnant girl, in the final weeks of her pregnancy, told the couple expecting to adopt her baby that she had had a change of heart? With whom would your sympathies lie?
We set the stage at the City Limits Diner in White Plains, N.Y., where our pregnant teenager, Shannon, told our acting adoptive couple, Traci and Glenn, that in spite of their continued financial and emotional support, she had changed her mind.
"I have some bad news for you," she began. "It's my baby, and I'm keeping it."
"Do you have any idea what you are doing to us?" said Glen.
"You promised us -- you can't take him away!" cried Traci.
Diners at nearby tables looked around nervously as the scene played out. As Glenn and Traci stormed out, leaving Shannon slumped over and hysterical, Dina Schilsky came over from her table to comfort her.
"I feel bad, but I don't know what else I was supposed to do," sobbed Shannon. "I really want to keep the baby."
"You made this decision, right? You want to stick to your decision, and these things happen. You just gotta relax," said Schilsky.
As we told Dina she was part of a "What Would You Do?" scenario, emotions in the room stayed high.
"How do you leave a pregnant woman visually upset, verbally abused, shaken like that? So I just did what I thought was right," said Schilsky. "Being a mother of two children, you know what's right. And I said to her, 'If you're 100 percent in your heart and you know you need to keep this baby, then that's what you do.' And I'm sorry for the poor couple, but that was her decision. And if she made the wrong decision and gave up that baby, she would regret it for the rest of her life."
Women Drawn to Our Devastated Mother
We ran our scenario again, this time wondering how people might react to Traci, our devastated adoptive mother, after the pregnant Shannon stormed out.
"I have been wanting a baby for so long, you can't do this to me. It's my baby; you promised me my baby. You can't do this to me!" cried Traci.
The sympathy in the room was palpable. Two women from different tables, Claudine St. Juste and Alice Pala-Englert, came to comfort our actress, left alone at her table after Glenn and Shannon stepped out. They embraced Traci, telling her not to lose hope in her search for a baby.
"She looks young; she may just be scared. Just give her some time -- she may change her mind," said St. Juste.
"She's just going through those hormonal imbalances. She'll come around," said Pala-Englert.
It was a remarkably tender scene as these two women, who rose seemingly at the same moment, comforted Traci. Pala-Englert even led St. Juste and our actress in a prayer. Not even the appearance of our cameras stopped the outpouring of support and emotion for Traci.
"Mothers are never strangers to each other," said Pala-Englert, "because we feel the pain of each other."