March 22, 1998 in Idaho

Struggling Mom Picks Adoption In Love Dilemma

By The Spokesman-Review

Melinda LaPrath nurtured her twin babies inside her, then pushed them into the world. She named and fed them and ran her fingers through their fine, dark hair.

Then she said goodbye to them.

“I think they’ll understand I loved them,” she says softly. “I know I made the right choice.”

Melinda chose adoption, not easily or quickly, but without regrets.

“People said they didn’t think I could go through with it,” she says. “I had to shut everyone out and look at all the angles and ask God for help.”

She’s often asked how she could give away her children.

“How could I not?” she says. “I wanted the best for them.”

Melinda was no wide-eyed teenager when she found out she was pregnant in 1995. She was a 25-year-old single mother with a 3-year-old daughter.

Men confounded her. She didn’t expect to attract them because she’s plainly overweight. She never considered her 1940’s starlet face or her bewitching voice alluring. When a man noticed her, she hung on.

“You never know if there’s going to be another one,” she says.

Her first pregnancy was unexpected. The father wasn’t interested. Melinda considered abortion but couldn’t follow through.

She was working at a convenience store to support herself and her daughter three years later when friends fixed her up with a teacher. He was smart, handsome and a bit of a risk-taker. Melinda fell hard.

Her pregnancy scared him away, except for tense meetings periodically, and she didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t face an abortion. But her wages couldn’t support three. And her trailer was tiny.

Then, the store laid her off and doctors discovered she was carrying twins. She hadn’t told her parents she was pregnant, but her mother guessed and mentioned adoption.

Melinda hadn’t considered such an option.

“I figured you never know when someone else is raising your child what kind of family it might be,” she says.

Her aunt knew people in New York who wanted to adopt through a lawyer. They looked good on paper but were so far away and wanted no interaction with Melinda. She couldn’t do it.

Her nurse midwife hooked her up with a counselor from Lutheran Social Services, a nonprofit organization that handles the majority of newborn adoptions in North Idaho. The babies’ father encouraged her.

“I was iffy,” Melinda says. “How often do you have twins? That’s special, and it was a boy and a girl. I really wanted to keep these babies.”

When she was seven months pregnant, Melinda agreed to meet a couple on Lutheran Social Service’s waiting list. They were in their late 30s, had adopted a baby girl, lived on an Eastern Washington farm and had a large extended family that enjoys recreational camping.

“That’s what I wanted - a family,” Melinda says. “It was totally opposite of what I had growing up.”

The mother was neat and articulate, the father quiet. Both were well-educated. They doted on their adopted daughter and asked Melinda why she was considering adoption.

She told them she didn’t want her children to struggle through childhood. Her daughter would live better without two more people in the house. The babies would live better with people with more resources.

Melinda liked the couple. She didn’t want to lose contact with her children and the couple wanted her involved in her twins’ lives.

Most birth parents want some degree of openness in an adoption, says Donna Euler, who supervises adoptions for Lutheran Social Services. Openness can range from picking the adoptive parents to visiting the children as they grow.

It’s dispelled much of the traditional distrust between birth and adopting parents, Donna says.

For six weeks, Melinda’s instinct battled with her conscience. The twins’ birth in June 1996 complicated the decision. Guided by an inner voice, Melinda placed her babies in a temporary foster home while she debated their future.

“The hardest day is the day you wake up and you’re not pregnant anymore and the babies aren’t there,” Melinda says, trying to suppress the tears flooding her green eyes.

She visited them every day, sometimes with her mother and sometimes with her daughter. Her daughter said the babies could live in her car seat. Melinda bought them clothes and took them home with her one day.

They needed every second of her attention. She knew she’d have to go on welfare to raise them and didn’t want to condemn herself or her children to a life of poverty. She called Lutheran Social Services and told them to call the Eastern Washington couple immediately.

Since the adoption, Melinda and the adopted family have traded letters and pictures regularly. Melinda has visited her twins three times. She has videos of the babies’ first steps, words, birthdays.

Melinda returned to school and found a good job as a receptionist for a Coeur d’Alene plumbing business. She misses her babies and still talks with her counselor at Lutheran Social Services when she needs her.

But she wouldn’t change her decision.

“My children will grow up knowing I’m their birth mom,” Melinda says. “Adoption has changed so much from what it used to be. I’ll never regret what I did.”

, DataTimes MEMO: For information on adoption, call Lutheran Social Services at 667-1898.

For information on adoption, call Lutheran Social Services at 667-1898.

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