Sarah McCollum didn't plan to become pregnant. And she knew her life would never be the same when she found out she was expecting. As part of our Scholarships for Hope campaign, Sarah shares her story of how her daughter Hope has changed everything for her in some big ways.
Twenty-four years old, working two restaurant jobs, knowing I ultimately wanted to work in the medical field. But in what capacity was my life directing me? Of course, I was in no hurry to really figure all of that out because I had steady income, a variety of friends to hang out with, and no significant worry in my world.
Living my life with no real direction, I spent another night out—hitting a couple of bars, enjoying several drinks, and feeling fearless. I poured my heart out to the guy I was “in love” with, unbeknownst to me at the time, that night, my life would change forever.
A few days later I instinctually felt I was pregnant.
Still living with my mom at the time, I began scrambling. "How do I take a pregnancy test without her finding out?" I thought. My days were spent working double shifts between two restaurants. And there were windows of time that she wasn't at home.
The first pregnancy test I took at home while my mom was at work. I hid them in my nightstand drawer. I took at least one at work. They were all positive.
A coworker told me about the Hope Pregnancy Center not knowing exactly what they had to offer. I took the leap, knowing this could be my only option of confirming what I already knew without anyone else finding out.
It was between shifts. Leaving Boone, headed to work in Blowing Rock, I stopped in and took the free, medical-grade, pregnancy test. I sat there waiting—an absolute nervous wreck, hoping and praying that maybe, just maybe, I had false positives from my “home” tests. Not to be.
April walked in and said “You’re pregnant”.
I burst into tears. I sat there in a daze listening to her read over and flip through pages detailing my options moving forward. I left the Center with an appointment scheduled for a free ultrasound to confirm my pregnancy.
"I knew from the beginning there were only two options for me—keeping my baby or putting my baby up for adoption." —Sarah McCollum
I walked out knowing that there was no way I would be able to pull it together to work that night. I called in and will never forget the words I heard on the other end of the phone after I cried hysterically, “I just found out I’m pregnant.”
I was immediately told, “Okay, you have the night off, but I want you to come straight here! I want to see you. I want to talk to you. I want to know you are okay.” In that very moment my support system began to form around me.
But I knew the next few conversations were going to be some of the most difficult conversations of my life. I knew I had to tell the baby’s father and I had to tell my mom.
I started with my baby’s father. His response was shocking. He asked and told me that I knew I could not have that baby. I had to have an abortion, he said. It was just a bunch of cells anyways, he said. If I had this baby I would ruin his life. I was infuriated. My response was simple, “I will not kill my child for you!”
This conversation began a rollercoaster of tumultuous, as well as a select few joyous, conversations and interactions we would have over the following nine to ten months.
Fortunately, the conversation with my mother was drastically different from the one I had with the father. And honestly it went far better than I ever imagined. My mother was supportive—apart from her initial, split-second, reaction followed by silence—of the journey upon which I was about to embark.
We talked, in detail, about the journey I had been on over the past few days and jumped right into discussing the future of keeping my baby or putting this baby up for adoption.
"I knew deep down that I would not be able to give this baby up for adoption; the bond I would form with this baby would be unbreakable." —Sarah McCollum
A Baby Girl Named Hope
On December 5, 2011, I found out I was expecting a baby girl. I was excited for my life as a mother to a girl, but I was simultaneously scared knowing that the odds were high I would be embarking on the journey of parenthood alone, without my daughter’s father.
The greatest excitement in finding out that I was going to have a baby girl was knowing what her name would be. I say that God named my baby girl. The word hope surrounded me throughout my entire pregnancy.
It began from a bracelet that my mother and I wear engraved with Jeremiah 29:11. It continues with Hope Pregnancy center, a blanket with "Hope" knitted in the center that I saw at her father’s house, and finally in the many prayers that were prayed over me that I would have hope throughout my pregnancy.
My baby girl’s name is Hope.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." —Jeremiah 29:11
The staff at Hope Pregnancy Center continued to walk with me throughout the uncertainties, helping to counsel me through the highs and lows of an unplanned pregnancy. I was given a baby shower by a local church who partnered with the Hope Center. My entire family and circle of friends also embraced my decision to have and raise my baby girl. There were moments in which I thought her father might even decide to be a part of her life.
On April 21, 2012 I finally got to meet Hope. Her father was there every day while we were in the hospital after her birth. I was hopeful for what this meant for our future.
The day after I brought Hope home from the hospital, I quickly ended up back in the labor and delivery unit of the hospital with my baby girl fighting Jaundice. The next day, while still in the hospital with Hope I began to feel sick. Within hours I found myself being admitted to the hospital with what turned out to be an abscess, which formed as a result of my c-section.
When Hope was just seven days old we were still in the hospital; however, now Hope was healthy and I was preparing for surgery. The surgery resulted in having to heal from the inside out with a wound-vac, and home health coming to care for my “wound” three days a week.
It was, in total, a four- to five-month healing process during which I was not allowed to work. I had no income and my mom was working very little because she was helping care for me due to the physical limitations of my recovery as well as helping me care for my newborn daughter.
Hope Pregnancy Center was right beside me, writing a check to cover my rent and utilities for two full months.
"With compassion and grace, Hope's mission is to provide resources that inspire confidence in women to successfully navigate the stressors of unplanned pregnancy." —Molly Petrey, Executive Director of Hope Pregnancy Center
Fighting for Hope
Hope was six weeks old when I had to reach out to her father for help. I didn’t have any money and Hope needed diapers, formula, and bottles. After several hours of pleading with him he showed up, after midnight, with the supplies we needed.
It was the last night that he would hold or have any contact with Hope. I continued to message him sporadically letting him know what Hope was up to, how she was doing, and sending him pictures of her. He never responded.
After Hope turned one, I finally had peace to let it go. I had put up the best fight I could in an attempt to establish a relationship between Hope and her father. He chose not to have a relationship with her
Back to School
I earned a Certified Nursing Assistant license in November 2011 and began working nights, 7pm to 7am. I was eventually able to transition to daytime hours. And yet I knew this was a job that would be difficult to sustain based on my wages and the significant number of hours. I decided it was time to go back to school.
In January 2015 I enrolled at Appalachian State University. During the first couple of semesters I was working, raising my daughter, and going to school full time. I am extremely blessed that my dad supplemented my income so I could significantly cut back my hours. He felt I could not do all I had to do and do any single piece well.
We discussed the cost of my tuition, which he was also paying for at the time, in addition to his financial support for my daily life. I knew Hope Pregnancy Center offered scholarships to student moms. So I applied, interviewed, and was chosen to receive the "Yes She Can" Scholarship. It covered an entire year of school.
I successfully completed that year maintaining the required GPA to continue receiving the scholarship. And I was able to apply again for a second scholarship. I went back to Hope Center for interview and was again chosen to receive the financial aid I needed to cover another year of school. The second scholarship carried me through to the successful completion of my undergraduate degree.
In May 2017 I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science with a minor in Chemistry. Earning this degree opened the door for me to begin applying to Physician Assistant (PA) schools.
A Bright Future with Hope
I am currently working at Boone Dermatology, continuing to learn, increasing my clinical hours, and gaining PA shadowing hours. I am blessed that God has placed me within an office of loving healthcare providers and a family of coworkers that are so incredibly caring and supportive.
I not only look forward to what my future holds as a PA, but also how God will continue to use my future financial gains and accomplishments to support other women, through Hope Pregnancy Center, who walk down the road of unplanned pregnancy and/or single motherhood.
I am beyond grateful for the many ways in which Hope Pregnancy Center has come alongside me through my journey. They have embraced and supported my story every step of the way.
For years, theHeart has supported Hope Pregnancy Center, a local agency that works to empower women in the High Country who experience unplanned pregnancies. Providing a variety of clinical and support services, Hope helps expecting mothers make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy.
Through the Scholarships for Hope campaign, our goal is to raise $10,000 by Sunday Feb. 10. This amount will fund two "Yes She Can" Scholarships that are then awarded to student moms who are determined to continue their education.