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Single mother knew ‘life was the choice’

Whitney McCluskey, center holding photograph, chose an open adoption for her baby Josiah. With her are, from right, adoptive parents Mike and Tabitha, Whitney's grandmother Barbara Dyer, Whitney's stepfather Keith, Whitney's older son Ashton, Whitney's mother Denise, and Whitney's "spiritual mother" Dawn Adkins.

GEORGETOWN, Texas (BP) – Abortion was never an option for Whitney McCluskey.

After earning a master’s degree in biblical counseling during her fourth stay in a residential Christian drug treatment facility, she was sober.

She was telling others of the Lord’s goodness and teaching her then 13-year-old son Ashton abstinence before marriage while attending Eden Westside Baptist Church in Pell City, Ala.

Ashton Teague holds his younger brother Josiah.

“I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. Doing what I had prayed for. I was helping women get their children back who had lost them from a drug addiction. And so I was doing everything I wanted,” 35-year-old McCluskey told Baptist Press. “Then one night, out of the blue, I called an ex and well, ended up pregnant.

“I was so depressed when I found out, because I felt I had let so many people down. Here I am. I’m sober. I’m sharing my testimony. I’m living for God. And then I make one mistake,” McClusky said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a mistake now, because obviously we got Josiah out of it and I wouldn’t change anything for the world. But the way I was thinking in that moment was I messed up.”

McCluskey’s dilemma was whether to become the single mother of two sons, or whether to choose adoption for her unborn son. She wavered nearly until Josiah was born on Jan. 12, 2022.

“Honestly, I did not make the final decision until I was nine months pregnant and I was going into the hospital the very next week to give birth. It was up ‘til the very end. I was back and forth my entire pregnancy.”

Everyone close to McCluskey seemed to have an opinion of what was best.

“You want to keep your child; you’re gonna regret this; you’re gonna do this…”

McCluskey reached out to a friend she considers her spiritual mother, a counselor who had helped her through drug addiction treatment at Radical Restoration Ministries Texas in Georgetown.

She moved to Texas for clarity and to escape what she felt was incessant judgment and input from those around her.

“Everybody thought I was crazy. I quit my job at seven months pregnant and moved to Texas. No idea what I’m going to do. And so really, the whole experience was stressful. It was very stressful.”

Adoptive mother Tabitha, second from right, prays with her husband Mike, Whitney, baby Josiah and Whitney’s son Ashton.

McCluskey chose to place her newborn in adoption through Lifeline Children’s Services, a Christian adoption and foster care agency with a legacy of protecting life in the U.S. and internationally.

McCluskey sees God’s hand in her choice of the adoptive parents, Mike and Tabitha. Usually, Lifeline chooses the adoptive family.

“It was funny because when I first started looking at Lifeline and looking at families, I saw this one family and I said, ‘If I choose to adopt, this is who I’m going to go with,’” McCluskey said. “Nine months later, not knowing they were still going to be available, they were. The way God just worked it all out, it was all in His hands. The whole thing was just God.”

McCluskey met God early in life, despite a tumultuous youth.

She began using drugs at age 14, she said, and would attend church while high on drugs.

“My drug of choice was everything. The older I got, the worse the drug got,” she said. “Towards the end of my addiction was meth and heroine, and I was on the needle. That was towards the end. It got to that point.”

Now sober, she has her own apartment, attends church while seeking a church to join, tithes and pays her household bills. Successful sobriety came during her fourth enrollment in drug treatment. She tells of an encounter at the altar before God.

“I remember telling God I’m tired of looking left and right. I’m tired of seeking validation from drugs, and from men, and from everything but You,” McCluskey recalled. “I knew that people could be set free because I’d seen it around me. I knew people could do it but it hadn’t happened for me. And so I was mad. I was angry. Why hadn’t this happened for me?

“Why hadn’t I been set free?

“That’s when God, He spoke to me, and He said, ‘Whitney you are so beautiful, and I have always been in pursuit of your heart.’ And I put my hands over my heart and I felt these vibrations. And I said God what are you doing? And He said I’m mending your broken heart and I’m making you whole again. I just knew that I felt loved, and I felt special and I felt, I just felt different. It was that one moment that changed everything for me.”

Disturbing to McCluskey is the assumption that abortion was an option as she faced her unplanned pregnancy.

Whitney McCluskey, left, with her son Josiah and Josiah’s adoptive parents Mike and Tabitha. McCluskey is holding a photograph of Mike and Tabitha with their three daughters.

“Abortion was never an option for me,” she said. “I don’t really believe in abortion. I would have regretted that decision so much more. So I think that bothers me, that people automatically assume that that was my other option. The alternative was me keeping him.

“No matter what decision I made, life was the choice.”

The open adoption has allowed members of both families to bond with Josiah. McCluskey held a Zoom meeting with the adoptive parents just over a week before delivering Josiah, whom the adoptive parents named.

“I told them my story and said I’m giving birth next Tuesday. Can you come to Texas? It was very quick for them.”

McCluskey spent three days with Josiah before Mike and Tabitha took the baby home.

“I wanted to spend as much time with my son as possible. I feel like if I didn’t get to spend those three days bonding with my son, I would have regretted it.

“I’m in the hospital. I give birth to him. It was great. Day one was great. Day two was a little bit harder. I remember the next day, the third day, that was the hardest day,” she said through tears, “because I only had so long left. That was the hardest.”

McCluskey grieved the parting, but knew it was best for Josiah.

“I knew this was exactly what God wanted for us,” she said. “I remember the day that God finally gave me peace with my decision. I was in the shower because that’s where God speaks to me a lot of times, and I just had one of those really good, ugly cries. And God finally just gave me peace. It’s going to be OK.”

McCluskey placed Josiah in Tabitha’s arms on adoption day. They took pictures. They prayed. Tears soften McCluskey’s voice as she discusses the exchange today.

“I remember before they left, Mike looked at me and said, ‘This is not goodbye. This is see you later.”

The extended families met shortly after the adoption, allowing Ashton to meet his brother, McCluskey’s parents and close friends to meet Josiah, and Mike and Tabitha’s three daughters to meet their adoptive brother’s birth family.

While it’s an open adoption, the adoptive parents are under no obligation to continue the open aspect, McCluskey said.

She’s seen Josiah twice since Mike and Tabitha took him home. Monthly, the adoptive parents email photos of Josiah to McCluskey, and have exchanged phone numbers. McCluskey and Ashton Facetimed to sing Happy Birthday to Josiah on his first birthday.

“Me and my oldest son called and sang Happy Birthday. It was amazing,” McCluskey said. “We’re just one big happy family. All of us together are family.”