Making the right choice

| September 11, 2013 | 3 Comments
Natalia Shupe of St. Michael in Prior Lake made the courageous choice of delivering a baby girl in June, then giving her up for adoption. She credits support from her parents and the Lakers 4 Life group at her school.  Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Natalia Shupe of St. Michael in Prior Lake made the courageous choice of delivering a baby girl in June, then giving her up for adoption. She credits support from her parents and the Lakers 4 Life group at her school. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Teen pregnancy brings gift of life to adoptive family

Clearly, Natalia Shupe made a big mistake last fall. Weeks into her senior year at Prior Lake High School, she got the news no teenager wants to hear: She was pregnant.

It couldn’t have come at a worse time. After a rough junior year in which her grades had slipped, she was working to turn her report card around and make the honor roll during her final year.

Now, she was facing a choice thousands of other pregnant teens across the country confront every day — what to do about the child growing inside of her.
In the words of her mother Laura, it came down to this: “Do you make a poor decision worse, or do you make a poor decision life affirming?”

This story has a happy ending. Natalia made the courageous choice to carry her baby to term and give up the infant girl for adoption. The choice was made easier by the fact that she herself is adopted, with the Shupes traveling to her native Peru in 2000 to adopt her and her younger sister Yovana.

Peer support

While Natalia was pregnant, she received lots of support, especially from her parents, Laura and Deacon Russ Shupe, both of whom had to overcome initial shock, anger and disappointment. She fulfilled her goal of making the honor roll and graduating from high school. She was nine months pregnant when she graduated on June 7, and gave birth to her daughter, Ainsley Veronica, two weeks later.

On top of that, she received a much-needed boost from a pro-life club at school that was started by nine girls from her parish, St. Michael in Prior Lake. Shortly after the group formed, riding the momentum of a trip to Washington, D.C., in January for the annual March for Life, youth minister Gina Tupy brought Natalia in front of the group and, in the words of one member, “put a face” on the issue of teenage pregnancy.

“Natalia sat down and talked to the girls and told her story,” said Tupy, who co-leads youth ministry at the parish with Pat Millea. “It was very heartwarming. These girls definitely supported her and sat with her at lunch. If she was having a bad day, she could go to any of them. If anybody was making a negative remark, she definitely could go to them.”

Natalia’s case is somewhat unusual. Often, pregnant teens suffer their fate alone, telling almost no one and often going quietly to an abortion clinic to end their pregnancy. Natalia chose to tell others she was pregnant — starting with a staff member at Pregnancy Choices in Apple Valley, who helped her get an ultrasound right away.

Then, about a month or so later, she told her parents, who pushed aside their negative feelings and embraced their daughter. After that, she told Tupy, and eventually, the girls in the pro-life club at school, Lakers 4 Life.

The end result was loads of support for Natalia, which bolstered her resolve to continue her pregnancy and go through with the adoption. Kristin Wermus, the staff member at Pregnancy Choices who worked with Natalia, said girls who consider adoption often change their minds and keep their babies.
Others, unfortunately, make a very bad choice: abortion.

At first, Natalia’s boyfriend Chris was pressuring her to get an abortion. And, Wermus said, Natalia was tempted to follow his directive because she was concerned about how being pregnant would affect her parents, both of whom work for the Church, her father as a deacon and her mother as director of adult and family ministries at St. Michael.

But, in the end, unlike so many other teen girls, Natalia chose to go against the wishes of her boyfriend, who later changed his mind and stood by her during the pregnancy.

“I knew I couldn’t do it [get an abortion], so we argued for a couple days,” said Shupe, 19. “We went online. I was looking for a place that could do ultrasounds for free to show him that this is a life, this is not just cells. I took him to Pregnancy Choices.”

A hard road

The path in front of her would get rough. On a practical level, there was the fact that her stomach was getting bigger, and it eventually got hard to sit in desks at school that are not at all designed for pregnant students.

But, that wasn’t the worst part. As she began to show, other students and teachers took notice. There were stares, snickers and even bullying. One student made it her mission to torment Natalia whenever she could, sometimes before she even entered the school building. She would stand out in front of the building and wait for Natalia to come, then yell insults to her in front of all students passing by.

That’s where the Lakers 4 Life came in. They rallied to her side and helped her through the nasty episodes.

“I went and sat with her for lunch,” said Alicia Curti, one of the Lakers 4 Life who graduated with Natalia in June. “She was a friend of mine and I knew she needed help. I knew there were some people who were picking on her and giving her a hard time.”

Curti was one of nine girls who helped start the pro-life club. They approached a teacher at the school, Victoria Wright, and got permission to use her classroom for meetings  — she is a St. Michael parishioner.

Natalia’s father is glad the club started when it did, and that all of the girls embraced his daughter.

“I would say that they were God’s special angels for Natalia last year,” Deacon Shupe said. “I can only imagine that being pregnant, unmarried and in high school must feel about the loneliest place to be for a young woman. And to have those friends who seek you out, knowing all about your situation, and include you in their lives, has to provide relief from that feeling of being all on your own.”

Helping others

Today, Natalia is paying it forward. She has joined a pro-life club at the Catholic college she now attends. And, she went on a mission trip in July to Peru to visit St. Michael’s sister parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This parish was the start of her own journey into the Shupe family, as her parents decided to adopt a child from Peru after going on mission trips there.

“Natalia took a maternity dress that she wore for graduation and gave it to a young woman who was 14 and [pregnant],” Laura said. “She shared with her the struggles of being young and pregnant, and wanted to make sure [the pregnant girl] had a dress that was special.”

Pregnancy Choices has asked Natalia to speak at its annual fundraising gala on Sept. 26.

“I think Natalia embodies how this right choice can look,” Wermus said. “I’m so proud of her and her family and her boyfriend for doing the hard thing in a society that really doesn’t honor hard things.”

For more information about the Pregnancy Choices fundraising gala or to register, visit, or call (952) 997-2229.

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