By Debbie Grayson, Bellevue Leader Staff Writer. Photo by Bob Bailie, Bellevue Leader Staff Photographer. Reprinted with permission of the Bellevue Leader (NE) Newspaper.

Usually, l6-year-old girls are faced with decisions as to which jeans to wear with which crop-top, how to ask dad for the car, or whether or not they should cut their hair.

About two years ago, Tracy Rose faced a much more difficult decision. It was a decision that would affect her the rest of her life.

Rose was an active 16-year-old, busy playing volleyball and soccer, dating, working hard to maintain her honor roll status at school, attending dance classes and putting in nearly 30 hours a week at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken in Grand Island.

The youngest of five children, there was a healthy academic competition between Rose and her older siblings, and as she was about to enter high school Rose set her sights on outdoing all of them.

And then she found out she was pregnant.

“I couldn´t believe it. I just couldn´t believe it,” Rose said.

Rose and her boyfriend of two years were in shock and didn´t know which way to turn, and so they denied it – until nature would not allow them to deny it any longer.

Rose said when she was about 23 weeks pregnant she considered the alternative of abortion. But, she said when she visited an abortion clinic in Bellevue the reality of the situation finally came to life.

“After I heard what they had to say, I knew there was no way I could do that. I knew then it was time to tell my mom and start dealing with this,” Rose said.

Fortunately for Rose, she was met with love and support from her mother.

Rose´s mother had also become pregnant at a young age, and 25 years ago made the decision to give her daughter up for adoption. While adoption became an option for Rose, so did keeping the baby and raising it herself.

“I knew there was no future with the baby´s father, so I had to think about what life would be like for the baby and me on our own,” Rose said.

Rose said she took a parenting class at the local YMCA and even enlisted her boyfriend´s participation. The class included time with Baby Think It Over, a doll programmed by the YMCA staff to fuss or sleep at various intervals.

The doll is designed to give prospective parents a glimpse of what life is like with the full-time responsibility of a baby.

“We didn´t do very well,” Rose said. “I didn´t know how to get the doll to stop crying. I tried feeding her and walking around with her and everything.

“She just wouldn´t stop.”

In the meantime, Rose began visiting with the people at Lutheran Family Services.

“They weren´t pushy in any way. They are there to help people like me decide one way or another,” she said.

Rose said Lutheran Family Services also offers parenting classes, but in addition made her sit down and work out a budget, work out a babysitting plan, and take a good look at the time an infant requires.

Knowing she wanted to continue her education, and knowing she would have to keep her job at KFC, Rose said she knew right then she didn´t have the time that a baby deserved.

It was then that Bern and Teresa Krueger entered the picture. Teresa is a stay-at-home mom and Bern is a pilot stationed at Offutt Air Force Base.

Unable to have children of their own, the Kruegers always longed for a big family.

When they were blessed with their adopted son, Caleb, 6 years ago, they knew they had found the answer to their prayers. Thrilled with the joy of parenting, the Kruegers were soon ready to add to their family and enlisted the help of Lutheran Family Services.

They completed the intensive homestudy, the two-day seminars and counseling classes, and created a profile of their family to be placed in a book that would serve as the link between them and any biological parents considering adoption.

The Krueger profile is filled with pictures of holiday family gatherings, grandparents, the Kruegers´ dog, Offutt, smiling big brother Caleb — all nestled in the comforts of a warm, inviting home. As part of the profile both Bern and Teresa added personal letters filled with their hopes and dreams for a family and the love they promised to shower on each and every one of their children.

“When I read their profile, I knew they were the ones,” Rose said.

Contacts were made and soon the Kruegers were preparing their home, and their lives, for a second child.

Katie was born, healthy and beautiful, on Aug. 28, 1999.

As is customary, Rose took the baby home from the hospital for a week´s stay with her before Katie would begin her life with the Kruegers.

“It was a tough time and a very tiring time,” Rose said.

“I knew this was my only time with her so I wanted her to sleep with me,” she said. “But she didn´t sleep very much, and I was pretty tired. My mom helped out a lot and my brothers and sisters were there, too. But I was just so tired, and at the same time I was starting to get attached to the baby.

“So after two days I called the Kruegers.”

Bern and Teresa Krueger were more than happy to pick up their daughter and drove to Grand Island that same day.

Rose brought the baby to the motel the Kruegers were staying at, along with a few clothes and some toys she had bought for her.

“Leaving that motel, driving away, that was probably the hardest thing I´ve ever done in my whole life,” Rose said. “I cried all the way home.”

The Kruegers were crying, too — tears of joy.

“Katie is such a gift to us,” Teresa said. “We can never thank Tracy enough.”

In February, the Kruegers were blessed with a third child through adoption, Melissa.

“Caleb and Katie are so excited about their new baby sister,” Teresa said, “and Bern and I couldn´t be happier.”

Now, a year and a half later, Rose is 17 and although she´s only a sophomore in high school, she´s making plans for college. She hopes to major in sociology and counsel teens who are in a similar situation she was.

“Like Lutheran Family Services did for me,” she said.

For now her counseling is limited to anyone who will listen — friends, classmates, other teens at the YMCA.

“I never hide the fact that I had a baby,” she said. “I know I made the right decision and I want to share what I know and what I´ve been through with other people.”

Rose said she isn´t comfortable with saying she gave her baby up for adoption.

“I didn´t give her away. What I did is give the gift of being parents,” she said.

The open adoption concept appears to be working out very well for Rose and the Kruegers, and most importantly, for Katie.

Rose said she makes nearly monthly visits to Bellevue to see Katie, and the phone lines are always open between the two households.

“The Kruegers are so good to me when I come to see Katie. They let me have my time alone with her and sometimes when I rock her I cry a little bit. Not because I can´t have her with me — I know she´s where she belongs. But because I miss her. I really miss her,” she said.

Rose said, while her time with Katie is limited, she always leaves knowing the baby is happy.

“It´s so cool to see her running around and playing and then, boop! she falls and then gets right back up and keeps running,” Rose said.

Katie´s antics, in a way, mirror Rose´s life. As she was running through life she had a setback. But now, thanks to the option of open adoption, she´s back on her feet — and running.