TITLE: When Your Teenage Daughter Comes Home Pregnant
By Edwina Cowgill
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When Your Teenage Daughter Comes Home Pregnant
It is not news that any parent ever wants to hear ¡V that their 16 year old daughter is pregnant. And no parent wants to hear it from a third party. But that¡¦s exactly how it happened for me.
It was Monday, the day after my 41st birthday and I arrived at my church where I worked as the business administrator at my usual time. The associate pastor, Janice, came into my office almost before I could sit down, closing the door after her.
¡§Has Lisa* talked with you today?¡¨ she asked, looking very troubled. Lisa is my daughter.
¡§No¡K¡¨ I replied, wondering at the look on Janice¡¦s face.
¡§I really hate to be the one to tell you this¡K..¡¨
¡§Tell me what? What is wrong?¡¨ I am now apprehensive.
¡§Lisa is pregnant and she¡¦s thinking about getting an abortion.¡¨ Janice looked at me, heartbroken.
The color drained from my face and I felt as if the blood were draining from my body.
¡§No! She can¡¦t be.¡¨
¡§She is. I¡¦m sorry.¡¨
I grabbed the telephone and called my house, hoping Lisa had not left for school.
¡§Hello?¡¨ Lisa answered.
¡§Good. You¡¦re still home. Don¡¦t leave for school. I¡¦m coming home and we need to talk.¡¨ No ¡§hello,¡¨ no niceties ¡V I¡¦m in too much shock.
Driving home, my whole body trembled and I prayed, begging God for it not to be true. I had no idea what I would do or say if Lisa told me she was pregnant.
I went into the house and poured myself a cup of coffee. Lisa was in the family room. I called her into the kitchen so we could sit at the table.
¡§Do you have anything you want to tell me?¡¨ I asked.
¡§No.¡¨ Lisa looked at me rather apprehensively.
¡§Are you pregnant?¡¨ I asked her point blank.
She looked away from me and very quietly replied, ¡§Yes.¡¨ The tears began to slowly roll down her face and she went on, ¡§Mom, I¡¦m so scared!¡¨ And the tears flowed faster.
We fell into each other¡¦s arms, both crying ¡V Lisa because she was scared, but relieved that I knew, and me because of the loss of innocence and I didn¡¦t know what we would do. At that moment for me, the world dropped away, and all my priorities changed ¡V in an instant.
We sat back down and I took a sip of my coffee. ¡§I need to tell you,¡¨ I began, ¡§that you will not have an abortion. It is against everything that we believe.¡¨
¡§I know,¡¨ Lisa replied. ¡§I didn¡¦t want to have an abortion, but I was so scared and I didn¡¦t know what else to do. I thought when you found out I was pregnant, you might kick me out of the house.¡¨
¡§Oh, Lisa,¡¨ as I began to cry again, ¡§I would never kick you out of the house. And I will never stop loving you. I am disappointed this has happened, but I will never stop loving you.¡¨
¡§Does Steve know?¡¨ I asked Lisa. Steve was Lisa¡¦s boyfriend.
¡§Yes. He did not want me to get an abortion either. That¡¦s why he told Pastor Bill that I am pregnant.¡¨
¡§And Pastor Bill told Janice, who told me this morning,¡¨ I surmised. ¡§Do Steve¡¦s parents know?¡¨
Lisa replied, ¡§He¡¦s going to tell his dad this afternoon when his dad gets home from work. He¡¦s hoping his dad will tell his mom.¡¨
¡§Well, there are a lot of decisions to make in the coming days. But for today, let¡¦s stay at home and allow ourselves some time to adjust to the news.¡¨ That was the only decision I was capable of making at that time.
Within the following hour, the senior pastor (who was also my boss) and the youth pastor both called to offer their support and prayers. It was a blessing to know that they were standing with us and would continue to do so.
Lisa¡¦s dad, (we were divorced) also called that day, wanting to know why we were at home in the middle of the week. I explained to him what was going on, and soon after his call, he arrived to talk with Lisa and me. He also told Lisa he was disappointed but still loved her and offered to help however he could.
One of the first major obstacles I faced was that I did not have health insurance. The church where I worked was too small to provide health insurance for the staff, and my children¡¦s dad did not have insurance either. My only option was to enroll Lisa for Medicaid, which I did within a few days. I used to complain about paying taxes, but never again! If it had not been for Medicaid, I would have owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the doctor and hospital. You see, when Lisa went for her first appointment with her obstetrician, the doctor ran some tests and found that she was extremely dehydrated ¡V so much so, that she was in danger of losing the baby. She also had some type of infection and was quite ill. The obstetrician sent her directly to the hospital; she would not even let us stop by our house to get Lisa¡¦s pj¡¦s.
Once Lisa was settled into her hospital room, I went home to pack some clothes for both of us as I would be staying with her during her hospitalization. I also needed to get clothes for my son, Keith, and pick him up from school. I had arranged for him to stay with his dad, who would pick him up at the hospital later. In the meantime, he needed to be told that Lisa was in the hospital and why. How do you explain to an 11-year old that his sister is pregnant? I told Keith that Lisa was sick and in the hospital but that she would be fine. I also told him that she was going to have a baby. He was surprised and excited ¡V he was going to be an uncle! Keith didn¡¦t really understand the ramifications of the situation. Later during Lisa¡¦s pregnancy, I had more time to talk with Keith about what her pregnancy meant to her, Steve, the baby and both families.
If you, as parents, have ever lived through this situation where your teenage daughter becomes pregnant, you know that the family dynamics completely change. Now there is another person in the picture. Each family member will have to work through their own issues about the baby and the daughter who is pregnant or the son whose girlfriend is pregnant. Siblings will have their own issues too. Where does this leave them in the scheme of things? If your children are close (as my daughter and son were), does this drive them apart or draw them closer together? You must make sure that the siblings and their feelings are not overlooked during this time.
And since we are talking about family dynamics, parents you need to understand that you will go through many emotions. Once the shock wears off, the grief will begin. Yes, grief. You will grieve the loss of your son or daughter¡¦s innocence. You will grieve the changes this will bring about in their life. You may even grieve about the changes this will bring to your life. Allow yourself time to grieve and cry.
You will have questions that you will not be able to answer. How will this affect your teenager¡¦s education? How will their friends and other family members react? First I will say that if your son or daughter wants that education bad enough, they will do whatever it takes to graduate from high school and go on to college or into a career. I can also tell you that true, close friends and family will draw even closer, attempting to protect your daughter or son from as much innuendo and gossip as possible. Others, who were not true friends before this situation, will distance themselves as if the pregnancy were contagious and they are afraid their daughter will catch it.
Another emotion you will experience is anger. You will be angry with yourself. Couldn¡¦t you have done a better job at raising your daughter or son? Didn¡¦t you talk enough to your teenager about sex and what could happen? You will blame yourself and second-guess your parenting skills. You will also be angry at your teenager. How could they have done this after all you taught her or him? How could they have ruined their life this way? If you did talk to your teenager about sex and the possibility of getting pregnant (or getting a sexually transmitted disease), then you need to understand that you did do your part. (If you have teenagers or pre-teens that you have not talked to yet, stop reading this article right now and talk to them!) As hard as this may sound, your teenager made the decision to have sex with his/her girlfriend or boyfriend. Granted, they ¡§never thought this would happen to them,¡¨ but it does. If it happens in your family, allow God to help you work through your emotions. Confide in a close friend. Journal every day about what you are going through. Whatever you do, don¡¦t bury your emotions. Sooner or later, you will have to deal with them and the sooner you deal with them, the better equipped you will be to help your teenager.
Back to Lisa¡K¡K¡K¡K¡K
Lisa spent the next five days in the hospital being treated with massive antibiotics and fluids. It was a frightening time, although I don¡¦t think Lisa realized how much danger the baby was in. Her doctor drew me aside after Lisa had been hospitalized for several days and said that the baby was safe by that time, but she did not know if there would be any brain damage due to the infection and dehydration. Another shock! When I inquired was there a way to find out, she answered, ¡§No. Not until delivery.¡¨ ¡§Dear God,¡¨ I thought. ¡§Please, please let this baby be okay.¡¨ That was one of my prayers everyday for the remainder of Lisa¡¦s pregnancy.
Once Lisa was out of the hospital and we had made it through that crisis, I finally had time to think about the many issues to deal with and questions that had to be answered. Would Steve and his family help us? Both Steve and Lisa were 16 and neither was prepared to raise a child. Should they give up the baby for adoption? Should they get married and try to raise the child? Never in my life, even during the process of divorce from my children¡¦s dad, did I have so many questions with no answers nor had I felt so alone. I cried out to God constantly, seeking His wisdom and direction.
Our family and Steve¡¦s family decided to meet together to discuss the situation and attempt to make some decisions. You have to understand, when our family has something very serious to discuss, sometimes we will insert just a little humor to lighten the atmosphere momentarily. It gives us a chance to take a deep breath, release some tension and perhaps put the situation in perspective. It¡¦s not that we don¡¦t take the situation seriously, it just helps us relax. During our meeting, Lisa¡¦s dad made a couple of humorous remarks (not about the pregnancy). But Steve¡¦s family, especially his mom, felt that the pregnancy was Lisa¡¦s fault and that we were not taking the situation seriously enough. They were offended by the remarks and upset about the entire situation. Because of that, Lisa and I ultimately walked through this time together with no help from Steve and his family. In fact, Lisa and Steve broke up.
Once the word got out, and Lisa began to show, it was very awkward for her at school. She came to me with the plan to drop out of day school, but continue working towards obtaining her high school diploma by attending the alternative school at night. I felt like this was an acceptable arrangement and the very next day, I went with her to withdraw her from high school and enroll her in the alternative night school. She was much more comfortable at night school as there were two other girls who were pregnant attending the alternative school. Going to school at night allowed her to be home during the morning sickness phase of her pregnancy and to get plenty of rest during the day.
Lisa went through many agonizing times of trying to decide whether to keep the baby or give him or her up for adoption. I made myself available to talk with her about this whenever she wanted to talk, but I tried as hard as I could NOT to give her advice ¡V to let her make the final decision. After all, she would ultimately be responsible for raising this child. Steve and his family were adamant about her giving the baby up for adoption and tried to pressure her into doing that. I desperately wanted Lisa to keep the baby as I could not imagine being a grandmother and not knowing where my grandchild was or anything about him or her. I certainly could not imagine what it would have been like to be in Lisa¡¦s position as a mother not knowing anything about her child. However, as I said, I did not share any of this with Lisa. This had to be a decision she made herself. But I prayed continuously, asking God to help Lisa make the right decision for her baby.
Parents, make yourselves available to talk to your daughter about the choice of adoption. She will need your wisdom and guidance. If she asks for your advice, give it. If she asks for your help in making the final decision, do so. However, I encourage you to allow her to make the final decision. Have many, many family discussions about this most important decision. After all, it is a decision that your entire family will have to accept and live with for the rest of your lives. If she and the baby¡¦s father are still seeing one another, the two of them should discuss this matter and make a decision, if possible, they can both accept.
Lisa finally came to me late one evening and said she had made her decision. Holding my breath, I asked her what she had decided and she told me she wanted to keep the baby. Heaving a huge sigh of relief, I hugged her. Lisa told me that she knew it would be hard (little did we know!) to raise a child as a single, teenage mom, but she was concerned that if she gave up her baby, someday she would want her baby back and she knew she could not do that to her baby or the adoptive parents. I assured Lisa that she would not be raising the baby alone ¡V that I and other family members and friends would be with her to help her in any way that we could.
Once Steve¡¦s family found out Lisa planned on keeping the baby, his mother completely cut us off, stopped speaking to us and tried to forbid Steve from having any contact with Lisa. This situation was very difficult and hurtful to us because our families attended the same church. Parents, this is not the time to cut yourself off from your church family. You will need them more than ever to support and pray for you. Once our church knew of Lisa¡¦s pregnancy, they were very loving and supportive to both of us. Some of the ladies even gave Lisa a baby shower.
When Lisa had her ultrasound, she found out she was expecting a boy. She decided to name him David Keith. His middle name would be for Lisa¡¦s brother, Keith. When she told him, he was thrilled. Since David¡¦s birth and still today, Keith and David are closer than brothers.
When the morning sickness finally passed, Lisa¡¦s pregnancy was easy and progressed rapidly. On October 18, 1996, Lisa woke me up about 5AM in the morning to tell me she thought she was going into labor. She was having some contractions, but it was quite early in the process. We tried to fall back to sleep, but were too excited, nervous and apprehensive to do so! Lisa had decided to have a birthing coach, who attended our church, to assist her with the delivery. Her obstetrician would deliver the baby and I would be with her also. About 9:30 that morning we decided to call her birthing coach, Cathy, and have her come to the house. The three of us spent the day together, enjoyed pizza for lunch and being together waiting for Lisa¡¦s labor to progress. By 9:00 that night, Lisa¡¦s contractions were stronger and becoming quite painful, so Cathy decided it was time to leave for the hospital. By then, several of Lisa¡¦s friends had joined us and were planning to follow us to the hospital. I called my parents and our pastor to let them know we were leaving and we headed for the hospital.
Lisa had been seeing several obstetricians in a group practice during her pregnancy. There was only one that neither of us particularly cared for because of her cold manner towards Lisa. She was, of course, the doctor on call for delivery when Lisa went in. She checked Lisa and told her it could still be quite a few hours before the baby was born. She also indicated by her manner toward Cathy that she was not happy a birthing coach would be present during this time.
About 1:00 AM on October 19, Lisa¡¦s nurse came in to check on her and the baby. She immediately left the room and moments later, the doctor came in. She read the heart monitor of the baby and told us that the baby¡¦s heart rate had dropped and she strongly advised for Lisa to take a medicine that would speed labor up. Cathy spoke up before either Lisa or I could reply and resolutely refused the medicine on Lisa¡¦s behalf. Unfortunately, the doctor and Cathy proceeded to have a very heated verbal exchange until Lisa yelled ¡§Shut up! Both of you ¡V I can¡¦t think with the two of you yelling!¡¨ She was very upset and crying. I looked at both the doctor and Cathy and said, ¡§Get out. Both of you leave the room.¡¨ The doctor opened her mouth to say something, but before she could speak, I said, ¡§I don¡¦t want to hear another word. Just leave. I will let you know Lisa¡¦s decision in just a few minutes.¡¨
Once the room was quiet, I said to Lisa, ¡§I know you wanted to have a completely natural delivery. But now your baby may be in trouble and you have to think of him.¡¨
¡§I know,¡¨ Lisa replied. ¡§I will take the medicine.¡¨
I called for the doctor and Cathy to come back in and told them that Lisa would take the drug. Cathy opened her mouth to speak, but again, before she could say anything, I said, ¡§I don¡¦t want to hear it. Lisa has made her decision and if you have a problem with that, you will need to wait outside.¡¨ Cathy did leave the room, but returned a little later.
After receiving the drug, Lisa¡¦s labor progressed quite rapidly and on October 19, 1996, at approximately 3:00 AM, David Keith* a healthy, normal baby boy, arrived in this world. During the delivery of the afterbirth, there was another crisis that caused Lisa to lose a large amount of blood. She turned extremely pale and I thought she was going to pass out ¡V lying down. The doctor eventually brought the crisis under control, but it was extremely scary for a few minutes.
Moms and Dads, I share our experience with the birthing coach and doctor just so you will be informed. Be careful whom you select as your daughter¡¦s obstetrician and/or birthing coach. Do your homework and research different doctors and birthing coaches in your area. Learn about their practice. Get references. Go with your daughter on her doctor¡¦s appointments and appointments with the birthing coach. Learn what you can expect to happen during labor and delivery as well as any dangers posed or unexpected things that could happen.
Later on the day of the 19th, Steve and his dad came to see Lisa and the baby. It was an emotional and difficult time as Steve and Lisa tried to bridge the gap between the two of them. Watching Steve hold David almost broke my heart because I realized, although not for the first time, how difficult raising this child would be for them, especially since they were no longer dating and at that time, Steve did not have the support of his family, except his father.
We brought David home a couple of days later. It was strange and yet delightful to have a baby in the house again! He was a good baby and gave us much joy!
When David was a little over two months old, Steve and his family invited Lisa and David to come over on Christmas Eve. Even though Steve and his dad had visited Lisa and the baby in the hospital, this was the first overture Steve¡¦s mother had made towards Lisa or David. Lisa told me later that the visit was awkward at first, but by the time she and David left, everyone was more comfortable. Steve and his family eventually came to realize the blessing of having David in the family and today they love David as much as we do.
After David was a few months old, Lisa decided to go back to day school and we found an excellent sitter for the baby. Lisa worked exceptionally hard to catch up with her class and was able to graduate on time ¡V a goal she set for herself. Lisa¡¦s dad and I were very proud of her for working so hard and meeting this goal!
Lisa went to work shortly after graduation and works hard even today to support her and David, who is now 12 years old. Although she and Steve never got back together as a couple, they work together on decisions that affect David in any way. It¡¦s not always easy and they have had many arguments over raising David. But they have worked through those (sometimes very loudly!) and today they work together for the benefit of David.
A few final words to you parents¡K¡K
If this happens to your teenager, love and support your daughter or son. Don¡¦t condemn them. Yes, they¡¦ve sinned and will need to ask God and you for forgiveness. But believe me when I say that he or she will feel guilty enough without you adding guilt trips to the ones he/she is already taking.
Give them advice, but allow them to have input into all of the decisions. If it is possible in your particular situation, let your teenager make the final decision.
Everything you do or say, every decision you make will need to be covered in prayer. Without God guiding you and your family through this time, it will be an incredibly difficult period.
Finally, remember to take care of yourself. If you allow yourself to become tired, overwhelmed or ill, you will not be any good to your teenager. He or she needs you at your best ¡V emotionally, physically and spiritually.
My prayer for you is that you never face this situation. But if you do, may God give you His grace, mercy, love and peace!
æ This account is completely true; however, all of the names have been changed.
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