My Daughter’s Pregnant – One Mom’s Story: Part 2
This week’s post continues the story from a mom of one of our Collage clients. She was gracious enough to share her experience of finding out her daughter was pregnant in the hopes of helping other parents who are faced with the same news. We are thankful for her willingness to share and to support her daughter through one of the most difficult decisions a young woman can make. You can read Part 1 of her story here.
I distinctly recall the day that my husband and I left the hospital with my oldest daughter for the first time. I arrived at home, extraordinarily tired with hormones in full swing. Between the roller coaster of emotional highs and lows, I kept thinking, “I can’t believe that after nine months of routine doctor’s visits, they are just going to trust me to suddenly take care of this tiny, fragile baby by myself. What are they thinking!?”.
But, she was good, and so easy. Nature was kind to us as we eased into parenthood. She was a baby, then a toddler, then a child who rolled with the punches. She had a sweet, easy going personality, never a care about anything, living in her own world. I remember thinking that something was bound to happen, that there was some reason she needed this laid back personality, some challenge that would test her patience. (That said, don’t get me wrong, I have never believed in fate or premonitions, and still don’t to this day. Her decisions were her own).
We found out that this personality would be both an incredible asset and, at times, a burden to her living in a world that routinely demands more attention, engagement, reality and confrontation than she is willing to give. The sky in her world is sunny, even on the darkest day. She smiles when others would not and, sometimes, she avoids the difficult things that must be done. She lives wearing rose-colored glasses with the enthusiasm of a three-year-old.
The “something” that challenged her was an unexpected pregnancy at 17 years old. We thought we had done it all, tried every way to protect her, kept lines of communication open and talked to her often about what could happen if she chose to be sexually active. But, it happened, potentially in part due to that easy going, no-worries, personality. And, as I’ve described in my last blog, it challenged her and everyone in our family.
Once my daughter decided to raise her child, we began the task of doing the best we could to help her prepare for what this new life may look like, a life that would be, for the first few years at least, lived in our home until she could obtain a degree and get her feet on the ground. Our roles and rules would now become very fuzzy, and after years of only knowing the role of “mom”, I would have to try to figure out a new role that included both mom and grandma; my husband, both dad and grandpa.
It wasn’t easy to prepare for; nothing ever is when you haven’t done it before. And, since my granddaughter first came home, there is the constant, persistent question…where is the line? When do I speak up about how my daughter parents? When do I stay quiet? When should I butt out and let her do it her way and when should I give “sage” advice? What is important to say and what is just a simple difference in how two mothers choose to raise children? How do we support her while holding her responsible? How often do we babysit? What do we do when our granddaughter runs to us when her Mom is trying to discipline her?
And, oh my, how do you deal with someone who is a mom (and a very good one), but who still has the brain of a teenager, complete with sometimes illogical thought patterns, moments of pure laziness and spontaneous decisions that make no sense to us as middle aged parents in our 40s? We love her, but like all parents, we struggle to understand her some days, especially when we compare her as a very young mom to the older parents we were. On those days, I try to put myself in a teen mom’s shoes. Everyone already doubts you, and to top it off, you must raise your child under a microscope with everyone giving you constant advice.
Another question we struggle with is how we help raise our grandchild while we are also raising her mama and our other daughter, who needs our attention, our love and to know that she is still a very special focus. Plus, help her know that this new life is not HER responsibility or her role when she, too, tries to put in her two cents about how the little one should be raised. Some days I think my granddaughter has three moms in the house.
These are all questions that don’t have an easy answer and, if you asked me one day, my answer may be different than the next. Some days I find that line, some days I not only step over it, but I grind it into the ground and end up besieged with regret for doing so. Some days we provide a safety net, some days a five-point harness.
Worry? Every single day in some form or another. We worry about our daughter’s future and if she will be able to make a living for herself and her daughter. We worry that we aren’t pushing our daughter hard enough, but also know her life decisions must be hers. We know there is not a lot of leeway for mistakes, like other college kids have. We worry about our granddaughter and what kind of relationship she will have with her biological father, whether he will be good to her and if he will be “there” for her.
When we found out our daughter was pregnant, we grieved for all that she would miss in life by becoming a mom before it was time. What we didn’t realize right away was how we, too, would grieve for the life we would not live. At times, I am jealous of all of the parents who have the excitement of taking their kids to college, attending parents’ day, watching their kids join fraternities, sororities, play college sports, have roommates…do the kind of things 19 year olds are supposed to do. She didn’t get the live-away college experience and, I guess, we didn’t get it either.
And, sometimes, we grieve for the grandparents we can’t be. “Grandchildren are great! And, you can spoil them and send them home!”, the “other” grandma has stated excitedly more than once. I agree, grandchildren are great, and I love mine more than life itself. But, guess what? She doesn’t go home at the end of the day. She stays here, in our home. If we choose to spoil her, we, too, live with the consequences of a child who has been fed candy all day, never told “no” and stayed up to the wee hours of the morning.
At first, when the “other” grandma was buying fun outfits and toys while excitedly awaiting the baby’s birth, we were spending our money on things our granddaughter would absolutely need, reorganizing our home to make room for her, paying legal fees for development of a parenting agreement and, creating a new budget that left room for daycare expenses while my daughter attended classes, something we never thought we’d have to worry about again. I had to help ensure that my daughter was learning the skills needed to be a mom. At first, in my mind, the father’s mom got to be a grandma in every sense of the word, and I did not. (Later, she, too, would help with our granddaughter’s needs, and would become key in helping her son begin to learn how to father).
Even with all of these concerns, I have been absolutely blessed to see my granddaughter day in and day out, to experience nearly every single moment, and to develop a relationship with her that is strong and close. I often call her my BFF (best friend forever) and we adore each other. I get to spend evenings reading books, doing Ring-Around-the-Rosie, reciting Little Bunny Foo-Foo and rocking a chubby little toddler in my arms until she softly snores away. I get to experience the sheer joy of having a little girl squeal with delight and dance her way into my arms every night after work. I get to hear her say, “Hiiiii!” in a voice that is pure love, surprise and excitement every time she sees me and it melts my heart. In a way, I get a second chance to do things better than I did the first time around and appreciate the time more, even though I am not the mom. And, some days, that is hard to remember, since it is the only role I have ever had with a little person living in my home.
So, now what happens when my daughter does decide it’s time to move away and start her life? I know it needs to happen, it must happen…and I want it to happen more than anything. Some days, I am excited to have the house to ourselves and not walk this crazy line somewhere between parent and grandparent day in and day out…to lose the responsibility. But, I already know my heart will shatter the day they say, “good-bye”. There will be a void that will be hard to fill when I become just “grandma” and my tiny BFF leaves us to go live in her own house with just her mama. How will my heart mend? How will her heart mend? How will I once again redefine my role?