My Daughter’s Pregnant – One Mom’s Story
This week’s post comes from a mother 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.
I never know how to describe that moment. Some days, I will tell you that once I heard the news my brain froze. Other days, I will say my mind raced a thousand miles per hour. What I know for sure is that there was very little coherent linear thought as I stood there for several long minutes living in both the present and the future, watching as my dreams for my daughter were seemingly jerked away.
It had been a long month. Not only were we preparing for our daughter’s high school graduation, but I was working 60 hour weeks on a grant proposal that had the potential to bring our small not-for-profit association hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was in the middle of a conference call at my home office, barely 24 hours before the proposal was due, when I saw my daughter’s car pull up in the driveway. She and her boyfriend got out and my immediate thought was, “Oh, they must have decided to eat lunch here today.” Holding the phone to my ear, I leaned out, said a quick “hello” and told her I’d be off in a minute. When I hung up the phone and opened my door, they both stared back at me from the hallway. She said six words, “We need to talk to you”…and I knew. The first sentence out of my own mouth, uttered several times in succession, was, “You have got to be kidding me!”. She quietly, wordlessly shook her head no.
That’s when everything froze. Silence filled the air as I turned my back to them both. Somewhere in the shock, as the world screeched to a halt, one single semi-logical thought fought its way to the surface: whatever I said at that moment would live forever in both her memory and mine. In 30 seconds, I might completely shatter our relationship if I said the wrong thing. So, I chose silence.
She will tell you that the silence scared her the most, and that it may have been the longest minutes of her life. I can only imagine the fear in her heart.
That was the first step of a journey the calendar reflects began for us nearly two years ago, but feels like a lifetime ago. My daughter has her own story about her unexpected pregnancy, but this story is mine, from a parent’s perspective.
I will tell you that the first days were excruciating. There was not a single moment that went by when the situation wasn’t on my mind, even as the rest of our lives had to move ahead, even as the grant proposal had to be finished, dinner had to be made, homework had to be done and we had to be there supporting our other daughter, as well. My illusion of control over life was shattered, I wasn’t sure what the future held or how I would help my young, teenaged daughter navigate what would become the biggest decision of her life. In the back of my brain every emotion played on a constantly running loop day and night. Helplessness. Love. Anger. Resentment. Sadness. Fear. Fear for her, for the baby, for us, for the decisions that had to be made, for the unknown. And, guilt. Heart-wrenching, stomach-churning guilt for having failed miserably to protect her from herself. How could I have let this happen?
The next weeks were filled with activity…I did anything I could do to start to put order to the chaos that seemed to be our lives at that time. Calls were quickly made to insurance and to the doctor. We found out that while our family health insurance would cover me if I had dozens of babies, it would not cover her costs as a dependent mother-to-be (apparently 70% of insurance companies at the time did not pay for dependent maternity care). From there began a long journey of navigating a public system we had never had a reason to know anything about. Nor, honestly, ever wanted to. In the end, we accepted help, knowing that any serious medical complication for mama or baby had the potential to spin our family, any family, into bankruptcy. Expensive insurance, carefully put into place and barely used in the past by our very healthy family, had failed us. Thank goodness a bill passed only months before the pregnancy, designed to insure the unborn children of illegal immigrants and young moms with the same insurance gap as ours, saved us.
Of course along with this came the doctor’s visits. How far along was she? Was the baby all right? I shook as I heard the heartbeat. I cried tears of fear when my daughter’s tummy measured too big for the projected date of birth. Was she farther along than we expected or, gulp, were there two babies? How would we handle that? And, what if, lacking early prenatal care, there was something horribly wrong? I didn’t sleep for several nights as I replayed the worst case scenarios in my head. In the end, I wept tears of joy and relief when two ultrasounds showed ONE HEALTHY little baby girl.
Through all of this, our biggest fear was the emotional toll this would take not only on our pregnant daughter, but on her younger sister, who was going through very intense emotions about the situation, as well. Having no idea whether my daughter would choose to place her child for adoption, or choose to raise her child, my husband and I knew that we did not have the background needed to help her prepare for a decision I myself could not imagine making. Nor could we prepare her, ourselves or our other daughter for the aftermath of that decision. Luckily, when we reached out, we found amazing resources throughout our community ready to support us, guide us and just listen to us.
Finally, we needed to tell our families, our friends, and our neighbors. We made phone calls and wrote long, thought-filled emails. We feared judgment as we sat on the edge of our seats awaiting responses; instead, we received absolute and unconditional support and love that continues to this day.
I thank goodness that our little family did not face this alone; I thank goodness that my daughter did not face this alone. I also feel absolutely blessed that my daughter found Collage before she found the courage to tell us. They counseled her, held her tight and gave her strength and hope before we even knew about the situation. For that, I will be forever grateful and faithful to their mission; they will always hold a place in my heart.
As I look back, I will tell you that while the intensity of the emotions subsided, there was nothing easy about the situation; it isn’t easy now and it won’t be easy in the future. This new reality has led us down some roads we thought we would never travel. We’ve learned how to navigate systems we never thought we would know anything about. We’ve had to make tough decisions and we’ve had to repeatedly redefine our roles as both parents and grandparents. The situation drew our family closer on some days, and pushed us farther apart on others. It made my daughter and I best friends most of the time, but also worst enemies in rougher moments.
Yet, as I sit here typing while my young granddaughter sleeps, tucked away with her also-young Mommy two floors away, I know that while a mistake created her, she herself is no mistake. She is the picture of her mama, her mama’s own mini-me. She is big round eyes and belly-shaking giggles; angry cries and gap-toothed smiles; chubby fingers, wiggly toes and sleepy snuggles. She’s learned how to give kisses and she pats us on the back when she hugs us. She howls in fits of laughter as she chases our dogs across the yard. And on cool days, she brings us a fake fur coat with diamond buttons to put on her before she drives her plastic car across the driveway. My phone’s memory is full of pictures of her and every little thing she does. She is surrounded by love and is the embodiment of love. She rules this house, and it is more alive than it ever was before she existed. Oh, and if you couldn’t tell, I love her with every fiber in my body.
I wish I could end this story now with the words, “and, we lived happily ever after”, but we all know that isn’t reality because life is messy and many of our worries from the first day we found out about our sweet girl are still present today. On a later blog, I will talk more about that.
As I end, I ask that you be thoughtful with your comments; the anonymity the internet provides sometimes allows people to lash out without thought about how those comments affect the hearts and minds of their targets. Our decisions may not have been yours. Sharing our story so publicly creates a vulnerability I’m not sure I am ready for, yet I know that others are in our situation and I want to do anything I can do to just say to other parents, “you are not alone” regardless of the choices you and your children make. Life will go on, and sometimes the unexpected does become something very beautiful indeed.