It’s a day every mom hopes never comes, the day her teenaged daughter announces that she has something to tell you. My daughter was having a hard time finding her way during her senior year of high school. An injury caused her to give up a sport she loved, and frequent debilitating migraines made it difficult to keep up with her classes. In the hopes of finding medical treatment to get her migraines under control she decided to put off college until the January after her graduation. A month before she was to start classes, she told me and my husband that she was pregnant. My first thought was “Get rid of it.” My second thought was horror over that instinct. My daughter is adopted and we have spent her whole life in thanksgiving that her birth mother didn’t abort her. The fact that I, an adoptive mother, had that brief, unbidden notion to abort my grandchild tells you how unwelcome this news was to me. Why? Because it wrecked my plans for my daughter. And it shattered my image as a “good” mom who was raising “good” kids.
It was very difficult for me and my husband to even look at our daughter over the next few days because of our crushing disappointment and shame. When she showed me the ultrasound I could only glance at the picture. To me it wasn’t a baby, it was a problem.
Knowing the birthfather was not going to be involved in the child’s life, we tried to convince her to place the baby for adoption. She adamantly refused, determined to keep the baby, the only person in her life of her own flesh and blood. Our emotional turmoil combined with the strong belief that our daughter needed to grow up fast to prepare for motherhood led us to the decision that she should not continue to live under our roof during the pregnancy. We needed some space from her and her from us. With a minimum wage job, she couldn’t afford a place of her own and had no possibility to find a roommate since all her friends were settled in college.
We told her to find a home for unwed mothers where she could get support from other women in her situation, learn about how to care for her pregnant body, and prepare for a newborn baby. She searched the internet but rejected the places that were in our area because they all had religious affiliations. Though raised in a church and a believer, a Bible-focused, “save your soul” environment was not a good fit for her. She found a place in another state, 2000 miles away, that didn’t have mandatory Bible study or church attendance. The house was located in a low-income part of a big city but it wasn’t a dangerous part of town. It housed up to 10 women and a live-in counselor. We decided that she would stay there for three months and return home to have the baby.
I flew out there with her and got her settled into her room, which she shared with a new mom and her baby. I couldn’t help but feel smugly satisfied that this would give her a good taste of the reality she was facing. Even amidst the emotional turmoil of leaving my pregnant daughter in a strange environment far from home, my bitterness ran deep. But leaving her was one of the hardest things I have ever done. My only consolation was the hope that this was the best chance we could give her to mature and gain the life skills she needed to be a single mom. That wasn’t going to happen with her living under our roof.
The staff at the home helped the women either get a job of find a place to volunteer. Because she was only going to stay three months, my daughter chose to volunteer at a thrift store instead of work. The counselor helped her find a doctor and get on public assistance. The other young women in the home had experienced much harder lives than my daughter. They were amazed that she came from a two-parent home of comfortable financial means, hadn’t done hard drugs, and had no legal issues. Though they couldn’t relate to her background, some of them were good friends to her. As expected, she experienced a lot of highs and lows. She was excited to get out of her hometown and experience a big city. The home got a lot of donations and she loved sorting through them, picking out things for her baby. But, not surprisingly, there were periods of intense homesickness resulting in tearful phone calls. On a positive note, pregnancy was the cure for her migraines.
During the time she was away, with the help of incredibly supportive and prayerful friends, my husband and I grew more accepting of the situation and finally started getting excited about being grandparents. When my daughter returned home, our shame and regret were gone, any remnant melted away when we looked the newborn face of a little girl who looks just like her mama. They stayed in our home for five years until my daughter worked her way up to a decent living wage in her job. She is a good mom and we are so proud of her!
My dreams for my daughter were shattered the day she announced her pregnancy. I had her life planned out in a course that matched my own: college, marriage, career, children, in that order. I savored my memories of college and was grateful that the early years of our marriage were child-free. But God had a different plan for my daughter, one that gave her a purpose which she was struggling to find as an 18-year-old. She will be the first to tell you that her daughter saved her life.
This blog post is anonymous because the author regrets her response to the news of her daughter’s unplanned pregnancy. She would never want her granddaughter to read this because, though unwanted at first, the child is one of the best things to ever happen in the life of the author and her family.
The author and her daughter do not regret their decision to use a home for unwed mothers during the pregnancy. They feel the separation was the best way to ensure the family would make it through the crisis pregnancy intact. They wish there had been an option like Baby Steps closer to home.
The author and her husband are more than willing to offer support to other parents who are experiencing the crisis of their daughter’s unplanned pregnancy. Contact Baby Steps to get the author’s contact information. (Be warned that, upon meeting, she will first pull out photos of her granddaughter to show off!)
By giving a voice to those whose stories include unplanned pregnancies, we hope to empower those who may be in the midst of their own. These are The Stories We Tell.