You’re Still a Parent
BOOMER therapist Fran Marmor on what to do if a child has an unplanned pregnancy
I have a big problem that has absolutely blind-sided me! My 16-year-old daughter just told me she is pregnant. She just started seeing a counselor and wanted to tell me in front of the counselor. My daughter told me she is “scared but super excited” and wants my support. She says she is keeping the baby and hopes it is a girl with blue eyes, although she’ll love it regardless! I never would have expected her to be this irresponsible. She and I have had hours of conversations about the dangers of unprotected sex, the virtues of abstinence and her dreams for the future. She and her boyfriend even broke up before she found out she was pregnant. I’m sure I didn’t handle it right today. The therapist probably thinks I’m a bad mother because first, I let this happen, and secondly, all I did was stare at my daughter, cry and ask her if she is really sure she wants to keep this baby. I’m divorced from my daughter’s father, and I’m 53 years old. I am not equipped to handle this! What should I do?
I am so glad you wrote, because the first thing I want you to do is stop blaming yourself! We can never control what another person does, and it sounds like you tried to do all the right things to give your daughter a good foundation. We live in a difficult culture, and sometimes teenagers make choices that result in big consequences. At this point, the main thing you should do is continue to love and mother your daughter. Make sure she has good prenatal care and that she talks to a counselor who knows of all available local resources and helps her to understand her choices. Of course, she’ll also need to work closely with her school on how she can complete high school and navigate life after high school with a baby. It is also very important that you think about what your boundaries are and communicate them to her now so she is fully aware of what you are and are not willing to do.
You are her mother, not the baby’s mother, and it is absolutely OK for you to remind her of that. She is taking on a huge responsibility and she deserves to understand what that will entail. In the end, it is her choice and her responsibility. So, in answer to the question, what should you do? I guess the simple answer to a complicated situation is to love your daughter, help prepare her the best you can for what lies ahead, and then welcome a beautiful life into the world. That is probably all you can do.
Fran Marmor, LCSW, has been a psychotherapist for more than 20 years. Though changing some details, she writes of actual cases for BOOMER from Fort Collins, Colo. Reach her at email@example.com.