I’ll probably never forget where I was when I got the call. I have to tell you something, she said. She probably thought she was dropping an atomic bomb of unexpected news. What she didn’t yet understand was that, already, my intuition had stirred up a whirlpool of dread in the pit of my stomach. And then there came confirmation in the string of words I’d hoped never to hear. I’d, in fact, invested sleepless nights and countless prayers and an ongoing dialogue that was both honest and heartfelt in an effort to avoid ever hearing my unmarried daughter utter the words that came next. I’m pregnant. It’s puzzling how two little words can carry with them so much weight. How two little words can press you hard and fast against a wall with absolutely no way to wiggle free. As a mom, I had hopes and dreams for what my daughter might do with her life, but most of them crumbled to pieces when I accepted that my unmarried daughter is pregnant.
I made the blog announcement rather matter-of-factly when I shared our year in review Christmas letter. Having already told the news to most of my real life family and friends, I felt the time had come to go there in a more public venue. And here we are.
If you know my history, you know that I first became a mother at the tender age of 16. And if you’ve been reading my blog long, you might also be aware that I’ve chosen a very forthcoming approach in talking with my girls about my experiences as a teen mom and my expectations of them as they navigate the teen years. You might be curious, then, how I feel about the fact that my unmarried daughter is pregnant.
The short answer reads like a Facebook relationship status: It’s complicated.
It’s complicated because I’ve been forced to embrace something that I’ve always had trouble accepting. That is: I cannot control the choices my children make. I can influence them and advise them and guide them as lovingly as I know how to do and yet, free will. Free will rears its defiant head and mutilates the delicate life I had mapped out for her in my mind’s hopeful eye. A life set apart and notable for its stability, completeness and deeply-rooted joy.
These things I so desperately wanted for her because they were things that I so desperately sought after myself.
I was sixteen when I leaned up against the dingy bathroom wall during a shift at my after-school job. Two little pink lines bled a trail that altered the trajectory of my life. I spent the next ten years chasing fireflies, only for them to go dim before I could grab hold. It was precisely that wealth of failure that convinced me that I could make things different — better — for my girls. I wanted to believe that my experiences would translate into their wisdom. I foolishly believed that I could inform them into a buy-in. The fact that my unmarried daughter is pregnant proves otherwise.
I’ve had some time to process the fact that my unmarried daughter is pregnant and here’s where I’m at.
I feel sad.
For the majority of her life, I’ve done my daughter the disservice of assuming she would make my same mistakes for the same reasons I made them. How wrong I was. I know now that she will make her own mistakes for her own reasons and in so doing, she’ll learn her own life lessons. There are certainly one or two of them that I would have liked to spare her, but, well, you can’t always get what you want. I don’t mean to imply that the baby herself is a mistake. But having done it both ways, I do believe that raising a child within a faith-based, financially-secure and emotionally-stable marriage is worlds easier than doing so outside of one.
I feel disappointed.
More than anything, I’m disappointed in myself. I feel like the fact that my unmarried daughter is pregnant is proof that I failed her. I can’t help but believe that if I had invested more time, or listened better or prayed more tirelessly I could have helped her to navigate towards an easier life. I could have done something to lead her a different way.
I feel heartbroken.
I am heartbroken because I have walked the path she is about to walk and I know firsthand how difficult it is to be an unmarried mom. Co-parenting outside of marriage carries with it far more risk. There is inherent unfairness in parenting duties. There is a higher likelihood of resentment and abandonment. The odds are stacked against couples who have babies without making a commitment first.
I feel resolute
I am determined not to let this pregnancy define, threaten or destroy our family. When first she told me she was pregnant, I expressed my disappointment in no uncertain terms. But I also made sure to express the fact that I would love both her and her baby in spite of my disappointment. I’ve had time to process the emotions that — at first — hit me like a brick. What I know without a doubt is that this baby is not a regrettable stain on the family tree. This baby will be a treasured member of our family. She will be so deeply loved that she will never once have reason to so much as question her beginnings.
I feel hopeful.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that there are no guarantees. What may look now like a bleak future, may very well one day be a happy ending. My faith assures me that there is always hope. I trust that God will use this experience to build my daughter into the woman He created her to become.
I feel proud.
Having been a pregnant teen, I know all too well how many options there are that would be a whole lot simpler than raising a child that you didn’t plan for. I’m proud that my daughter is choosing a path that is sure to be difficult. We should all be so willing to face the consequences of the choices we make.
I feel blessed.
James 1:17 tells us that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” I just love that last part. To me, it means that in spite of however topsy-turvied and turned around we might get, there is One who remains a constant. This baby–so precious a new life–is a God-given gift and we are blessed beyond measure to welcome her.
It’s not the path I would have chosen for my daughter, or for my unborn granddaughter. But it is the path we will take. I have chosen to walk it faithfully.
If, out of heartbreak and desperation, a Google search of “my unmarried daughter is pregnant” led you to this post, I want to take a moment to offer you some encouragement. I originally wrote this post over three years ago. In May of 2015 my daughter welcomed a beautiful baby girl into our family. That sweet child has brought so much love and light into our lives and I cannot imagine our family without her. My daughter and her boyfriend have not had an easy go of things. There have been ups and there have been downs.
I don’t know you and I don’t know your daughter or her situation. But this much I can tell you: your daughter’s pregnancy is not the end of the world. No matter how she chooses to handle it, the fact that it ever happened will be built into her life’s story. She will come away different. I pray that she will come away stronger and that you will, too.