Monday, January 04, 2010

On being a Grandma When It's Too Early to Be One

On May 15th we found out that our 16 year old daughter was pregnant. The way we found out was not pleasant and while we were not shocked, we initially experienced a range of emotions that I must confess were almost entirely negative. We immediately began to grieve the fact that the rest of her life would be irrevocably altered by her decision. The dreams that we had for her (an intelligent, beautiful woman with unlimited potential) suddenly seemed like an impossibility.

I remember also feeling a great deal of anger and resentment that we as parents had worked so hard to prevent something all to no avail. Our daughter, who came to us at 6, received every kind of teenage pregnancy prevention advice possible. I took her out for girl talks on her seventh and ninth birthdays to thoroughly explain the facts of life. On her twelfth birthday her father and I bought her a ring, took her out to dinner, and talked about a covenant. As she was older when we assumed she might be sexually, even though our strong belief in waiting until marriage made us cringe to do so, I discussed birth control with her. And suddenly we are hearing the words that were something that no parent of a teenage ever wants to hear, blurted out in tears, "I'm Pregnant!"

A second set of emotions that I ran into was finding my mind going into overdrive, thinking I had to have answers immediately. Once they decided to keep the baby and raise her, which took them less than a week, my mind was buzzing with questions: Where would she live? What would she do about school? How would she support herself? The questions were constantly buzzing in my head until I thought I'd drive myself crazy.

One of the best pieces of advice I received during that first week I received via email from the Adoption Counselor. She said
I have found with pregnancy that after the intitial crisis phase - things begin to sort themselves out. Focus on the knowledge that God wanted this new little life on the Earth for a reason and He has provided a good, stable grandma for this little one to hang onto.

It then dawned on me that I had several months to get my head around the idea and make plans. I stopped being frantic and thinking that we needed to decide everything right away and decided to let the details wait until later. Eight months is a long time for things, as Brenda had pointed out, for things to sort out.

I decided then to keep things simple and I really began to focus on three main ideas:

1) Every baby is a gift to be celebrated. Our grandchild did not choose the circumstances surrounding her birth and deserved every chance in the world to be successful. Unlike our children, all adopted from foster care, this baby was going to come into the world with grandparents who were able and willing to support her and and her young mother. We began to wonder if maybe this next generation was one of the reasons we were called to parent the first.

2) Every decision that was made needed to be our daughter's decision. Knowing her as well as we did, there really wasn't any way to force her and the more we attempted to guide her in one direction for past decisions, the more it had backfired. I knew that these were decisions she would have to live with. My only advice to her all along was that she needed to do what she felt was best for the baby and best for her.

3) Forgetting the past and building on the future. There was nothing we could do about the years of rebellion that had led up to this event. The baby was coming, and we couldn't change or stop that. It was time to focus on our relationship with our daughter and being there for her in the future. There was an increased motivation on our part to focus on our attachment with her and overlook her behaviors.

The eight months that came later have not all been easy ones. For some reason, in our case, our relationship with our daughter improved greatly. Letting her do what she had wanted to do for years -- make all her own decisions -- actually helped our relationship. She made many decisions that I did not agree with, but she seemed to do better when she did that because she then had to live with the consequences. I was careful to never state an opinion -- and in doing so she could not blame me when things didn't go well.

Now that the baby is born I must say that I am surprised that I am seeing how maybe some of the decisions she has made might have been better for her and most of them have, ironically, turned out to be better for me. The baby is not yet a week old, but even though they are young, they are doing very well with her. The baby's father is a very nurturing and kind kid who has been doing a great deal of the care as Salinda recovers from a c-section and kidney infection. Watching him with her is an amazing thing.

Was "16 and pregnant" the script I would have chosen for the drama of my daughter's life? Of course not. But as one of Sadie's friends said several months ago -- "I think this new baby is a miracle. Before Salinda got pregnant she was fighting with your mom and dad all the time and now she gets along better with everyone."

And even though everyone prepared me that it would be amazing, I am a bit surprised at how fast the circumstances surrounding her birth fly away from my mind when that precious, peaceful baby is in my arms. She looks up at me and I know that she is my granddaughter. Spending time holding her is my new favorite hobby. She entered the world exactly the way a child should -- surrounded by lots and lots of people who love her, way more "stuff" than she can ever use, and more arms wanting to hold her than can possibly ever be satisfied with enough "Gabby time."

So if you or someone you know is in the midst of those initial weeks or months of stress after discovering that they have a pregnant teenage daughter, you can let them know that Brenda was right -- things have a way of sorting them out. The baby is a gift, and there is nothing like being connected to a beautiful new life in such a meaningful way.

There will be struggles ahead for all of us, but the bottom line is this: Once that life is created -- even if it is only a month from conception -- it's everyones job to make sure that the unborn child has the best life possible. And now, only a short six days after her birth, I cannot imagine my life without her -- nor would I want to.

Being a grandma isn't something I had on my agenda for 2010, but it is something I am attempting to do well. I am still allowing my daughter to make all her decisions, I'm attempting to step back and let them learn, I'm biting my tongue and sitting on my hands not to overcompensate, and I'm a non-anxious supporting presence whenever possible.

And it's my plan to someday explain to my Gabby that even though sometimes there is an "unwanted pregnancy" she was never an unwanted baby. From the day we knew she existed we loved her and wanted the best for her.

So even though circumstances aren't always as we wish, it only takes a few minutes of having her in my arms, looking her in the eye, feeling her peace and beauty, to know that somehow, someway, it's all going to be OK.


Michelle said...

What a beautiful, inspiring, calming post. I wish you expanding family the best.

FAScinated said...

You made me cry.

Claudia said...

It is truly a good day when you can make someone laugh .... and make someone cry (for the right reasons of course).

nancy said...

Great to hear your thoughts and advice on this, Claudia. I know it's never easy when this happens to a family, but I also know that each child, regardless of the circumstances surrounding their conception, is created by God. Hard to understand the rights and wrongs and ins and outs of God's grace in these circumstances, but I know it to be true. Haven't lived it, hope never to live it under such circumstances, but who ever knows? And "watching" you go through this with Salinda, who looks to be an amazing young mother already, has been helpful. Of course I've known other families experiencing this, but never got to hear their thoughts or read about the transition between the shock and disappointment and the acceptance and embracing of the new little one. Watching from the outside, not being privy to the process of the grandparents, it's always been a struggle for me to know how to feel about teen pregnancies. Your thoughts fill in that huge gap and discrepancy I've always felt and haven't been sure what to do with.

I'm thankful for the love Salinda now has in her heart for her precious daughter. I know that it can only help her understand you, her history, and God's love and grace even more. And I'm thankful that God has given you the opportunity to be part of this child's life from the very beginning, something you weren't able to do with your own kids. What a gift for you and Bart, as well as the gift of a better relationship with your daughter through this crisis turned amazing/most perfect grandbaby.

You're doing an amazing job at "letting go", when it can't be easy now that it involves a tiny person you love intensely, too. It's all a testimony to how valuable every person is, from the moment of conception...that once they're born (even before), they have the ability to bring people close, heal past hurts, give hope. you suppose that's why God chose for His Son to come in the form of a tiny, little one???

one frozen state below yours

Anonymous said...

I'm happy for you and yours, that you've found that blessings surely will come from this baby. As a former pregnant teen, I know that there *is* a reason for everything, every baby. I married my baby's dad at age 18 and we made a home for that little unplanned blessing, a girl. Babies that we were ourselves, we did what needed to be done to make it work. God blessed us with two more little girls and now, more than 28 years later and still married to the father of my girls, I'm a grandma and oh-so thankful that God was (and is) the one planning our lives and the lives of our babies. You can see the abundant blessings God has bestowed upon us on my website, Grandma's Briefs (

Things *will* turn out wonderful for your daughter, despite the unplanned circumstances. Good luck to all of you!

Sheri said...

You made me cry as well. What a blessing you have and a fabulous way to see it!

Thanks for sharing.

DeeannaMarie said...

OMG (as my kids would write) I am so amazed.... my friend forwarded me "on being a Grandma when it's too early to be one" Thats me too!! I also am an adoption professional with a non-profit agency(teen pregnancy counselor) I have twelve children, 10 are adopted. My husband is a pastor. And I also did everything humanly possible to prevent teen pregnancy but I have two pregnant teens. One was adopted at birth and one of them at 5 yrs old. They are six months apart (17 and 18 yrs old)and both due to deliver babies in April. What you wrote is exactly what I have been going through!!! Last night I helped sew some pregnancy type clothes for the girls. Tomorrow we'll help one of the girls look for a job, he sister is working two days aweek. They too are making all their own decisions and understand they have to buy all their own diapers and baby wipes. Wednesday they both have their prenatal appointments. God is so good to us to always help us sort things out. Deeanna in Hawaii My e mail is:

Mama Drama Times Two said...

What a lovely, inspiring post (and, I dare say, a chapter for your next book....) Lucky Gabby.

Tyra said...

Claudia...absolutely one of the most encouraging words I have read in a long time... thanks for taking time to be "real" and teach us all how to mother better, I do believe you have another book to write based on this I need to save it and file it away for the next time I hear someone tell me their teenager is having a child...amazing.