This is for moms with pregnant daughters. (Not the ones who are happy about it. This is for unhappy moms with pregnant daughters who may still be trying to hiding the growing truth.) Take a deep breath, if you’re feeling overwhelmed. This too shall pass. And you’re not alone.
Dear Mama, this is for you…
Sometimes, moms with pregnant daughters who call Abrazo are worried about their teens, but not always. In recent years, the teen birthrate in Texas has fallen, which is good news. (Even though the repeat pregnancy rate for teen moms is still a problem.) Whatever the pregnant daughter’s age, though, when it wasn’t expected, it’s a lot for both mother and daughter to process.
At Abrazo the majority of moms with unplanned pregnancies who make adoption plans are between the ages of 18-32. Over half are already parenting. They choose adoption not because they can’t parent, obviously. Rather, they know all too well what a big job it is and how limited their resources already are. That’s no reflection on their family’s help, but it’s a measure of their own maternal conscience. These are moms who genuinely want to give their child/ren the best, no matter what. And they don’t want another child to burden the child/ren they already have.
As a mother, you can surely relate. You want the same thing for your baby: nothing but the best. So it’s natural to feel responsible for your daughter’s welfare, whether she wants to involve you or not. Here’s the thing, though: whatever her age, in Texas, if your daughter is pregnant, she has a right to make her own decisions. And your responsibility is just to love her through it.
Should I ask? Should I not?
Some mothers have a psychic sense their child is expecting before it’s even confirmed, but don’t know how to bring it up. If your daughter lives at home, you may have noticed the sanitary supplies in her bathroom aren’t getting used. Or she may be gaining weight, or getting that pregnant glow or acting moody, or craving strange snacks late at night.
You want to ask her, but then again, you aren’t really sure you want to know? Dear Mama, you’re not alone. It’s an awkward predicament: as author Nancy Friday once wrote: “children have a right to their own sex lives, and parents have a right not to be made party to it.” Your child’s sexual choices are not a reflection of your parenting skills.
But here’s the thing: you can still find a respectful way to say “I love you. I’m concerned about you. And if there’s any chance you’re unexpectedly expecting, I’m here for you if you need me.” Leave a note in her backpack or handbag. Or text her a message. Or tell her in private. You’ll sleep better knowing you’ve said your piece, whether or not she feels ready to give you an honest answer.
Why Daughters Don’t Tell
If your daughter does come to you with news of an unexpected pregnancy, go Swiss. Respond with a neutral question (“tell me how you feel about this?”) before revealing your own reaction. It’s likely taken her more courage than you know to share this news to you. So she needs your unconditional support– however you may feel about it.
Candiss is a mother of five, but when she got pregnant the sixth time, her mom was the last one she told. “I didn’t want to see the look on her face,” she said. “I knew she’d be more disappointed than surprised. But I didn’t want to hear her say she told me so. And I didn’t want her to feel like she had to help me with another one, either.”
For Porsha, hiding her pregnancy was about protecting her mother, who was dealing with cancer. “The baby’s dad, he wasn’t going to help me at all. And Mama had enough on her plate. Adoption was always going to be my decision. She didn’t need to blame herself for that.”
Nikki got pregnant in her first semester at college and she fears her very religious mom will want her to parent no matter what. “She got pregnant with me in college, too. She gave up her career plans to be a mom. I’m grateful for what she did. It’s not right for me, though. I hope she can respect that. I’m not sure she will.”
As a parent, you do have the right to set your own boundaries. You don’t have to offer to raise her child for her. You don’t have to approve of abortion or adoption, if that’s her inclination, nor can you demand she pursue either option against her will. It’s not required that you give your blessing to a shotgun wedding, if you don’t approve. You don’t even have to pretend to be happy that she’s pregnant if you’re not. But you do need to find the grace to say “even if I don’t like your choices, know I always love you.” (Then mean it.)
What Are a Grandparent’s Rights?
Under Texas law, a grandparent’s rights are derivative of their child’s rights. This means that if your daughter wants to choose adoption for her baby, as a grandparent, you do not have automatic rights to intervene or interrupt her plans. However, you may have the privilege of participating in her open adoption plan if she chooses for you to do so. In Abrazo’s open adoptions, birthgrandparents are generally welcomed by the adoptive families just as long as the birthparents give their blessing.
One Texas couple had been devastated to learn after the fact that their daughter had placed their grandchildren for adoption without their knowledge. She’d been in an abusive relationship, so they understood why she wanted to permanently shield her children. Still, they felt guilty at having been unable to offer her other alternatives. Upon meeting the parents she’d chosen, however, their hearts were put at ease. Now, years later, they are proud to still be their grandchildren’s beloved Texas grandparents, and they’ve come to consider the adoptive couple full-fledged relatives, as well.
As mothers, we want to protect our children, of course. And when crises arise, it’s only normal to want to jump in and rescue our kids, to make important choices on their behalf and save them from themselves. Yet it’s vital that we allow our sons and daughters to make their own best decisions, when it comes to their health and their children. We can offer information, help them find resources, propose alternatives, and be a sounding board (if asked.)
Still: for moms with pregnant daughters, the biggest challenge is honoring their right to determine their own best path, just as we did as daughters, for better or worse. This is her season, not yours. She must author her own story, and create her own masterpiece in her own time… but hopefully, also with your unconditional love and support.