As every mother knows, there is
no respite from parenting. When my teenage daughter became pregnant, I
had to find a way to nurture her and confront my own issues at the same
My daughter Windsor had been sleeping a lot. She would come home from school and take long naps before dragging down to dinner.
was keeping company with a young man who was pleasant, but had few
ambitions. I didn’t prevent them from seeing each other, but I certainly
hoped their relationship would soon run its course.
accused me of being judgmental and not trusting her. Our relationship
became volatile and frustrating. I was keenly disappointed and even
questioned God about these developments.
One afternoon Windsor
came and sat beside me on my bed. I saw fear in her big blue eyes as she
confessed that she suspected she was pregnant. My mind raced. I tried
to prepare myself for what lay ahead as I embraced her and told her it
would be OK.
I was not sure that I was ready to deal with all
that might come if we found out for sure. But a friend urged us to go
for a pregnancy test immediately. I drove Windsor to the doctor’s
My mind raced ahead. I wondered: How would we handle
this? Could I protect her? And what about my own reputation? What would
people say now? I was a single mom, and I was not prepared for this.
This was not supposed to happen in our family-not to me, the daughter of
The doctor confirmed that Windsor was pregnant.
Still in the doctor’s office, I looked into her eyes brimming with tears
and held her tightly as moans escaped from her inner depths. Our lives
had just been changed forever.
What Now? – What do you do
with the information that your 16-year-old daughter is pregnant? I knew
Windsor was wounded already. She was feeling guilty and ashamed, and I
should not add to it. She did not need more rejection from me.
some point, too, I would have to confront the many issues involved and
face my responsibility. In spite of my love, tears, prayers and efforts
at discipline, my child had made bad choices with serious consequences.
ease my confusion, I reached for a devotional book, and it opened to
Bible verses about peace. I read: “Now may the Lord of peace Himself
give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thess.
3:16, NKJV); and “’My presence will go with you”’ (Ex. 33:14). I felt a
peace that was not my own.
Windsor made the first big decision
herself-she did not want an abortion. I was thankful for that. When she
informed her boyfriend of her pregnancy, he said he did not love her and
did not want to marry her.
I contacted a local crisis pregnancy
center to find out what resources they offered. Their counselors were
understanding and helpful. They provided me with the names of unwed
mother homes, but these were far away or seemed to be too rigid.
had heard enough preaching. She needed a balanced approach and did not
want to be manipulated into a decision. The search was frustrating, and
we clashed often.
As her mother, I was the safest person for her
to take her anger out on-and she did. I love my daughter so deeply. I
can honestly say I was never ashamed of her, although I certainly
grieved for her and with her.
To show her how much I cared, I
listened and listened some more. I heard things I did not want to hear.
It was hurtful. Arguing was futile, but often I fell into that trap.
daughter needed to be able to trust me with not only her angry
outbursts but also her deepest thoughts and fears. I rarely let Windsor
see my own anguish and doubts, which is one way I failed her.
Eventually I needed counseling. It forced me to take responsibility for my anger, doubt, guilt and shame.
The Need for Nurturing
– Anyone involved with a child in an unplanned pregnancy becomes part
of a complicated journey. I found others to lean on and allowed those I
trusted to comfort me.
I was blessed to have a wonderful friend
who was also a counselor by profession. Sara Dormon often provided a
home, counseling and support for women with unplanned pregnancies. She
took Windsor into her home, and walked her through the realities of
parenting and adoption.
Although she changed her mind just about
every hour, Windsor eventually decided to release her baby, a girl, for
adoption. She was on a roller coaster of emotion to the very end.
daughter pulled at my heartstrings and pushed all my buttons. Windsor
needed me as never before. But she was more difficult than ever. There
were days I didn’t want to face another decision, argument or emotion. I
didn’t want stamina; I wanted out.
To keep going, I had to
nurture myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. I did things I
enjoyed. I went antiquing and read books for pleasure more than for
But despite my efforts, I became depressed. The
help I received from wonderful doctors and counselors helped me make
decisions and kept me from spiraling downward emotionally.
Anger, Blame and Forgiveness – My life was altered by Windsor’s choice. People looked askance at her and at me. I was mad about this.
was angry with these people, with Windsor, the young man, myself and
with anyone else who happened to cross my path. My anger wasn’t
rational, and I frequently lashed out. I was angry with myself for being
angry and needed to find someone to blame.
I blamed Windsor’s
father. He was not there for her as she grew up, and he rejected her
early on. He left a huge void that she desperately wanted to fill. I
felt, too, that the church let us down. And I was angry with God because
He hadn’t intervened.
Unloading the anger began when I made a
conscious choice to forgive. I told God about my decision and asked for
His help in carrying it out. The first day I had to remind myself of
that decision 100 times.
Forgiveness does not mean being tolerant
of bad behavior. Nor is it about denying reality, excusing sin,
avoiding conflicts or ignoring the consequences.
looks the hurt straight in the eye, calls it for what it is and says to
the offender: “I relinquish the right to make you pay. I give you the
opportunity to make a new beginning.” It costs you.
My heart had
been deeply wounded, and the healing process wasn’t always smooth and
pretty. But the more I practiced forgiveness, the greater my capacity to
Asking forgiveness of Windsor, her father, God
and others for my harshness and anger was the hardest and most humbling
thing I ever had to do. But even if my daughter continued to hurt me
with her choices, that couldn’t stop me from making the decision to
forgive every day. I saw it as my responsibility, and I didn’t wait for
Windsor to ask for my forgiveness-I gave it.
A Shared Journey
– My daughter spent nine months thinking of very little else but the
baby within her. Windsor loved this child more than anything.
admired Windsor’s courage. She knows this now, but back then she did not
think I cared because I kept so many of my emotions to myself. Windsor
needed me to cry with her, but I carried my grief inside.
Windsor released her daughter for adoption, she attempted to return to
her routine. She soon found that she didn’t fit in with her former
friends at school or at church. Naturally, she gravitated toward those
who didn’t make her feel bad about herself. She began dating again, and
things deteriorated rapidly, to the point where she moved out of my
After nearly a year of this behavior, she informed me that
she was pregnant again. I wept; I could not go through it again. I told
her she was on her own this time, but I would not abandon her.
remember how I felt when Windsor told me that she was not going to
release this baby for adoption. I got up, hugged her and told her that I
was glad she was settled with it and could move forward. When she left
the room, I picked up my Bible, and my eyes fell on the verse, “The
earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell
therein” (Ps. 24:1).
In my heart, I felt an unexplained peace
that could only have come from God. Windsor and her baby boy belonged to
Him, and He would take care of them.
The Scriptures tell us that
God is with us in the midst of our heartaches. Jesus not only
experienced life here on Earth in all its agony, but He also became
human so that He could understand and comfort us in our need.
has taken Windsor and me years to uncover all the areas have needed
forgiveness. When, finally, she asked my forgiveness, we both cried. The
healing continues today.
Ruth Graham is the
third child of evangelist Billy Graham and author of several books,
including In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart (Zondervan) and I’m
Pregnant…Now What? (Regal), co-authored with Sara Dormon, Ph.D.