Thanks, Mom for the gift of choice
I don’t know what I expected you to do, Mom, how I expected you to react when I said those words no parent wants to hear from their teenage daughter, but you surprised me.
“I think I might be pregnant,” I said.
You were standing in my bedroom doorway, looking in at me where I sat hunched on the edge of the bed, crying.
“Oh, shit,” you said, and turned away, walking quickly out of the frame of the doorway.
I was a little shocked then, that you walked away, but now I see that was a gift to me, to hide your reaction. I was so ashamed, so afraid to tell you. I was afraid you would be disappointed in me, or angry, or disgusted. But I had to tell you. I see-sawed between I can’t tell her and I have to tell her for days, and I kept landing on I have to tell her. And you surprised me by turning away, but I see now that was a gift. Maybe you did it for yourself, but it was a gift to me that you stepped away, and then came back after you had taken in what I said and composed yourself. Because you did that, I would never know how it made you feel for me to tell you what I had to tell you.
When you were back, standing in the doorway again, you asked, “Do you know for sure?” You calmly walked into the room, sat down beside me. “Have you taken a test?”
I shook my head and said, “No.”
“Then we’ll go tomorrow, and get a test, and then we’ll take things from there.”
We were sitting side by side in hard plastic chairs the next day, in the lobby of the free clinic when a young woman came out from the back office and stood in front of us to tell us the results of my urine test. “Yes, she’s pregnant, six to eight weeks,” she said.
As I sat looking down at my hands in my lap, she kept talking. I heard snatches, fragments. “It’s a simple procedure… It only takes a few minutes… We can show you the room…” I wanted her to stop talking. I wanted to not be there. I wanted to be anywhere but there.
And you stood up, Mom, your next gift to me. You stood up and said,”Stop talking to her, stop talking that way. She’s fifteen years old, she just found out.” You pulled me up to stand next to you and said, “I was a social worker for years, I would never talk to a young girl the way you’re talking to her. You should know better. You should get some training.” You stood up, you pulled me up, and you spoke for me when I couldn’t. You told the woman at the clinic, “We’re going to think about what to do, and when we decide, we will not be coming back here.” And you put your arm around me and we walked out.
We got in the car and sat quietly for a moment. Then you asked me, “Do you want to have a baby?”
I couldn’t meet your eyes. When I picture the scene now, I see the dashboard of the car, as I breathed out, “No.”
“You could have an abortion,” you said. “Do you want that?”
Another gift to me, you asked me what I wanted. You didn’t tell me what you wanted me to do, what I should do, what I had to do. You asked me what I wanted.
What did I want? I only knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want to be pregnant. Did I want an abortion? It wasn’t easy to say yes, but I didn’t want to be pregnant. I couldn’t believe I was pregnant, but I was. I was pregnant, but I couldn’t imagine having a baby. I couldn’t imagine raising a baby, and couldn’t imagine having a baby and not raising it. I felt too young for any of this to be happening. I felt too young to be in the position of having to make this decision, and I was too young and unaware to know how lucky I was that it was my decision to make. I don’t think I ever thanked you, ever acknowledged what a gift it was to me, that when I was stuck in an impossible situation you gave me options, and let me choose.
And however you felt about my choice, you hid that from me, Mom. You never showed me anything but love and support. Now that I’m older, a mom of teenagers myself, I can only imagine the rage you must have felt at the boy who got me pregnant, but you hid that from me too. I don’t know what it cost you, how hard it was for you, and I know I never thanked you, for the gift you gave me when you kept all your feelings to yourself, and let me find and follow my path. I never even gave it a thought until after you were gone, but I will always be grateful and I hope, somehow, you know.