Archive for Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Double Take: Pregnant teenager needs support, friendship while deciding future

Julia Davidson, and Dr. Wes Crenshaw

Julia Davidson, and Dr. Wes Crenshaw

September 18, 2007

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Dear Dr. Wes and Julia: My friend is 14 and pregnant. She is asking me to help her decide whether to keep the baby. I don't want to tell her the wrong decision she will have to live with. What should I do? - A concerned friend

Dr. Wes: I know how you feel. I've dealt with teen pregnancy many times in my career. These are among the most difficult and troubling cases I've encountered, and there is literally no good answer. In fact, after having four pregnant teens on my caseload at the same time in 1997, I became a crusader on this issue, encouraging teens and their families to work together to prevent early pregnancy. Nothing creates as much havoc on a young person's road to adulthood. In fact, I see at least one or two clients per week who were affected by teen pregnancy - either their own or in their family.

The difference, however, is that I am a therapist and you are not. I'm supposed to struggle alongside families and teenagers to address hard problems. You are only responsible for being a caring and supportive friend. I think it's unfair that you've been asked to share the burden of this decision. The best advice you can give your friend is for her and her family to connect with a therapist who can help lay out all the options and assist them with making a decision.

You see, when we make a decision for ourselves, we make a decision for everyone. Early pregnancy doesn't just change a young girl's life; it impacts the father, her family and the community. Most importantly, it affects a tiny and defenseless person who has not been afforded any input into the matter. The research is clear - babies of teen mothers do not fair well over the long haul. They are more likely to live in poverty, to be involved with the law and to have significant mental health issues. Often the father becomes distant and unsupportive, and your friend will get little support from the state. Her best hope is to have a great deal of family support, and as anyone who's done it will tell you, the dynamic of a parent parenting a parent is itself a great reason to head to the therapist.

In addition to keeping the baby, I've seen teen pregnancies end in abortion and adoption, and there is no single option designed to fit every person. But there's one thing I can guarantee: Every option creates a significant potential for regret. Those who keep the baby will regret losing their teen years and young adulthood to the intense care a baby requires. This doesn't mean they won't love their child. They'll just wish they'd waited until they were ready to take on the full responsibility of parenting. Those who give up the child will wonder if they should have kept it - longing for the day the child might return to them. Those who choose abortion may always wonder if they made a wise or ethical decision. A few people may reach a sense of peace in their choices, but at 14, I believe your friend will have an incredibly difficult time becoming one of them.

The toughest thing about being a teen mom is realizing that once you're pregnant, the world no longer revolves around you. Each teen in this situation must accept and deal with her own regrets and do everything in her power to be sure the baby doesn't have to share in them.

Julia: Life would be a lot easier if there was a book called "I'm Pregnant : Now What?" to help in situations like this. However, choices associated with teen pregnancies are very subjective and, as Wes said, none of them are regret-free. In the end, it's your friend's call to make.

Even knowing your friend's religious affiliation, whether or not the father is going to come through, her family's opinion or yours would not bring either of us one step closer to giving your friend a definite best choice. Harsh as it is to say, she is on her own there.

I know you feel that if there were ever a moment to pull through for a friend, it would be now. But having a friend make such a big decision is definitely not the way to go. By asking what she should do in a literally life-changing situation, your friend is making no progress in her eventual decision; she is rightfully scared of her situation and avoiding it by giving you some of the responsibility.

Just try to be as supportive as possible. Let her talk to you about what she feels could help her as she tries to figure out what she is going to do. Being a friend does not mean you need to share responsibility for her pregnancy, only that you should try to help her take on that responsibility. Understand what she is going through; pregnancy will test her strength as well as the loyalty of her friends.

- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Julia Davidson is a Bishop Seabury Academy junior. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues to doubletake@ljworld.com. All correspondence is strictly confidential.

Comments

BrianR 7 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

guesswho 7 years, 8 months ago

Sorry, I have known women who had abortions who did not regret having one. Never assume you know how others will feel.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 8 months ago

guesswho says: "I have known women who had abortions who did not regret having one. Never assume you know how others will feel."

Ah, so it is the "lack of feeling" to which you refer....

stuckinthemiddle 7 years, 8 months ago

Wow... Brian's comment was rather mild compared to a lot of things that are allowed to stand here... And he was correct in the point that he made... which was similar to that which guesswho has made... Brian's was just funnier...

BrianR 7 years, 8 months ago

Wow Stuck, you're right. If my comment is some kind of benchmark, more than half the volume of posts on the entire board have got to go.

kneejerkreaction 7 years, 8 months ago

Is that the 14 yr old in the picture above, with the father?

gogoplata 7 years, 8 months ago

Tell her to have the baby. She should not punish the individual living inside her for her mistake. There are options on whether to keep the child or put it up for adoption.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 8 months ago

"But there's one thing I can guarantee: Every option creates a significant potential for regret." -- Dr. Wes

Rather optimistic perspective, eh, Doc?

(See, now I've regretted even posting this message.)

stuckinthemiddle 7 years, 8 months ago

Both the doctor and the young lady gave very honest, realistic and insightful answers...

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 8 months ago

stuckinthemiddle says: "Both the doctor and the young lady gave very honest, realistic and insightful answers:"

There you have it-short-term "therapeutic" interventions to address lifelong existential issues. (It is a limited sort of "insight," is it not?)

stuckinthemiddle 7 years, 8 months ago

tangential_reasoners_anonymous All insights have their limits: but as for the doctor and Julia, I believe they both convey an understanding of the long-term consequences...

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 8 months ago

stuckinthemiddle says: "... I believe they both convey an understanding of the long-term consequences:"

It is the nature of long-term consequences that they are "understood" only over time; the pre-experiential "conclusion" or "decision" cannot qualify as "understanding."

daddax98 7 years, 8 months ago

"The girl was old enough to have sex, she is certainly old enough to deal with birth" huh? are you one of those "if there grass on the field...play ball" sickos or something. She was in no way old enough to be having sex and who said the friend was a 14 year old girl? You put the A$$ in assumptions

waydownsouth 7 years, 8 months ago

In this day in age a teenager knows where a baby comes from and how they are made. Its talked about in school, around friends, and on television. Why when it happens to them they become shocked. There is enough birth control of different kinds to choose from. Most you can get for free at the health department. To have an abortion is a cop out of responsibility. "I made a misstake so i have to get rid of it." People willing to adopt are everywhere. Begging in newpapers and online. But everyone wants to say "Oh the poor teenager" Almost always refering to the girl. Badmouthing the boy who knocked her up.So many girls are getting pregnant now maybe they should 1 teach basics on caring for a baby and yourself. And 2 offer help and assistance for daycare and schooling so these girls do not become dependent of the system. If you are sure that you do not want a baby use birth control. However if you do the emotions are pretty high even for adult women who are pregnant. Its not easy no matter how old you are. And it does not matter if its your 1st or 5th. A support system is important and friends are sometimes the only positive support these girls have. Its life changing alright. So is getting a STD. A baby won't kill you or ruin your health forever.

J Good Good 7 years, 8 months ago

A baby CAN kill you or ruin your health forever. Pregnancy is not without risks even in this day and age - in fact pregnancy mortality and serious complications are rising in the US. For a young girl the risks are even higher than for a grown woman. You can say "just carry the baby and give it up", and that would be the most generous choice for this young woman to make - but to act like it is not a big deal when pregnancy is a very difficult and dangerous proposition for some people is pretty flippant.

stuckinthemiddle 7 years, 8 months ago

tangential_reasoners_anonymous People can have understandings of future consequences... absolutely... And most people do... and use that understanding on a daily basis in decision making... Some people have more understanding than others... like the good doctor and this fine young lady...

waydownsouth 7 years, 8 months ago

I never said that it was not a big deal its a very big deal. However pregnancy is has alot less risky now then 20 or 30 years ago. Risks do come into factor. With the use of conseption drugs and other issues that people put their selves in when they become pregnant like substance abuse, then yes it can be dangerous. So flippant i don't think so. But by your response i guess you are for the "lets get rid of it and everything will be better". Responsibility should just be taken out of the equation that would just be to easy.

stuckinthemiddle 7 years, 8 months ago

offtotheright "At any rate, another 14 year old girl should not be giving advise to the pregnant one."

That's the same advice Julia Davidson gave to the friend of the 14 year old pregnant girl... not to give advice: Julia is pretty sharp, eh?

athec 7 years, 8 months ago

Please take this coming from a professional News Anchor AND mother of 10-children...Abortion is NOT the answer. The children need to step up and take responsibility. They took responsibility when they decided to engage in sex and now they need to take responsibility and care for the wee one.

openyourmindandshutyourmouth 7 years, 8 months ago

I was a young mother becoming pregnant at 16. We ended up getting married and now, almost 10 years later are still happy and have 5 children. However, I know that is the exception, not the rule. I can't imagine being put in that situation at 14. If she was consentual, yes, she must suffer the consequences and I know some of you don't feel sorry for her for that reason. However, we are all human and make mistakes. Was it a mistake for her to be having sex without contraceptive? Yes, but it is not the baby's fault, so let's give her some compassion in this situation as to cultivate the best outcome possible. I'm sure she's already scared and confused, she doesn't need a bunch of strangers bashing her. Who knows if she's even told her parents? I would just encourage her to sit down with her parents and talk about all her options, no matter how hard it may be, and take her time making the decision. Did I miss out on some of my youth, yes. Was I a little sad about it at times, yes. But I could never have brought myself to have an abortion, and I knew I couldn't give her up either. I just wanted to keep her, and luckily for me it worked out. Also I was adopted so I am a big advocate for adoption since if my biological mother would not have chosen life, I would not be here. However, I do not judge, that's not my place to do so. This just reinforces parents, even though the teenage years are hard, try to keep tabs on what your children are into and encourage them to make good choices, and when they don't, love them anyway.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 8 months ago

stuckinthemiddle says: "People can have understandings of future consequences: absolutely: like the good doctor and this fine young lady:"

One really has to question the relative understanding of a 14-year-old (any 14-year-old) considering the life-altering "options" surrounding an unexpected pregnancy. In whatever terms such a thing can be "understood" at 14, it will be understood differently-perhaps dramatically so-within even a few years of maturation and additional life experience. What can only be hinted at in the verbal exchanges surrounding statistics, options, decisions, and potential outcomes will someday be felt along the spine and in the pit of the stomach-in short, at the core of one's being. It may not be something which can be articulated, like the statistics alluded to in the article, but it will be tied to an identifiable "choice" made at some point in time.

I hope that this young lady and her even younger charge have all the support in the world in traversing the distance before them. At some level, I must agree with Parkay's opening comment: "No mother regrets letting her child live"-the operational term, here, being "Mother;" may we all have one who values and selflessly embraces the role.

waydownsouth 7 years, 8 months ago

openyourmindandshutyourmouth you really have a story that alot of young girls should hear. I'm quite sure that you could give insight on overcomming alot walls that surrounded you. Plus show them yes you can make it in life with a baby. Congrats to you

Confrontation 7 years, 8 months ago

Here's to Dubya's abstinence only plan. It's sure working, right?

Confrontation 7 years, 8 months ago

The 14-year old girl is most likely having a hard time talking to her Christian conservative parents, who still think she's a virgin. Afterall, no Christian teens ever have sex before marriage.

daddax98 7 years, 8 months ago

where exactly are wes' hands? Julia sure has a "get your finger out of there before I smack you" grimice/smile on her face

classclown 7 years, 8 months ago

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time?

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 8 months ago

kneejerkreaction says: "Is that the 14 yr old in the picture above, with the father?"

Confrontation says: "The 14-year old girl is most likely having a hard time talking to her Christian conservative parents, who still think she's a virgin. Afterall, no Christian teens ever have sex before marriage."

daddax98 says: "where exactly are wes' hands? Julia sure has a "get your finger out of there before I smack you" grimice/smile on her face"

classclown says: "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time?"

Such unparalleled compassion.... (I'll be speaking to each of your Mothers....)

One has to wonder what a 14-year-old, curious about a newspaper article describing her plight, would think about all the "fond" remarks appended to the article.

(Sorry, to have lumped you all together, I'm sure that, individually, you each are fine, upstanding young men who wash your hands after using public restrooms.)

gogoplata 7 years, 8 months ago

A baby CAN kill you or ruin your health forever. Pregnancy is not without risks even in this day and age - in fact pregnancy mortality and serious complications are rising in the US. For a young girl the risks are even higher than for a grown woman. You can say "just carry the baby and give it up", and that would be the most generous choice for this young woman to make - but to act like it is not a big deal when pregnancy is a very difficult and dangerous proposition for some people is pretty flippant.

Sounds similar to the case for preemptive war.

bretherite 7 years, 8 months ago

kneejerkreaction says: "Is that the 14 yr old in the picture above, with the father?"

READ the Caption!!!! That is Julia Davidson and Dr. Crenshaw - the people who write the column.

Crispian Paul 7 years, 8 months ago

OK, all, lest it go without saying.... You will never have any idea how a particular pregnant person, pregnant teen feels, even if you have been pregnant, you have not been THAT person, pregnant.
You will never know how a particular person who has had an abortion feels, regardless of whether you have made that choice or have made another choice, yourself, because you have not been THAT individual. You will never know this child's maturity level or decision making skills, because you are not in that child's head. And, like it or not, abortion is a reasonably safe, LEGAL option. Don't like it? Take that up with the old Supreme Court.

gogoplata 7 years, 8 months ago

What concerns me most is the life of the baby.

thebigspoon 7 years, 8 months ago

Parkay, just how many mothers with unplanned, unwanted babies have you interviewed? Who set you up as an authority on the inner feelings of every mother-to-be? How about a little support for the expectant mom, regardless of her ultimate decision? You can not--DO NOT-- know what every woman wants, so let them make their own decisions without the guilt trip you invariably lay on each woman who believes, or acts, differently than you would like. The human spirit doesn't take well to pressure, and should not have to deal with thoughtless, ill-formed opinions. Let her decide.

gogoplata 7 years, 8 months ago

No one should be allowed to make the decision to murder.

thebigspoon 7 years, 8 months ago

It's stuff like your comment, gogo, that foments the (unnecessary) hysteria about abortion. You have no idea what you're saying unless you've been there or are facing the situation. Don't be so sure of your ultimate "rightness" until you've had to experience that which you so vehemently oppose. You ain't God, and you ain't right all the time.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 8 months ago

By the laws of the state of Kansas this girl was raped whether it was consensual or not. She was below the age of consent. It must also be pointed out that this girl herself is a child. Her body has not fully matured and is still growing. There are special risks to pregnancy and childbirth to a girl (not a woman) this age. Again it's a situation where half the people on this board would endanger the life of a child because they think the "child" growing inside her is more important. I do admit that I am just as rabidly prochoice as there are people on this board that are antiabortion.But then I don't see being against abortion as "Prolife". I see it as being "Pro control of women". It makes me want to go dust off my pins and bumper stickers from the seventies that say "Get your laws off my body". Ultimately a 14 year old faces risks; physically, mentally and emotionally, going through pregnancy and childbirth, that a 20 year old does not. I find it sickening that there is so much so called "compassion" for the fetus inside her and almost none for her.

waydownsouth 7 years, 8 months ago

She made a very grownup decision to have sex. Having a baby is a choice yes. However that choice should be made before sex. Children are taught in grade school where babies come from. Why is protecting the unborn getting people so upset. That child is a blessing no matter how the baby was brought into this world. Reminds me of the commercial "Why is it when i wanted a baby it was a baby and when i didn't it was something else" But of course Prochoice will give every excuse in the book to not protect a baby but themselves. Like the wonderful saying "Its all about me"

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 8 months ago

americorps says: "A [human] Fetus is not a human being."

If not "human," then what sort of "being" would it be?

waydownsouth 7 years, 8 months ago

Its a fetus . Then we can't force her to have a baby.

I was sure i delivered 5 babies that are human beings.So is a baby not a human being? If you look at the stages of pregnancy that "fetus" as you want to call it is fully formed by the 3rd month. The heart is beating before the woman knows she is even pregnant. Now does a beating heart not mean life.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 7 years, 8 months ago

cait48 says: "I do admit that I am just as rabidly prochoice as there are people on this board that are antiabortion.But then I don't see being against abortion as "Prolife". I see it as being "Pro control of women". It makes me want to go dust off my pins and bumper stickers from the seventies that say 'Get your laws off my body'."

This is the problem with the "so-called pro-choice" position. It is not control over one's own body which is sought, it is control over the body of someone else (-someone defenseless and apparently all-to-easy to "discredit" and to discard).

If you really want the right of choice, then put your "body" where your mouth is, and be prepared to accept responsibility for the choices which you make.

I think it safe to assume that any woman worthy of the right to choose would also appreciate the potential consequences of certain sexual choices, especially with regard to pregnancy. Clearly, the woman actively taking steps to avoid pregnancy has an appreciation of the possibility (or probability) of becoming pregnant if certain choices are made.

So, I say: "LET WOMEN CHOSE," and if the choice is made to behave in ways which can lead to pregnancy, then-in the event of that potential outcome-let a women rise to the responsibility of the choice which she has made (and afford the same sort right of control over one's body to an emerging individual which she would reserve for herself).

gogoplata 7 years, 8 months ago

It's stuff like your comment, gogo, that foments the (unnecessary) hysteria about abortion. You have no idea what you're saying unless you've been there or are facing the situation. Don't be so sure of your ultimate "rightness" until you've had to experience that which you so vehemently oppose. You ain't God, and you ain't right all the time.

No I am not. But there is more at stake if I'm right than if you are. We have laws that charge a person with 2 murders when a pregnant woman is murdered. Gynecologists are held liable for the care that they give to the unborn individual. If life begins at conception, abortion is murder. If life does not begin at conception, taking away the choice to have an abortion is a violation of the womans right to have control of her own body. Many say it begins at conception, and many say it does not. So since as you said we are not God and we are not right all the time lets just, for the sake of arguing say that we don't know for sure one way or the other. It makes more sense to me to say that protecting a human beings life is more important than protecting a human beings right to have control over their own body. And just for your information taking a human beings right to have control over their own body is not something that I am comfortable at all. I just think that protecting life trumps having control of your body. If there is a chance that that fetus is an individual human being it has a right to life that should be protected.

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