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Supporting daughter's decision to terminate pregnancy

Oct 2012

My 17 year old daughter recently told me she is pregnant. Together, we discussed the options and she decided to have an abortion, which is scheduled for next week. Although she initially made the decision quickly, and we both still believe it is absolutely the right decision for her, she is not taking it lightly and has been (appropriately, I think) sad about the whole thing. She has only told her boyfriend and her best friend. She is under a lot of stress now in addition to the pregnancy (she is in the midst of applying to colleges) and I am worried she is not fully dealing with this. I have suggested she see a therapist, but she refuses. I also gave her the number for a hotline that I got from Planned Parenthood. I am pretty sure she hasn't called. She also has only allowed me to tell 1 friend, which has been very difficult for me, but I understand that she wants to keep this private and does not want it to get around. I am more of a ''sharer'' and am finding it difficult to have conversations with people I am close to, like my mom and brother, without telling them what is going on. Anyway, I guess my question is whether people have any advice about any other way that I can support her and get support myself? (Please, please - no anti-choice responses.) Not ready to be called ''grandma''


so sorry to hear of this really rough situation! i too am a talker, but when i was facing an abortion, i did not want to talk. i just wanted to not think about it at all, in any way. it was too horrible to contemplate. i just wanted to be where i had to be and get it over with and otherwise not think about it. so you are doing a great job being there for her. i think it is such an overwhelming situation that she cannot open the door to feeling anything about it right now. you are really helping her by letting her keep that door shut. i'd advise that you make sure to pamper her if you can, little gentle things--tea or warm milk or soft music. it is such a harsh and terrible thing, it might help to make sure she gets a lot of kindness, and no questions. i felt for a long while after mine that i didn't ever deserve kindness, ever again. take care, both of you. anon
I would encourage you to let your daughter lead on this issue. Everyone is different. She may feel best not talking about it, and she may move on from this quickly and relatively easily. Or she may not. But she is not you, and she's going to have her own responses and feel things in her own way and time. You've given her resources, which is great. But maybe she doesn't need them, now or ever. Maybe she's said but really okay with this. That is fine too. You ask how best to support her, and that may be to leave her alone and not keep picking at her feelings.

Good for you for respecting her privacy. I am also a sharer and that would be hard. I think the overwhelming urge to talk about this will diminish with time, so it will not be so hard in a year to not mention it to your mother as it is now. See a therapist yourself, or call the hotline yourself, if you need to talk about it now. I am not there with you two, but I wonder if maybe you're feeling it as much or more than your daughter is. Your sign off line, about not being ready to be called grandma, was very poignant. let each of you feel in your own way


I think the hardest part of being a mom is watching our kids go through things that are painful. It's especially difficult given she is in the midst of applying to schools, a period of time that I know is incredibly stressful. The fact that she came to you for help in the first place tells me you have a very loving relationship with your daughter. You are already giving her all that she needs, but if she needs more help I think she will come to you to help her figure out what to do next. All my best to you and your daughter
Hi. I feel for you both in this difficult situation. I have been in your daughter's shoes and was extremely lucky to have a supportive parent, as your daughter obviously does (and good for you!). My recommendation is to talk to your daughter about your own need for support. She's old enough, I assume, to handle the fact that you're a separate person and that your situation is not the same as hers. I can understand her position too -- maybe she's afraid of being negatively judged by her grandmother and uncle. Maybe it would work for you to have another close friend in the circle? I'm rambling, but the bottom line is my suggestion that you talk to your daughter about your own needs during this.

Good luck to you both. (And I'm a big sharer too, it gets me in trouble with my daughters all the time.) supportive but anon


You and your daughter are going though a tough time. I wanted to give you a perspective from a long way out.

I was pregnant as a teenager, about a year beyond your daughter (I was 17, but in college) and it was an unplanned pregnancy. I had an abortion. I was so young and so totally unprepared to be a parent that is was actually an easy decision to make-- I only ever told my boyfriend of the time and one close female friend. The decision was so obvious-- there was NO other option that I could even consider, that it took much of the stress away-- I did not struggle to make the decision, I did not (and still do not) regret the decision (and I am now, at an appropriate age, a very happy parent). My one female friend took me to the clinic and stayed with me, and took me home.

I didn't tell my mother because I thought it might be harder on her than me, and there is a chance that you are experiencing exactly that.

What I am trying to say, although not well-- is that it might actually not be so stressful for your daughter-- she may, like me, feel more relieved than anything else. When decisions are hard to make, that is when I fall apart. But when there are NO options, I can get through anything relatively easily. The stress comes from not knowing what to do. If she made the decision quickly, she may not have had a lot of stress to deal with.

I don't think I have advice for how to make you feel better about the whole thing-- but maybe this might help you understand what might be her experience-- for me, the abortion (while totally undesirable) was not a traumatic experience. I knew what I wanted, and I just wanted to be over with it. I didn't want to let anyone know, because I didn't want or need to talk about it. peace for you and your daughter


What a tough situation your family is facing! You and/or your daughter may want to check out http://exhaleprovoice.org/ for some info and support. Getting yourself some support, maybe a therapist would be helpful too. Best of luck. Anon
Do NOT tell anyone about for daughter's situation for the following reasons:
1. She is nearly an adult and it is her business only to share or not share. In fact if she were only few months older you could be in violation the HIPPA Privacy Rule.
2. Abortion is a touchy subject. Unless someone goes around wearing a pin that says ''I'm pro-choice'', you can't assume they are pro-choice, despite other opinions they might have that could indicate that they might be pro-choice. You may not find the sympathy you're looking for.
3. In the same way that anti-choice people consider their need for an abortion an exception (see: Scott DesJarlais), some pro-choice people might see your daughter's situation as an exception, and might not understand why she might choose to have an abortion. I speak from experience. Are you prepared to be judged by people you thought you knew? Why would you expose your daughter to that judgement, even with her consent. And so early in her young adulthood when she is just learning to be an adult.

It sounds like you're making the situation about you, and not your daughter. If you need sympathy, YOU should go see a therapist. It sounds like she's got her part under control. Auntie


Dear Not Ready to be a Grandma, My heart goes out to you, I can't imagine what it is like for you, but I can imagine what it is like for your daughter. It was 1975 and I was also 17 and getting ready to go to college. Once I suspected I was pregnant my decision was almost immediate. Thank you, Roe v. Wade (1973), for giving me a choice. I remember the folks at Planned Parenthood being concerned about how quickly I made the decision, thinking that I was not thinking it through. Believe me, I knew I was pregnant long before they told me and my decision was well-thought out and not taken lightly. Once it was over and done, I felt like a HUGE burden had been lifted off of me and I could go on with my life. I don’t remember ever feeling like I needed a therapist. In fact, I recall very clearly that I just wanted to put it behind me and move on with my life. Perhaps this is how your daughter feels. I never told my parents (very Catholic) because I didn't want to burden them. Your daughter and you are lucky that you have the kind of connection that allowed her to tell you. My advice to you is to respect her privacy and not share this information with any additional people. Once it has been done and you have some distance from it, the burden should lessen to the point where it is ancient history. If you find yourself feeling very burdened with this ''secret,'', than you may benefit from some talk-therapy. Anon.
Dear Mom, PLEASE don't give in to your need to tell family and friends about your daughters condition! I was in that position many years ago, and didn't even tell my mom. It means a lot that she told you. Give her your love, and space for her to deal with this in her own way. She may be ready for counseling in th future, but don't push it on her. I wish you the best. Berkeley mom
Hi, You mentioned that you gave your daughter a hotline number to call and perhaps it was for EXHALE. If not, I thought I'd share their website http://exhaleprovoice.org/. They offer not just phone support but also videos of women's abortion stories. Your daughter might find it easier to hear these stories than to talk to others right now. The website also has some information for family members and a number of resources. Your daughter is fortunate to have your support right now. Warm regards Lee
I think it is very important to respect your daughter's wishes and not share her information. She will process it over time. You might want to consider therapy for yourself on this issue and also on the transition to parenting a young adult who places a high value on privacy. Anon
Dear not ready to be a ''Grandma'', I had an abortion at age 20 and looking back it was the best thing I could have done. I remember all the feelings and thoughts and told very few people. (I have kids now) It's a private, personal choice Abortion Conversation
It sounds like you're pretty clear about what you want her to do, but she's not so sure. Have you told her that if she keeps the baby, or wants to give it up for adoption, that you will support her decision? Or did you just try to gently guide her down the path of what you think is the best decision? She may be feeling pretty lonely now if everyone is telling her to get an abortion but her heart is telling her something else. I am pro-choice but I was pretty appalled by your message. ''Not ready to be a grandma''? Yes, I imagine it would be quite inconvenient for you if she had a baby now, but that shouldn't affect her decision. To be pro-choice there has to be a choice
A lot of people offered advice that you not tell your brother or mother about your daughter's abortion, feeling like it was your daughter's right to have that kept private. While I agree that you need to be very cognizant of your daughter's desire for privacy, I wanted to offer a different perspective.

When I was 13, my 19 year old sister had an abortion. It happened to be while we were on an extended family vacation with a lot of family at a remote cabin. Getting to the clinic involved a two hour drive, and my mother took her. My mother told us all, including my grandparents, why they were leaving for the day. She told us very matter of factly, without any drama, that my sister had gotten pregnant and had decided to have an abortion, and that they were going to the clinic and would be back for dinner. No processing of feelings or big follow up discussions, just being open about it. It made a huge impression on me, in lots of ways, but mainly that it wasn't something to be ashamed about, that families don't keep secrets and they can be trusted to support your decisions, and that if I ever found myself in trouble I could go to my mother and get help. And I think it was helpful to my sister to feel like she didn't need to feel ashamed or keep secrets. I don't know if she gave permission for my mother to share the news, but I have no doubt that it was the right think for my mother to do, both for my sister and for the rest of the family.

So I'm in favor of not keeping secrets, but at the same time, if what you really want is someone to help you process your own feelings, maybe a therapist or a friend whose not close to your daughter is a better choice. younger sibling


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