One of the primary concerns of many younger clients who come into our doors is how their parents will react to their unexpected pregnancies. How do you reassure that young woman when she hasn't spoken to her parents yet? What about when her mother comes in with her? What can you do to support her as well?
Tammy and Jay Daughtry have spent a lot of time thinking about and working on this topic in their work with CoParenting International, not to mention their own experience of unplanned grandparenthood. With Grandparent's Day coming up this Sunday (September 11), they'd like to share with you a tool to help support the unplanned grandparents of your young clients. Having faced the unexpected pregnancy of their daughter, they have a unique perspective to share. You are welcome to use these letters or take inspiration from them for the unplanned grandparents you encouter at your pregnancy help organization.
Dear Unplanned Grandma,
You are not alone.
Right now, you may feel overwhelmed and confused or angry and upset. Whatever emotions are running through you right now, just know that you are not alone. Your daughter is not alone. There are ways through all the complicated details that seem uncertain and overwhelming.
I recognize that you might be sad because this is not what you imagined for your daughter. You didn’t anticipate being an instant grandparent without an engagement and a wedding. The dreams you had for your child may look a bit different with the recent news of a baby coming along. But don’t worry – God has an incredible way of re-writing dreams and re-organizing details. Once you hold that new little baby in your arms, like the moment you first held your child, it will all make sense. What matters right now is that you express your unconditional support to your child and that she knows you won’t abandon her.
No matter what your relationship has been in the past, no matter how frustrated you might be, right now what she needs is your relentless love and support.
She is probably very scared and unsure of herself. She might even be considering an alternative solution to having this baby. The risks are critical regarding how a woman’s body is impacted if they try to end the pregnancy: there are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual risks to her wellbeing, and she may even struggle to have a healthy pregnancy in the future. Those stakes are too high. Protecting your child from ever considering those options will have a lifelong impact on her now and for decades ahead. She needs to know you love her and that you will be with her every step of the way.
And we are here. We will be here to help point you to resources and to have a safe place to talk all along the way.
With relentless support,
Unplanned Grandparent, Class of 2013
Dear Friend -
Our three oldest children have a nine-year spread in their birth years, 1988, 1993, and 1997, two girls and a boy. What’s interesting is that we had our son’s name figured out ten years before he was born. For some reason we had this common assumption that we would have a boy, so we poured over the name books and definitions and settled on just the right name. Not until the doctor exclaimed, “Congratulations you have a beautiful baby girl,” did It dawn on us that not having a son was a possibility. A rather strange position to put ourselves in considering the odds were 50/50. Either way, we were happy with the outcome, but we had to make some exchanges regarding the baby room theme and color, as well as some clothes and toys. Every plan needs contingencies.
Fast forward, it’s June of 2013, one has launched, and two are in high school (we added a third daughter). I guess I hadn’t fully learned my lesson on contingencies, despite working with youth for over twenty years in ministry. Our second oldest, with big sister for back-up, was sitting on her bed explaining through a downpour of anxious tears, that she was pregnant.
Of all the ways I imagined hearing that news one day, like five or six years from now, I hadn’t imagined this moment. The moment that needed me to be fully present emotionally to protect the heart of my daughter from her own shame and self-loathing with an abundance of love and affirmation that whatever the future holds she is strong enough and never alone.
But despite the high likelihood of having a moment of this kind, especially when you factor in the reality of having three daughters, I was not prepared. I hadn’t considered the obvious possibilities and developed any contingency plans. Honestly the adult in the room (me) wasn’t much more prepared than my barely post-adolescent daughter. So, I did the “dad” thing and got analytical, pragmatic, and solemn as I told her about the challenges ahead.
Swing and a miss! I really felt like I had struck out, not because I didn’t know how to do better, but because I hadn’t prepared myself better.
That moment is barely a shadow now because we intentionally made the most of every moment after that. We celebrated the joy of new life while acknowledging the challenges and facing fears together as a family. The timeline was unexpected, but the hope of blessed vibrant future was always our expectancy for our children and grandchildren. My wife and I weren’t any less excited and hopeful because we had a girl when we were expecting a boy. And, the fact that we had imagined becoming grandparents in a different way and timeline, didn’t diminish the anticipation and joyful preparation of the beautiful new life we received in February of 2014.
Dads, we can’t let our desire to protect and our desire to provide, overshadow what our kids need from us most in challenging life transitions. They need our affirmation that they are loved and valued, as well as our future grandchild. As we acknowledge the challenges ahead, we declare our commitment be there for them, not to remove responsibility from them, but to support them in it. Finally, I found it to be invaluable to offer a genuine acceptable of the circumstances as they are and will be without the sting of ongoing reminders of how things were supposed to be. We can’t protect their future by trying to hold on to their past. No one ever becomes their best self by feeling “less than” as they’re reminded of things they can’t change.
Oh, and the word of the day is contingency, with a strong dose of improvise and adapt, and smothered with a whole lot of love and grace.
I’m on your team,
To hear more from Tammy Daughtry, check out Unplanned Grandparenting: Casting a Vision of HOPE for the Entire Family, our recorded webinar, and the most recent episode of the Pregnancy Help Podcast, Unplanned Grandparenting.
Tammy & Jay Daughtry, MMFTs
Authors, Advocates & Trainers