When Ruth Graham, daughter of Billy and sister to Anne and Franklin, learned that her 16-year-old daughter Windsor was pregnant, she hopped aboard an emotional roller coaster.
"I was both angry at Windsor, wanting to shake her, and yet compassionate, longing to hold her and make everything all right. She could not seem to see that I was trying to help. Worn out with the tension between needing to be wise and wanting to wash my hands of it all, I wanted to escape. And yet there was no place far enough away to remove the knots in my stomach, the anxiety in my mind and the ache in my heart."
This kind of honesty characterizes her new book, co-authored with clinical psychologist Sara Dormon. A specialist in dealing with crisis pregnancies, Dormon provides solid advice to both young mothers-to-be and the people who surround them at the end of each chapter. And while the perspectives of several women who have dealt with their own unplanned pregnancies or those of loved ones are included in the book, it's Ruth and her daughter Windsor (who might also deserve an author credit) who provide the book's heart and soul. Taking turns, they detail the difficult decisions and steps that had to be made when Windsor got pregnant, not just once, but twice, as a teenager.
Here, they each write about Ruth's decision not to provide a home for Windsor and her baby during the first pregnancy:
Ruth: "To help with making so many decisions with far-reaching consequences, I found that I needed someone to talk to --- someone wise and grounded. I chose to go to a local pastor for advice. He raised issues I hadn't thought of: the deeper questions of motivations, ego and spiritual components. He probed to find out if I thought God was calling me to raise the baby with Windsor. He counseled me to pray about what God would have me do.
"My commonsense conviction was that Windsor was not ready to be a parent. And I knew that parenting wouldn't make her grow up. I wanted her to be able to finish high school unencumbered with responsibility for a child. When I took the pastor's counsel and prayed about it, I felt I could not take responsibility for Windsor's life and its consequences, but that she had to face those herself. I felt that stepping in and raising the baby in my home was not best for the baby, Windsor or me. I had to trust God with the results of my decision."
Windsor: "When my mother made up her mind that she would have no part in helping me raise this baby it forced me to have to think. Of course I kept trying to change my mother's mind, but she wouldn't budge. I had to ask the practical questions: What was I going to do? Where would I live? How would I support myself? In my heart I already knew that I couldn't raise this baby alone, but I felt that if I admitted that, it would mean I had failed again.
"Every day there was an emotional battle going on inside of me. Every day I was torn between my desires to mother this baby or to give my child a better life ... My mother and I were very much at odds with each other. Abandonment isn't a strong enough word to describe how I felt. When she informed me of her decision to not help me with my child I felt helplessly alone. It was a different kind of lonely, more like drowning where no one can hear you calling for help."
The tension and distress between Ruth and Windsor as they struggle to figure out how each of them will deal with this pregnancy is not a pretty picture. But this is a pretty good indication that these women are telling the truth without sugarcoating it. And this is just the kind of straightforward talk that women and girls dealing with crisis pregnancies need to hear.
Windsor decided to release her first baby to adoptive parents, but she kept the second child. However, only cursory attention is given to the second decision. The bulk of the material in this book is about adoption --- why and when it's a good option, how to go about finding adoptive parents, and especially, how hard it is to give away your child. The emphasis on and advocacy for adoption is so pervasive that the book could have been titled "You're Pregnant? Consider Adoption."
Indeed, adoption is a beautiful decision for both a birth mother without options and an adoptive family. As an alternative to abortion, adoption is clearly the more loving and healthy approach to a crisis pregnancy. And that is a worthy goal of the book --- to present adoption as a viable alternative to young women who would consider abortion because they can't take care of a child on their own and don't have a support structure to help.
Still, as I read this book, I was frequently frustrated that Windsor herself didn't have a support structure that would help her raise her child. It's incredibly pompous of a book reviewer to second-guess the heart-rending decision made by Ruth not to open her home and reorder her life around her grandchild. However, I do think it's worthwhile to mention the idea of a community --- whether it's family, friends, church members, or any combination of the above --- coming together to support a young women in such a way that she is able to continue on with her life, now as a mother, in a holistic way. By all accounts, adoption creates a wound that never heals. Sometimes this wound is an easy tradeoff when compared to the suffering that might be caused by other options. But if it's at all possible for a mother to keep and raise her child in a Godly, loving and supportive environment, how much sacrifice should the body of Christ be willing to make to facilitate that wholeness?
I don't pose this question lightly. My own family and I have had to grapple with it on a very personal level. And just as I'm PREGNANT...NOW WHAT? focuses primarily on the pros and cons of adoption, a similar book might be written about the pros and cons of creating that support structure to allow a young woman to keep her child.
So while it's not a thorough exploration of all the options open to young women facing crisis pregnancies, I'M PREGNANT...NOW WHAT? is still an important and valuable resource for the young women themselves and for those who would prayerfully support these mothers, whatever decisions they make.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on October 1, 2004