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What I Wish I Could Say to Teen Moms
Had an amazing weekend speaking at a marriage conference in Ottawa! Met all kinds of great couples, shared our difficulties, and tried to point them to how God can empower them to make their marriages better.

One of the hardest questions I get at marriage conferences, though--and I get quite a few of them--have to do with step-children. What do you do when you have joint custody with someone who hates you? What do you do when the other parent constantly harrasses you, takes you to court, and poisons the children against you?

The non-biological step-parent is in a truly difficult situation then, because you'd rather just concentrate on your own biological kids, and make a great home for them, but these step-children keep popping in and out. If you could have them full-time, that would be okay. But the disruption, the fighting, the stress is too much.

Presents for baby showerImage by litlnemo via Flickr

I was thinking about all of these issues when news hit that a dear girl that I know, in her late teens, is now pregnant. It sounds a little bit like it was not quite planned, but not quite an accident, either. She's on top of the world about it.

I have known many girls in their late teens or early twenties who have suddenly "found" themselves pregnant, and their glee is evident to all. They want this baby. Frequently they grew up in horrible families, and they so want someone to love who will love them back. They want to be the centre of someone's world. They want a chance to start over, to truly have their own life, and what better way than to start a family?

I don't know who the father is in this case, and I don't know what will happen with my particular friend. But I do know statistics. And the vast majority of these relationships do not last. That doesn't mean, however, that you are finished with the man who fathered your baby. On the contrary, like these couples I spoke to at the conference, this 'other parent' can be a constant presence in your life for the next 18 years--and beyond. You'll need to get child support (since most of these girls have no way of supporting themselves or their children). They may want visitation. And, as does occasionally happen, these men may grow up over the next five or six years, meet a stable woman, get married, and then decide that they should try for joint custody. You may suddenly find yourself having to give up your child frequently so that they can go see their dad. And you have no say over it.

Starting a family when there is no stability is one of the worst things you can do for your emotional future and your child's emotional future. It makes any education to better yourself so much harder. It makes finding a mate so much harder. It makes work harder. And you put your schedule, your bank account, your access to the child in the hands of the courts, for in all likelihood, you will be fighting over this for the foreseeable future. It seems so easy when it's just a pink line on a pregnancy test, but it doesn't stay that way.

Perhaps my friend won't have these problems, because the guy will bail and walk out and never make any demands. That may make her life easier, but it's not necessarily the best for the baby. A child needs his or her father. Dads are important to our development of sexual identity, self-esteem, and our ability to make good decisions (or even to make decisions at all). To decide to have a child who in all likelihood will never be close to his or her father is not fair to the child. Girls at that age have this magical thinking that they will be able to love the child enough that it will never want its father. They picture themselves in a world of two, where it's just them and the baby and everything's perfect. Then, as the years go by and the child wants to spread his or her wings, or wants to know his or her father, the girl can experience this as rejection. Whenever we have a child to fill a hole in our own lives, we bring a child into the world for the wrong reasons. We put too much on the shoulders of that child, and ask them to play a role God never intended for them to play.

Please understand me: I am glad that she is keeping the baby and not aborting it. As part of her Christian family, I will try to support her in whatever way I can. But that doesn't stop me from being sad that she has made the choice to have a baby in the first place, before she is emotionally, psychologically, relationally, or financially ready. It takes more than love and devotion to raise a child.

Perhaps she will mature, and be a marvelous mother. I will pray for that. But it will not make up for the lack of a stable father in this child's life. Through God's grace the child can still grow, and succeed, and come to know Him, but it is hard to start life with so many strikes against you. It is as if the mom is almost recreating the unstable situation that she was born into and that she so very much wanted to escape. Instead of waiting to mature and marry and find a healthy way to leave her biological family, she has taken the more common, and what appears the easier, way out.

Yet ultimately it is not easier. Motherhood is so hard. I remember carrying Katie, my youngest, around the living room as she screamed, red and rigid, with colic for about two months. I remember not sleeping for around a year because Katie never needed sleep. I remember having a fever of 103 and puking all over the place, and having to pull myself out of bed anyway to look after two children. I know I could not have done this had I been 18 and alone when I had the kids. I just couldn't.

And so I will pray that God will show me ways to help this girl. And I will pray that no other lonely girls in our community will do the same thing.


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At 8:19 AM , Blogger Tiffany said…

There is a young girl at my church who just graduated from high school who recently had a baby. I am constantly reminded how much of a child she still is! I see things over and over that remind me that she is just not ready for this! It just breaks my heart, both for her and her boyfriend, and for the baby!

It is also very hard for me to see on a personal level since I lost my daughter after only a day. In my heart, I say, we were mature, married, and ready for a child, and we lost her. But all around me I see people who are not mature, not married and definitely not ready for a child who "accidentally" have one! I pray often for God to help me be supportive of this new mother and not resentful. Thank you for your thoughts!


At 8:54 AM , Blogger Tracey... said…

I linked to your post today....great work!


At 9:35 AM , Blogger Sheila said…


I'm so sorry that you lost your baby girl! I know what that feels like. I have a baby boy in heaven, too.

Have you seen my video, A Prayer Through Tears? You can find it here:


At 10:18 AM , Blogger Terry @ Breathing Grace said…

It isn't easy. I say this as the wife of a man who was a very young father, grew up, married and had 5 more children with me.

I know of what I speak. But God's grace is sufficient. It has to be.

On a practical level, I think one of the biggest emotional hurdles to get over is understanding your limitations as the noncustodial and step parent, because the limitations are many.

Of course, understanding the limits invites more prayer into the equation, which is always a good thing.


At 11:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Excellent post, Sheila. I have to say that my experience as the daughter of teenage parents was totally affected by the reality that they were children raising a child. Did they love me? Absolutely! Did they do their best? Certainly! Am I a productive member of society? Sure. But, the truth is, I didn't have a firm foundation and, while my choices are all my very own responsibility, I can see how their own insecurities and immaturity had a profound impact on every aspect of my life.

My parents celebrated their 39th anniversary in April, I'll be 39 in October. It's a beautiful testimony of God's grace ... but there are many, many moments of heartache, hurt, and pain ... which could have been avoided by a decision NOT to have sex.

I love my parents and I am thankful that they have worked so hard to make their marriage work ... they did the best they could, I believe that wholeheartedly. But, it wasn't easy ... and it still isn't sometimes.

The question we need to be asking isn't, "Can I parent this child?" It is, "Should I?" I often tell the young women I counsel at our local crisis pregnancy center that the decision what to do after you're pregnant MUST be based on what is in the child's best interest. The time of doing what feels good to you or makes you happy has passed ... parenting is about putting the best interest of our children ahead of our own wishes, dreams, insecurities, desires, longings, and hopes.


At 12:35 PM , Blogger Chele said…

Oh wow Sheila. That hits home to me. I could write a book on it. I must say that I've been there. 14 yrs ago I found out I was pregnant a month before I graduated high school. I married that man and a lot happened since then. I should share it all with you but I've already shared some of this on my own blog. I can say though, I NEVER thought I would be without their father. He promised me the world and he failed... to the point he gave up rights for his own children. Okay I feel so strongly about this and must stop or you'll have a whole other post (or series) in your comments. So hits home... I will pray for this young girl and her unborn baby.


At 2:25 PM , Anonymous said…

I was a teen mom too, and I couldn't agree more about how hard it is. That's why I started to share real stories from adults who have been there. Thanks so much for this post.


At 4:06 PM , Blogger Herding Grasshoppers said…

It's really heart-breaking.

You're right that these girls often have babies because they want to love and be loved, but... then the baby grows and becomes a demanding toddler.

So she has another one, that will be cute and will depend on her and love her...



At 7:29 AM , Blogger Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said…

I became pregnant with my (almost) 14 year old when I was 16 and by the time I was 18 I had two little boys 15 months apart. While I understand everything you said, working with teen moms on an almost daily basis and knowing the struggles they face from personal experience, what teen moms need from their church family and friends is unconditional love and support.
I was saved, found Jesus with clothes on, through a teen mom support group, which is why I am so devoted to sharing the love of Christ with girls that have made mistakes.
Sin is sin. Thankfully we serve a Romans 8:28 God and He has a plan to turn that girl's mistake into a success story for His glory.


At 7:36 AM , Blogger Sheila said…


I totally hear what you're saying, which is why our church family is already talking about how to help her. What's done is done, and the issue now is not to judge her but to help her.

It's just that when I think about situations like hers, I can't help but think that the better solution may be to take these girls BEFORE they get pregnant to fill that hole in their lives and try to help them to see that a baby can't fill it. Only God can.

What's really heartbreaking is that we had been working on this, and one family in our church in particular had been loving her like crazy (had had her move in from time to time, too), and she still chose this route. The fact is that sometimes psychological pain is really deep, and it takes a lot of maturity, and a miracle of the Spirit, to heal it.


At 6:54 PM , Blogger Melissa, Multi-Tasking Mama said…

I completely agree with you about heading off these issues when possible. and I agree that the only way to do that is to teach girls (as young as we possibly can) that their value comes from Jesus and not anything else (external or internal). We spend a lot of time and resources doing just that with the ministry I am a part of.
But the fact remains that many girls will still get pregnant and still find Jesus and that ultimately He can work if for the good, if the girl allows Him too.


At 7:34 PM , Blogger Angela @ HomegrownMom said…

I'd just like to point out that sure, she may be "over the top happy" about it, but you never know what she has gone through personally to get to that point.

I discovered I was pregnant at 18 and instantly decided I would do what was right for the baby and love her from the get-go. I never would have wanted to walk around with my head hung in shame and act like it was a big disappointment, even if it would have made my church family feel better about "the situation."

I decided to celebrate this new life and if someone figured I'd planned it all because I was so happy, then they would have been wrong.

As for having a fever, puking all over, and getting up to care for my baby, yep I sure did. I know it's hard to imagine but what we all need to remember is GOD does NOT make mistakes!

Girls in other cultures have babies at a far younger age and are quite good moms. Not that I am recommending that teenagers go out and get pregnant! I'm just saying that you never know the whole story and unless you're her mama, you should probably just focus on loving her and thank God she is showing a sense of enthusiasm about bringing a new life into the world.

I understand what you're saying about girls who TRY to get pregnant, but please don't assume that just because someone has come to terms with it and chooses to look at the bright side has indeed planned it.


At 11:49 AM , Blogger Becky said…

Hi Sheila,
I am late reading your post on this. Just found it through another blog.
My husband and I are in the process of adopting our great-nephew. Our 17 yr. old nephew and his then 16 yr. old girlfriend's biological child.

He's been with us since he was 2 and 1/2 months old and our state CPS removed him from his young parents due to immaturity which produced domestic violence with the baby around, among a mirage of other things!! Both young parents have many emotional issues.
We couldn't bare to see him go to foster care; no one else in either family was in any way able to help or take the baby.

When we found out A was pregnant, our hearts broke for that baby! We immediately saw what we felt would surely happen.....and it did!
We prayed from that point for them and the baby. We urged them to get counseling but they never would. At first, they were going to marry and life was going to be roses!

My husband felt strongly that God was calling us to step in help redeem this baby. Sure enough, He was and now we are going to court in June to finalize his becoming our son.

We have 2 other children, both blessings through adoption, and we were in no way planning to have another. It was a hard adjustment for me at first! I love him to death and he is my child but, I had to deal with the anger issues that I had toward his birth parents! Teens have got to be responsible and avoid bringing children into their lives. It's not the way God designed it to be and it's so hard on many, many people!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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