Reviews & Profiles
What it Means to... Be the father of a pregnant teenager
Posted Wednesday, March 13 2013 at 00:00
A father shares what he went through after his teenage daughter told him that she was pregnant.
It is easy to term a father’s actions after he finds out his school-going teenage, unmarried daughter is pregnant as extreme. But from my own experience, this is one of the most difficult moments of being a father.
I threw my daughter out of my home and didn’t want to even hear her name mentioned. I remember calling her elder sister and threatening to disown them both if she offered her even one night’s accommodation.
But you have to understand. My two daughters were the apples of my eyes. I doted on them, and we had a very open and close relationship. They in turn were the perfect daddy’s girls, never disappointing me.
When the news was broken
Then the younger one came home and broke the news. She was five months pregnant. What I felt was total let down. As a parent, you have faith in your children.
You expect her to reach certain heights and you firmly believe that if she succeeds then you have also succeeded. When she breaks news of pregnancy, it is like that dream goes up in flames. I felt like it was not possible anymore, like the vision just got killed by this pregnancy.
Maybe it is because of my experiences when growing up. Bright girls got pregnant and that was that, next thing you knew they were vegetable sellers. When my daughter broke the news, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that her life was over and that as a father I had somehow failed.
I felt like she was not the girl I thought she was or the girl who I raised her to be. I pride myself in the way I brought up my daughters, and this was not supposed to happen. I even thought she had done it to spite me.
Shame and humiliation abound
But the biggest thing was the shame. I am a role model both inside my family and out. People in the community look up to me. I mentor several youth on how to achieve their goals. Then my own teenage daughter comes home pregnant. It was so shameful. I wanted to hide. In fact if there ever was a hard time in my life, this was it.
I always say if I did not die then, I can live through a lot of things. I was so humiliated when people asked me about it or hinted at it. I kept wondering, “Who will hide me?”
That humiliation at some point turned into bitterness. “How could she do this to me?”
Now I understand when fathers reject their daughters and even the children they have. Before then, I would probably be among the ones thinking that is really extreme. But knowing how bitter that pill is, how difficult it is to accept the turn of events, I understand. A man I know told me it took him more than 10 years to accept his daughter’s baby. She was his firstborn, only in Senior Three and it hit him hard.
Even before thinking of forgiving and reconciling, I had to come to terms with the reality and that proved almost impossible. I kept saying, “It can’t be!” But every morning I woke up, she was still pregnant and I was still there, mortified and expected to find a way to forge on.
I have since learnt that sometimes parents cannot and do not want to deal with this reality so they take their girls to get an abortion. I think it is this coming to terms that becomes too difficult.
After the baby came
My daughter went ahead and had a healthy baby girl but I was far from accepting it all. I tried, God knows I tried, but every time that baby cried it was a reminder of the pain and shame I felt. The disappointment I still felt. I know that sounds cruel but it was how I felt. I tried to bury these feelings and find a way to forgive my daughter, but I can say it has not been easy.
The experience of my colleague who had told me about taking 10 years helped because I realised I was not the first to go through this and life really does go on. I didn’t want my house to be like his, where for close to a decade, the baby was not even supposed to cry or even show up in the sitting room. I had to find a way to make sure bitterness didn’t make an already bad situation worse. But to do that, I had to find it in my heart to forgive her.