Gratitude for the Children

A look at the other side


I'm all about gratitude this week. Gratitude for all that's mine that is so, so good: my family, health, lovely home, funny dogs, friends and jobs. After the week I had at work, I'm grateful for the life I lead. Which leads me to this: Most of the work I do at the hospital is truly wonderful. Wonderful families, mothers, coworkers and babies. Most of the babies we deliver are going off to lead warm, hopeful lives with people who'll love them and raise them well. Some of their parents are dealing with challenges I've never faced and some of these babies will too but regardless, everything's going to be OK. That's most of the time. Then there are the others.

If you're reading this blog, be grateful you can read. Be thankful you have access to a computer. If you own that computer and are sitting in your home, on a couch that you also own—be grateful. If you have a warm and supportive family around you; one who'll help you raise your baby—be very grateful. If you're healthy, have an income and most of your marbles (let's not get crazy here—there's placenta-brain after all)—you're a rich person with lots to be grateful for. Now for the crazy variables—if your baby's dad isn't in jail, your mother isn't mentally ill, your father isn't an alcoholic who's drinking in your labor room and you've never been sexually abused—jump up and down for joy. If you're a legal adult—jump again.

It's been a week of teenagers. I logged on to Oprah's website (looking for a diversion to keep me from a deadline) and read about a show she did recently on a young woman in jail for having killed her newborn when she was 15. The comments on the message board were shocking. The amount of anger and outrage at this girl's crime were intense. No doubt about it, this girl did a bad, bad thing. She delivered a (possibly stillborn) baby alone in her bathroom. Her parents didn't know anything about her pregnancy and her college-age boyfriend certainly wasn't there to help her out. She clamped the cord with a barrette—A Barrette! She cleaned up the bathroom and went down to dinner with her family, leaving the limp and probably dead baby in a bag. Things got really horrible from there and I'll leave it to you to read the details. The end of the story is that she's in jail and a lot of people out there are really pissed at her. I'm not. I almost cried for this little girl—that's right—15 year olds are little girls. Even if they're sexually active and deliver a baby. Even if they have an adult boyfriend. Their brains still operate in kid-land. They're terrified of Mommy getting mad at them so they don't tell her about the pregnancy. They don't have a clue how to put one foot in front of the other to come clean, fess up, get to the clinic and figure out what to do about this pregnancy. Yeah, some do—lots. Some don't—because they're screwed up little girls. Have a heart, guys. Imagine yourself as a child, having a child, alone in your bathroom with only a barrette for medical care.

I've taken care of more than my fair share of teenagers. They're a frequent assignment because I'm good with them. I have a few teenagers myself and I'm grateful none of them have made me a premature grandmother. Their behavior in labor can go either way—they can act like big-kids or mini-adults. They might have their own mother at their side supporting them through the day and on through the adventure of teen parenting. I like to think those babies are going to be all right. Teenagers are way too young to parent but lots of them step up and do it right. They're mothers, after all and most mothers really do want to do the best for their babies. Far too many teen moms have a tribe of other teenagers providing "labor support." Their own parents are nowhere to be seen. There are no adults guiding them. They're on their own—that's why they're having babies so young. Some of them are looking for a family to call their own—one person who is all theirs to love them unconditionally. Lucky teenagers have high functioning parents who do that.

Some teenagers are surrounded by their family but that family supplies the room with chaos, foul behavior, anger and ignorance. They come and go from the labor room bringing more smoke and booze aroma and behavior with them on each return. As the tension of labor rises, tempers flare and decorum deteriorates. More than once (more than 10 times) I've had my teen-patient's mothers scream at me not to get their daughter an epidural. "I want her to feel every single pain to teach her a lesson. This is what she gets." Good God—no wonder this child's pregnant. Imagine the parenting she'll be capable of.

Be grateful, ladies —whatever problems you have in your lives; I hope they're far easier than those faced by teen mothers, disabled mothers, homeless mothers, addicted, abused, mentally ill... I'll bet you have some education, a job and pretty good health. I'll bet you have people who love you and are supporting you through this wonderful adventure. When all is said and done, being a mother isn't all that complicated for most of us. We've got everything we need to do it right and so few obstacles standing in our way—be grateful for that—Lucky. And please teach your children about gratitude.

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