I feel brave and progressive. Yes that’s what I tell myself, I’m progressive. This is the moment I believed I could handle. When the girls were little I would consistently picture myself on this fearless walk of teen parenting. I knew in my heart when this hurdle presented itself I would navigate it like the prepared pro I had envisioned.
Today is one of those moments. When it played out in my head I was a rock star. A hero. The reality is I feel shaken.
I am seated in the “guest” chair in the exam room at the Women’s Midwife and Health Care Clinic. The hardwood floor is a beautiful pale oak that appears to be lightly dusted with a matte finish of baby powder. The walk to the treatment room feels as though, if you’re not careful, your feet will slide out from underneath you. A slip that could cost you. The walls are a calming matte of cool coffee midtones with the occasional black and white newborn photo. Every photo shows a newborn who is merely seconds old. The face of each mother has a pained delight, and the father leaning over her with pride and tears.
I remember those early delivery seconds with my daughters. The memory comes to me easily. I look over at the little girl in the patient chair and see my 16-year-old daughter *Samantha (not her real name). Her feet are firmly planted. In this moment she is fearless, she is focused, and she knows exactly the nature of her visit today.
Samantha told me one week ago she is no longer a virgin. She asked me for protection (one week late) but I had always promised that I would make sure birth control was 100% approved and her decision. She relays to her new provider (as calm as the paint on the walls) “I’m here to get the depo shot.” Her sentence is unwavering. The brown walls begin to turn from the calm matte to bleak shadows.
She is the patient today and I allow the midwife, Meredith*, to ask her patient the questions. I sit firmly in the room that continues to feel dusted with slippery baby powder and make eye contact with both Meredith when appropriate, and my baby girl. So that she knows that I am with her.
[More on how to talk to daughters about sex here.]
I am also unwavering in my promise to protect, my promise to be open and accepting to an environment where we talk to each other. So I make it a point to look at her with those planned glances. I’m aware that I’m “trying” and it’s more of an effort that I had expected.
I tell Samantha and Meredith that I’m open to leaving the room after I assist with our family past medical history and learning about the current birth control options. I will exit the room to give them the privacy of this visit. The provider with her patient. The professional who will assist my baby girl in having pregnancy protected sex. Samantha is having no problems answering all of Meredith’s questions. Only twice did I interject “Samantha, Mommy can wait for you in the waiting room.” My offer still stands. She easily declines my request both times I say it – no resistance, not a flinch from her. I don’t think I wanted to run, but I wanted her to tell someone everything, even if it wasn’t me.
And she answers: “Yes, I’ve had sex before.” “Yes, we used a condom.” “It only happened once but it got there quick, I didn’t expect it to get to that point, but then it just did.” “Yes I felt respected.” “Yes I felt happy.” “Yes I can wait until my next cycle before I have sex again.”
I feel too warm. The exam room feels small and I become aware that I might have sweat on my upper lip. I smell the baby powder because, of course, that’s the scent of my deodorant.
[More on 25 things every kid needs to know before leaving home here.]
I think to myself, “my God, there’s a plan for a next time!” I knew there would be but it’s so difficult for me to grasp. She communicates to Meredith (everything we talked about prior to this appointment) with courage, control and an unexpected maturity.
On the day Samantha told me about her first time having sex, her demeanor was much different. We sat at the table in our kitchen with electric blue walls. She spoke with her hands over her face and her eyes peering out between her fingers. She blocked the light and color. I could see she wished she could block me. I had to ask, “Samantha, why is it so easy to take your clothes off and let a boy inside of you, but you can’t even hold this conversation without covering your face?” She replied “Because, this is just awkward, Mom.” And I saw my baby, not ready, yet thinking she is.
But she came to me. And that’s what I said I needed from her. She held up her end, my baby girl. With my bold fingers I dialed the number to the clinic like I had rehearsed in my head all of these years and I scheduled us – her. I drove in my charcoal gray car, usually quick with it’s engine geared for speed. The gray slowly drifted to the office, yet somehow we managed to be on time. Laws require me to be present at the visit. I have to sign her paperwork. I am required to approve her plan for hormonal injections. But Samantha will have these intimate moments when I am (in her mind) far away.
Meredith stands up and smiles brightly. I can see that would be a smile that lights the room of a mother who is nine cm dilated, scared and ready to push. I imagine that smile when she catches new life and hands it to teary, confused, proud, scared new mothers and fathers. I am her again.
Once all of the birth control questions are answered and important points addressed, Meredith hugs Samantha, and then me. “Good job, Mom. I am so proud of you both.” she says. “This is such a time of communication and empowerment. I see that you are a great family.” Her smile fades over me and I see her pink face. I remember little pale pink bows I used to put in Samantha’s hair when she was a baby.
This felt like a long 25 minutes but we got through it in better than neutral territory. The brown walls turned warm and inviting again, like a friend. I held my end of a bargain I had hoped would take much longer for me to address. Samantha looked different to me in a span of a half hour. I don’t believe she’s ready for this journey but she’s my baby and she’s pregnancy protected. We walk to the office exit and I can feel my feet on the powdery floor only this time I’m not unsteady. My feet stick. Samantha is in front of me and she looks taller. We grew in this office. Like the way time flies from the newborn stage to a teenager, my charcoal sporty car speeds us home.
*Names have been changed and the writer wishes to remain anonymous.
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