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SECRETS’ CORNER: They need to talk

Sanka Price

SECRETS’ CORNER: They need to talk

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ONE MOTHER’S greatest fear occurred when she received a phone call from her daughter’s school informing her that her child had become seriously ill and was taken for treatment.
She rushed to the emergency clinic only to be confronted with the news that her daughter was haemorrhaging, the consequence of a terminated pregnancy.
Her situation formed the basis of this week’s question: You have been called to the school because your 17-year-old was menstruating heavily and temporarily lost consciousness. You take her to an emergency clinic only to discover that the bleeding is actually due to the after-effects of an abortion. You were not even aware she had a boyfriend. How would you handle this?
 This unfortunate situation seemed to have struck a nerve with readers as several texted, emailed and telephoned their comments advising the mother on what she should do, empathizing with her, or slamming her for not being attentive enough to realize that her teen had a boyfriend and was sexually active. There was also a particularly lively discussion on THE NATION’s Facebook page.
One woman said: “As the mother of a teenage girl, I can’t imagine how scared and traumatised my baby would be. I would be angry and scared, but the first priority would be my child’s well-being, getting her to a gynaecologist and making sure some butcher did not scar her for life and deal with why afterwards.”
 Another commented: “Any good parent would know their child has a boyfriend, especially since she is 17 and at an age where she has sexual curiosity.”
Though this is a very emotional issue which can generate blame for everyone involved, the reality is that this teen did not trust her mother sufficiently to confide in her. One can therefore deduce that they do not communicate effectively, and this is the crux of their problem.
The way forward for both would be to re-establish their ability to talk with each other on any matter. But to get there will not be easy. The teen was secretive for a reason which needs to be revealed. It could be that she was being abused by her father or a relative living in the house, tried to tell her mum but was dismissed, so she said nothing else about it and became pregnant as a consequence, and the individual took her for the abortion. 
Or, it just could be that she is involved with an older man, knew her mum would disapprove, so did not say anything, got pregnant, had a termination, and now that her secret is out, she has to confess.
The bottom line, though, is that the two of them need to talk and gain trust in each other. If they fail to do so, given what happened, they each stand to forever lose the closeness which should exist between a woman and her child.
Here are edited versions of some of the responses:
• “l would want to know who the father is, where he is, how old he is, where he lives or works (if he works), how she met him, who gave her the money for the abortion, who took her there, who was the doctor that did it and who else knows that she was pregnant and had an abortion. Though l would be saddened by the death of my unborn grandchild, I would be angry at my daughter for taking that step without letting me know that she has a boyfriend and became pregnant. l would want to know why she had sex in the first place and unprotected, too, given the many sexually transmitted diseases out there.”
• “l would be angry but would reassure her that everything would be okay and try to be patient and understanding.”
• “Though I know any parent can be lied to and deceived by a child, especially if she is doing well in school, I would be devastated that I had no idea about this and would work hard to regain my daughter’s trust.”
• “This child needs to be counselled by parents and others who can be trusted. However, parents who did not know this was going on are not necessarily bad. It means that some information was hidden, no matter how much the parents talked with their child.”
• “I would make sure she gets the best medical attention and deal with my emotions. I would make sure she knows if and when she wants to talk that I’m there. What else can a parent do? Threaten? Beat? Put her out of the house? None of them would make sense after the fact.”
• “It doesn’t matter how close children are with parents, there are some things that they will not disclose to adults for one reason or another.”