I don't always leave a counseling session feeling like I have totally been helpful to the woman, but I don't often feel like I have totally blown it. Well, with Samantha I did.
She is 15 and came with her grandmother. Right from the get-go she said that she was not going to have an abortion, which was OK with me, but someone clearly thought that she would because she made an appointment for one. I am just now fascinated with how teenagers think and how they interact with their parents in helpful or unhelpful ways. Mostly unhelpful ways are what I get to see. So I was eager to talk to her to see how this situation worked itself out.
The story was tiresomely ordinary, I am sorry to report. Her partner is older, and you could argue statutory rape except that the mother said it was OK for him to live with her for a while. Still, that was the gun to Samantha's head-- if she didn't have the abortion the mother was going to put him in jail for statutory rape. According to the grandmother he stole Samantha's money, was into drugs, had no job, and was generally "bad news." Samantha herself didn't really have too many illusions about him but she also couldn't think much about it since her mother had banished him and he was already in jail for a parole violation. Still, the statutory rape charges were not concerning her much; maybe she sensed that her mother was bluffing.
She was adamant that abortion was murder and she wasn't going to do that, no matter what anyone said. But the consequences of that were not only the boyfriend possibly going to jail, but more importantly, that she would no longer be welcome at her mother's house--her home in other words. Her mother's new boyfriend hated her and her mother wanted her out anyway. The situation seemed to work out for everyone's agenda except this 15 year old. That left Samantha trolling for love, and a place to stay, for her and her baby.
The grandmother was as good and true as ever a person was. She blamed her daughter--Samantha's mother-- for ignoring her and taking her own new boyfriend's part rather than help her daughter. The grandmother tried to bring Samantha to her house for weekends and to mother her as best she could, but it clearly was not enough. The grandmother herself was in poor health and so was her husband, but I had the feeling that they would end up helping her out.
Samantha focused on her estranged father as a savior to rescue her. In an overwrought wail, she said, "My dad said that I could stay with him and it was OK to have the baby there." The grandmother painted a different picture: The father had virtually no contact with his daughter, but favored his younger son, occasionally taking him for outings, but never Samantha. He told her she could visit but then wasn't home when she came. She didn't feel that he would be likely to "be there" in any significant way.
No matter what I said, or her grandmother said, Samantha just kept saying, more and more hysterically, "Nothing you say will make me change my mind. I am not having an abortion." Ironically, I was not trying to convince her, but I was unconvinced that she really wanted to have a baby. She was just tired of being pushed aside over and over again. Usually I can find a way in but this time I could not and I found myself responding to the unloveableness of a child having a tantrum. I challenged her to be proactive about finding a situation for her and her baby if that's what she wanted, but I was one more voice telling her something she didn't want to hear.
I did offer some resources and ideas to her grandmother, but as they left, I felt like I was the grandmother's last hope and I had failed miserably. Now I wish I had found some love and empathy for this unloved girl, and said, "I see a girl looking for love herself. Where can you find it?" I don't know if that question would have unlocked her heart but it might have made me more of an ally. I know that it is not my job to solve people's problems in a short session. But I can usually connect with what is going on for the person I am sitting with and that connection and attention can sometimes produce something useful. This interaction ended with Samantha scoring an empty victory, and me just feeling empty. Pray for the children-- both of them.