I had a great interaction with Mindy today. At 16, I expected that she might be a challenging client to work with. Her chart indicated that she was in special needs classes for a learning disability and she noted that she was unsure about her decision to have an abortion. Maybe I was less worried about Mindy than I was about how her very stern-looking father and his nervous looking girlfriend would react to the outcome of our session. They already looked uncomfortable and ready for the day to be done. One of our intake questions is "whose decision is it for you to have an abortion?" Dad's was written in bubbly teenage script.
Mindy was wrapped up in a printed hoodie, fiddling with an ipod. I started our session by asking her what had brought her to the clinic today, considering that she was still pretty unsure of what she wanted to do.
"What brought me? My father brought me," she answered, with a tone that suggested I was a little bit dim.
"Okay," I said, trying to suppress a smile, "fair enough. Tell me a little bit about what's going on right now and why dad brought you down here."
"I made the appointment myself, because I wasn't sure what to do. My mom knows that, but my dad made me come today. He swapped weekends with my mom--I think so that he could be sure that I came down here. I told him the whole way down here that I wasn't sure and that you guys wouldn't see me like that."
"Here's what I think," she continued intently, "I think that this is a really big decision, you know?" I nodded in agreement. "I know it would be hard, and I know that I have a lot of problems in school, but I think I could have an abortion or I could have a baby and I'd be okay. But I'm just not sure what's right for ME yet. This is my decision. Nobody else has to live with it. The guy is no help, he was a MISTAKE. And I need to talk to my mom and my therapist and my sister and the important people in my life. You seem really nice, but they're the ones I should be talking to about this. They're the ones who are going to be there and they should be here today. Dad just woke me outta bed and said 'come on, it's time for your doctor's appointment.' That's not how this is supposed to happen."
"Mindy, I think you're absolutely right--that's probably the same advice I would have given." She beamed, glad to be taken seriously. We went on to talk about the research she was doing, reading stories on-line about abortion and parenting and watching lots of "16 and Pregnant." She had watched the adoption episode together with her mom. I gave her a copy of The Pregnancy Options Workbook and Mom, Dad, I'm Pregnant.
I also gave her some pamphlets for her dad to read over. I asked if she was safe going home with dad and if he would be angry that she wasn't seen today. "Oh, he's all bark, no bite, would never do anything" she said, "I know how to stand up to him. I'm going back to mom's house anyway." We made a plan for her to call in a few days to check in. I don't know if Mindy will come back or not, but I love that whatever decision she makes, she's committed to making it on her own terms. I wish that all our girls (and women for that matter) could have that presence of self.