Jim (Dad): When a seventeen year-old high school girl from a home practicing biblical principles, becomes pregnant, it’s like an angry mule that kicks, and everyone feels the impact.
My wife, Jamie, and I married in 1983. Brenna was our first child, born in 1989. Two boys, Brock in 1991, and Jordan in 1993 followed her. Brenna was a cute little blonde delight. I often thought one of my strengths as a father was showing affection to my children. I believed this strength would be a key ingredient that would steer my daughter away from teenage pregnancy. I was wrong.
This is Brenna’s story, but I believe you’ll find value hearing from the entire family. Because when a teen in the home is expecting a baby, the entire family is pregnant!
Brenna: No matter what her beliefs or how she was raised, if a pregnant teen tells you she never seriously contemplated all of her options, she’s likely not telling truth. I was seventeen, a senior in high school, and had no idea what I was going to do. I was raised in a Christian home, but chose to rebel and allowed myself to be deceived. I became pregnant, and distress was part of my daily routine.
My boyfriend Ryan and I finally reached the point where we decided we loved each other and were going to try to figure it out. With our stomach in knots, we told our parents.
Jim (Dad): The news slapped the self-righteousness right out of me. How could this happen in my family? I thought I had done everything right as the spiritual leader in my home; not perfect, but generally kept us on the right path.
I sought oxygen, but couldn’t find any! “A slow boil,” best describes the internal combustion I experienced.
Brenna’s options included birth, adoption, or abortion. Once I learned of her pregnancy, birth was the only option in my mind. God immediately impressed upon me to adopt this child if they chose that route. Intuitively I knew my daughter would one day want to be part of this baby’s life, and I could not imagine my grandchild being raised by someone else.
Brenna: There was a lot of praying and crying. Looking back, the amount of support and love we were shown instantly by our parents, is both rare, and significantly linked to the success we have as parents and now a married couple. We are not naive to the statistics, we know many others who unfortunately didn’t make it. They are left dealing with court dates, child support, angry exes, and all the other baggage that comes with raising a child without the foundation of a Christ centered home and marriage.
Jim (Dad): I was taken to task over hounding Brenna with the statistics saying their relationship would not survive. Several weeks into the pregnancy, and in tears, Brenna told me she knew, but didn’t need to be reminded every day. “We will be the exception,” she expressed as her face said, “please love me regardless.”
“There is no such thing as an accidental baby,” my own mother reminded me. (Psalm 139:13-16.)
Jamie (Mom): For a while, I operated in a fog and struggled with guilt. Lines of communication were severed and I felt like a failure as a mother. A break through came when I apologized for my shortcomings. This went a long way toward reconciliation and effectively moving forward in adverse circumstances.
Jim (Dad): We understand that loving family members are sometimes absent in the life of pregnant teens. Fortunately, both families came together and stacked hands. We concluded that we would surround Brenna and Ryan with unconditional love, prayer, and support. We also reinstituted boundaries that would help them maintain discipline required to mature as adults and parents. Ultimately, their positive response to godly wisdom was a key ingredient to fruitful living.
Jamie (Mom): They wanted to get married, but we strongly encouraged deferring this major life decision. Although they assured us of their love, we told them self-sufficiency was required before we’d support a wedding.
Brock: It has always been easy for me to look on the bright side of things and tune out the negative. With that being said, it is often hard for me to reflect on the months leading up to the birth because I naturally try to forget all the bad. However, with it being such a long period of tension, I could only tune out so much.
The thing that I remember most as a sophomore in high school was just how confused I was. You could sense the tension in the room that morning in January when my brother and I were sat down and told that our sister had something to tell us. “Cool” was my first thought when I heard she was pregnant. I get to be an uncle.
But then the crying, explaining, and arguments began and I had no idea what to think or feel. I tried to remain optimistic and to make everything okay, but I didn’t know how. For about six months a prayer request in my small group was for peace and reconciliation in my family.
Eventually my optimism hit a breaking point. I was walking to class with two of my closest friends when I just stopped and started crying. They asked me what was wrong. “My family is falling apart,” I said, “and I have no idea how to stop it.” Without hesitation they both threw their arms around me and began to pray.
Jordan: I was in the eighth grade when Brenna became pregnant. I started to think more about my faith. I couldn’t stop thinking about how this might change the family dynamics, which it did. This was the first major trial that I witnessed. During the next few months there was a lot of crying and arguing. At times Brock and I wouldn’t come home to avoid hearing the latest fight. We’d go to a friend’s house or to a local water tower that became an escape for us.
Around this time was when I discovered the power of prayer. I first thought I didn’t want to talk to anyone about the situation but I soon found myself praying, and asking God for peace. During this time, I read Proverbs 3:5-6 many times and I tried to “trust in the Lord with all my heart.”
Although it was difficult, I’m grateful for the experience. Living apart from God is harmful. I was more thankful to see the Lord rebuild our divided family. God’s peace and patience prevailed and allowed us to focus on preparing for a baby. Initially, the pregnancy fractured us. But in the end it brought us much closer as a family.
Jamie (Mom): Afterward we realized that we somewhat abandoned the needs of our boys. We were so thankful people in ministry surrounded and encouraged them along the way.
Brenna: How are we doing? The simple version is that God’s grace has sustained us. The complicated version is found in a series of events. Our parents have prayed over, and supported us when we were still kids figuring it out. Siblings have been our best friends, babysitters, and soundboards through the roller coaster life we’ve been living since then. Ryan and I have had peeks and valleys, but through biblical counsel from others, we are loving, communicating, and choosing to be there for one another through the wins and losses that come with being a spouse and parent.
Jim (Dad): Brenna and Ryan have now been married 11 years. My granddaughter, Dakota, is 12, and is a sweetheart who loves to play games with “Mimi” and “Papa,” and go for joy rides with me on the Harley. She has two younger brothers, Dax who is nine, and Dawson who is six. Together as a family they are proving to be the exception to the rule.
Brock: God, in his perfect timing, brought peace and reconciliation to our family. Not with just one, but three bundles of joy and a brother-in-law that I can’t imagine living without.
Jim (Dad): The story is still being written as the journey continues. But we share Our Family Was Pregnant to offer hope that “exceptions” are possible. This circumstance, like all troubling times in life, required surrendering to God’s sovereignty in order to restore unity in our family. It doesn’t matter how we fail to measure up to God’s design for our life, no situation is hopeless if you invite him into the mix!
Wishing you the best,
The McNeff, Hodge, and Marraccino Families
Author’s note: “Our Family Was Pregnant” was originally published in my book, Justice Revealed.
(Feature image: Dan Evans via Pixabay)