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Forum:'Dad, I'm pregnant': One family's story

At age 16, Jessica Cranmer came home with some startling news. She and her father, Bob Cranmer, describe how everyone pulled together

Sunday, December 01, 2002

DAD: It was a beautiful spring evening in April 2001, and life was good. I had returned from a late afternoon event in a neighboring county and was looking forward to a relaxing weekend. I had left the stress of politics and government behind and life had a sense of peace and order again. All of our four children were fine and my wife and I were very proud of our 16-year-old daughter. Always mature for her age, she was talking of becoming a trial lawyer and had been attending a program sponsored by a large law firm. A few months before she had taken an evening job as a waitress and had met her first "real" boyfriend.

  Bob Cranmer, a former Allegheny County commissioner, lives in Brentwood. Jessica Cranmer is a student at Community College of Allegheny County South Campus. Their e-mail address is sceneridge@aol.com. 

My wife and I had several heart-to-heart discussions with her concerning becoming too serious too fast, and also addressed that three-letter word "SEX." She assured us that she understood and guaranteed us that she knew better. We were quite confident that she did, and believed that we had nothing to worry about.

Upon arriving home that evening I was feeling good and prepared to have a late dinner and do some yard work. After a few minutes my wife, Lesa, came into the kitchen and calmly announced that Jessica had something to tell me. I said fine, asked where she was, and then saw her in the TV room. Expecting a pleasant surprise, I walked into the room to see my daughter sitting on the couch with tears streaming down her cheeks. Before she said a word to me the first thought that entered my mind was "this isn't happening." The next two words that I heard hit me like a hammer -- "I'm pregnant."

Somewhat in disbelief, and also in an effort to keep my composure, I said nothing and sat down. I then left the room in an attempt to return to the carefree mood that I had left in the kitchen. We later reconvened on the front porch and in a cool manner, attempted to discuss the situation. I wanted to scream at her, but then it would have done no good. The deed was done and I had to accept it. My insulated little family had been violated. High school, college, the legal career we spoke of, everything now was in complete disarray.

JESSICA: When I first discovered that I was pregnant, I was terrified and many different things were running through my mind. What was I going to do? The thought of getting an abortion crossed my mind as to how easy it would be. But then reality came back and I knew that I would never be able to go through with it. I couldn't deal with it for the rest of my life -- and I did have other options. So I determined that I would tell my parents and ask them to help me. I built up the nerve to tell my mom and then she could help me break the news to my dad. In my mind, telling my dad was the hardest part of the whole deal, knowing that it was going to be a big disappointment to him.

In the end it wasn't as difficult as I had envisioned and they took the news pretty well. We would deal with the situation together. The next decision for me was giving my baby up for adoption because I knew that there are many childless couples that desperately want babies. My dad thought that it was a good option to consider and encouraged me. This seemed to be a reasonable thing to do.

But after about a week, I had second thoughts. It didn't seem right for me either since I couldn't stand not knowing what happened to the baby.

So I decided to ask the advice of my grandmother -- she seemed to always have the right answers. She told me to give it time and that God would let me know what to do. She said that I shouldn't do anything just because I thought that it was going to make other people happy.

Sure enough, she was right. I realized that I was only leaning toward adoption because that is what my dad seemed to want. So I told my parents that I was going to keep the baby. They accepted my decision, and my mother and I started to make plans.

DAD: As the months went by, I just ignored the fact that she was pregnant and put it out of my mind. It wasn't until late August when my wife went to a yard sale and bought a bassinet and a changing table that it began to sink in. Then came the paint and wallpaper. My daughter's posters came down and Winnie the Pooh went up. I did not participate in this process and only occasionally looked in on the progress. In September her stomach began to grow. Reality smacked me in the face. I was embarrassed. When I discussed Jessica's condition, I spoke as if she had contracted a disease.

When my daughter was born, the scene resembled a "Dick Van Dyke Show" episode and excitement burst out of me. When Jessica's day came, I acted like it was just another of the many childhood trips to the emergency room. "You take her and I'll stay home with the boys," I said to Lesa. "Call me when something happens."

The night went by and there was no news. She called in the morning and said that Jessica was in labor but the birth wasn't imminent. I went to the office and midmorning I received the call that she was going to the delivery room. I made my way to the hospital. When I arrived, my grandson had been born.

I felt embarrassed when I saw how excited the father and his parents were. I was having a hard time looking at my little girl holding a newborn baby. When I held him, it was difficult to comprehend that this little baby was actually my grandson.

JESSICA: After I had told my parents that I was keeping the baby, everything was fine. But it hadn't yet hit me that I was going to be a mother. When I had my first sonogram done, I was still in disbelief. I thought that maybe they wouldn't see anything, I would go home and it would be over. But sure enough, there he was on the picture. I began to cry.

As the months went by, my stomach got bigger and soon I was also feeling him move. I was going to be a little boy's "mom." How would I do it? Could I do it? The days went by quickly. My teachers were really cool and tutored me at home and in the evenings.

I went into the hospital early on a Sunday morning with really bad contractions and they said that it would be soon, but not yet. So they sent me home and told me to call them when they got worse. I spent the day in pain and was scared; I had no idea what was happening.

Later that night I went back to the hospital and they kept me. I ended up having to walk the halls and it wasn't till early morning that I went into labor. I was terrified because I had no idea what I was doing. After being in delivery for 10 minutes, I gave birth to my son. I started to cry. I wasn't ready to hold or nurse a baby, let alone be called "mother." It would take a few days to get used to.

DAD: My mother died last May, a week or so before my daughter graduated from high school. After Collin was born, Jessica had started back to a regular school schedule and my mother watched him every day. I was happy that she was able to spend so much time her first great-grandchild.

If it hadn't been for her wisdom, we probably wouldn't have him now. Jessica has done an outstanding job rising to the demands of motherhood. I must say that it was a little different taking a picture of her in her prom dress holding her little boy. She has started her first semester of college, maintains her career plans, and also holds a full-time job.

The baby's other grandparents are wonderful and watch Collin every day while she's in school. Our little guy had his first birthday last month and it was a big event for all, especially him!

You may ask why we felt compelled to write this piece. It certainly wasn't easy, but we've gained some experience that may be helpful to other girls and parents facing the same crisis. Having a child out of wedlock is traumatic, but the child has nothing to do with it and shouldn't have to pay a penalty.

Looking back to the stressful beginning, the issues and challenges seemed like mountains. They do have merit and certainly can't be discounted. But as I view them now, those mountains look like a few spots on the floor. I shudder to think of what choices we could have made.

Getting married and having a soul mate is a great experience, as is having your first child. But I must say that I never thought that I could be so deeply affected by one little child. In my mind he sits on a satin pillow under a glass case. I found a 1950s-vintage stroller in my mother's attic and painted it. This summer, I proudly paraded Collin on Brownsville Road. He and I were the talk of the town.

I now understand that love is an incredible remedy to crisis -- just give it time to work.

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