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Pregnant in Residential

This is one of the most heartbreaking stories I had to watch unfold during my time working in residential.

Pregnant teenagers were not allowed to be in the residential facility for many reasons, but mostly because it just isn’t safe. Fights break out, things get thrown across the room, there is a lot of yelling and cussing. It’s not an ideal place for any pregnant person to be.

I hate to say it, but I cannot remember this girls name for anything! However, I do remember exactly how she looked; the exact reaction when I had to tell her she was pregnant. I remember the tears streaming down her face. I remember the fear in her eyes. I remember all of the questions she had, some of them word for word. I remember her hugging me and telling me she hated herself, but loved the baby anyway. I remember the day she left residential and to this day I pray she and her baby are living the life they both deserve.

We will call her Allie.

She was 13 years old and so very sweet. When she was admitted to residential, I was not the one doing her admission, but I was in the office while the other nurse was doing it.

When the other nurse informed her that we would have to do a blood draw in the morning, she quietly put her head down and whispered, “can you see if I’m pregnant?”

She was with her caseworker during the admission and the caseworker was shocked. She was confused and asked Allie all kinds of questions to which Allie did not want to answer. Allie continued to keep her head down, avoiding all eye contact and refusing to answer any more questions from anyone.

The nurse doing her admission informed her that we always do pregnancy tests with the first blood draw on the females and we would let her know as soon as we received the results. We weren’t able to finish the admission questions that day because the caseworker's questions had caused Allie to completely shut down for the rest of the day. The nurse walked her to the unit to met with the staff. Allie stayed in her room the entire night, not saying a word to anyone.

The next morning, I was getting my supplies ready to do my weekly blood draws. I figured I would start with Allie so we could get it over with and hopefully get the results ASAP.

When she arrived to the nursing office, she was still looking down at the ground, not saying much. I told her good morning and to have a seat in the chair. I explained what I was going to be doing and asked if she had ever had a blood draw before. She said yes and that she wasn’t afraid of needles. She then asked if we could close the door and asked the male staff to leave the room.

The staff left the nursing office, closing the door behind him, leaving just Allie and I in the room. I sat down my supplies on the round table in front of me and then sat down at the table beside her. I didn’t say anything. I just waited for her to talk, because there was clearly something that she wanted to say and for whatever reason, she wanted me to be the one she told.

“It was my first time,” she said as I watched the tears fill up her eyes before running down her cheeks.

“Let’s see what the blood work shows, okay? I’m so sorry. Do you want to talk more about it?” I asked her as I started to put my gloves on for the blood draw.

“He’s like a lot older than me and my mom is going to be so mad if I’m pregnant,” she was now crying harder.

“How old is he?” I asked her.

“17. But I’ve known him for along time, like since I was five. He’s a friend of my older brother’s. We’ve been dating for along time, like six months and he said that wouldn’t tell anyone.”

My heart broke for her. At 13 years old, living in an unstable environment, learning to cope with her physical abuse history and recent death of her biological father, hearing I love you from anyone, even a 17 year old boy who doesn’t mean it, was what she thought she needed to feel okay.

When the results came back the next morning, I started crying because she was clearly pregnant. According to the lab values, I think it was around six weeks.

I didn’t want to tell her, but I knew I had to. I knew that her reaction was going to be hard to watch and I also knew that the next cascade of events for her would be so stressful and overwhelming. She would not be allowed to stay in residential. They would have to find her a new placement where she could be kept safe, work on her mental health disorders, and grow a human. Doesn’t sound like an ideal situation to grow a baby in, huh?

I had staff bring her to the nursing office and had everyone leave except myself and another nurse. We sat down at the table with her and she instantly knew what we were going to say.

Before I could get the words out of my mouth, Allie started to cry, placing her hands over her abdomen.

“We will get through this and we will do everything we can to help you,” the other nurse said as I wiped a tear from my cheek. This poor girl, a child herself, pregnant after her first time having sex…with a 17 year old man who had no intentions of contacting her again.

We called her case manager and clinician who came into the nursing office later that day to discuss what was going to happen. The caseworker called Allie’s mom, who was not the greatest supporter of Allie in anything at all, and she quickly screamed into the phone, loud enough that we all could hear; “she cannot come back here then. I don’t want anything to do with this.” What a great mom.

The caseworker was quickly able to find her a new placement where pregnant teenagers were able to stay. However, she could not go until the following week. Therefore, we had to do everything in our power to keep her and the baby as safe as possible for five more days.

That next morning, I went to the unit to pass medication and she looked awful. Her eyes were swollen, and she looked pale. As she took a sip of her water before taking her medication, she turned her head to the side and vomited on the floor.

“I’m so sorry. I feel so sick. I’m nauseous and I didn’t sleep at all last night. I always sleep on my stomach and now I can’t. Sleeping on your stomach kills the baby, right? Does all of the puking mean my baby is sick already?”

Hearing these two questions instantly reminded me that she was just a baby herself.

Later that day the other nurse and I called her to the nursing office and talked all about pregnancy. We gave her pictures and readings about the different trimesters that she didn’t even know were a thing. We allowed her to ask any question she had and answered them all the best we could. The other nurse even shared stories of her pregnancy and delivery of her own child. Allie seemed to be mildly calmer after our conversation with her and at least now, she had some education on what was happening to her body.

The day that she was discharged, she told me goodbye and thank you. She then looked at me and said, “I know I’m not a good person. I hate myself. But I love this baby. It won’t end up like me. I’ll make sure it has a real good life.”

I wonder how they both are doing. If she gave up custody or kept the child. If the dad is involved in the baby’s life. If her mother ever came around to offer a helping hand.

I mostly wonder if they are both happy and safe.

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