Hear from a PRC peer counselor and her experience with a client who was only 12 years old.
We were nearly closed that day, it was rainy and dreary and I wanted nothing more than to be home and cozy with a bowl of soup and a good book when they walked in, four females who looked desperate. I spoke with them in the foyer, they needed a pregnancy test. English wasn’t their first language and I explained that we took our last walk in nearly thirty minutes ago. The woman who spoke English most confidently conveyed extreme anxiety.
They had been referred to Pregnancy Resource Center or Planned Parenthood by the school.
“School?” I thought to myself. Planned Parenthood had already closed, so they came to PRC instead.
My mind was reeling as I looked at them. One woman appeared likely too old to bear children and two of them could hardly be called women; they were girls. The last woman seemed the most likely candidate for pregnancy and yet she seemed to be playing a role more along the lines of a friend and advocate. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that we were almost closed; my book and my soup could wait. One of the girls was here for a pregnancy test.
I’ve seen teenagers in the center before. It’s not that a young person who might be pregnant was shocking to me. But neither of the two younger girls looked like teenagers, they were in that awkward-in-between-stage. They wore makeup, but wore their hair clumsily and not for lack of trying, I’m sure, but lack of know-how. They weren’t girls who appeared to have sexually matured too young. They were kids. And of the two, the one who appeared ever so slightly more inexperienced, childlike, and the most unlikely candidate for pregnancy was the one who I led back to the restroom to acquire a sample for a test.
I explained what I needed from her. She was anxious, fidgeting and distraught.
She looked at me and said, “What if I can’t do it?”
I thought she was speaking of the sample and said, “We only need the smallest amount. You can do it. It’ll be okay.”
“I’m only twelve.”
The question clearly revealed a fear, how would a mere child raise a child?
She provided her sample and she and the three other women sat with me in the counseling room as I asked a few questions. The woman that spoke English most fluently encouraged the girl to answer all of the questions I asked and assisted when necessary. I learned that the girl hadn’t even had her menstrual cycle for more than three months, and here she sat, potentially pregnant.
A period is a terrifying thing to get and it takes at least a year, maybe more to adjust to an entirely new aspect of your gender, if my memory serves me right. And here she was, uncertain of what the changes in her body even meant to the development of her own identity. And there might be another identity growing within her? It was mind boggling.
I brought the results into the room. The young girl read the test as negative, and we all cried.
I couldn’t tell you what the tears even meant. There was relief, to be sure. But it was so much more than that, there was heartache in that room. There was heartache because they shouldn’t have even been there in the first place. She’s a girl, a little girl and it’s tragic.
It’s tragic that her childhood was lost with this weight and this worry. And it’s tragic that she didn’t know, that nobody told her what her body was for, what it was doing as it was changing and why.
I was struck, wondering what we are doing to teach our children about their sexuality. What are we doing to teach our children about the image of God in them? Not enough. Because that little girl, she didn’t know. I don’t know all of the details that led to that moment in her life. I don’t even know if the sex was consensual or not. I wish I’d pushed and asked more hard questions. But I looked at her beautiful face and I said something bold, and maybe even cliché,
“Nobody deserves that part of you yet. Nobody. You’re still a young girl and you deserve better things than this.”