Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll

Jaren is a junior in high school now and is starting to become more independent, which makes me somewhat nervous.  This is such a crucial time in his life and soon he will be entering adulthood.  He will be face to face with choices that I will not always be able to assist him with and I trust that I have given him the tools to make those decisions.

I remember once, after bringing Jaren to my job for “Kids Day at Work”, one of my co-workers said to me, “You know what I like about Jaren?  He is a kid.  He acts like a kid.  And I mean that as a compliment.”  My co-worker, who did not have children, went on to explain to me that she felt parents tried to make grown-ups out of kids instead of allowing them to be kids and act like kids.  She was right.  Jaren was a kid, an innocent kid in every sense of the word.  He was a challenging kid at times but nonetheless, still a kid and I liked it that way.  I wanted Jaren to be a kid and enjoy his childhood.  After all, our childhood is so short as compared to our adulthood.  Jaren would have a lifetime of opportunities to be an adult and act like an adult but he would only have one opportunity to act like a kid and feel like a kid.

When I think about all the things that I was allowed to do and experience at such a young age and how different Jaren’s childhood experience has been compared to my childhood experience, it makes me wonder sometimes what my parents were thinking.

At the end of my third grade, we moved from a small rental home in a quaint neighborhood to a newly built home out in the country.   Our closest neighbor was a mile away and the closest convenience store was four miles away.  One would think this would have sheltered us kids from the corrupt neighborhoods.  Surprisingly, I would learn and experience more than most kids my age.

On the weekends, my mother would be busy with our new little brother from her second marriage, my step father would be out drinking with his buddies, and my siblings and I would enjoy normal kid friendly activities, roaming around on our property riding our quarter horse, our mini-bike, and our bicycles.

Shortly thereafter, our new cousins by marriage and some friends formed a rock band.  They drove out almost every weekend to practice in the barn where we lived.  I was nine, my sister was eleven and the oldest cousin was seventeen.   Let me repeat that last sentence.  I was nine years old… and I was the youngest of the whole group, who’s ages ranged all the way up to eighteen years.  At first, everything was innocent but I would soon become witness as to why the 70’s is remembered as “Sex, Drugs and RocknRoll”.

First, I started smoking cigarettes.  My sister started smoking and drinking before me.  She tried to keep me from following in her footsteps but eventually I would make threats to tell our parents, and then bribes would be offered to me.  Once we both were guilty of the crime, neither one of us could rat on each other.   Mind you, all of this is going on just a few hundred feet from our parents’ home.

My mother would tell my sister to keep an eye on me.  My sister really did  try to look out for me.  But she was only two years older than me.  That was a heavy load for her, a young girl herself, to carry.

Soon, my sister and I began hanging out more with this older crowd, riding around in cars and going to Rock concerts with our cousins and the other band members.  I think I went to my first rock concert when I was around twelve years old.  It was a Black Sabbath concert at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA.  I can’t remember if I had smoked pot before this time or not but I remember smoking it that night.  It looked like every person in that arena was smoking marijuana.  When you walked into the arena, it was one big puff cloud.  Even if you didn’t actually drag on a joint, you could get high on the second hand fumes.

Everyone that we hung out with was drinking, smoking or doing drugs except for one cousin who was the oldest cousin.  He didn’t smoke cigarettes or do any drugs.  He just drank.  But the legal age was eighteen back then so he was legally able to drink.  The rest of us were not legally of age to drink.  I wasn’t much of a drinker.  Still to this day, I don’t drink alcohol much.  But I smoked a lot of weed.  Funny, because I never had any money to buy weed, everyone else was always offering me theirs.

Our parents rarely ever showed up at the barn.  My parents were the only ones who lived on the property until our grandparents moved out there a few years later.  But since there was loud rock music playing, they stayed as far away as possible so they wouldn’t damage their ears from the loud music they hated.  I, being the youngest, was instructed to listen to the older siblings and cousins.  And apparently, they trusted the older cousins to watch over the younger ones.

Later, the oldest cousin built a small apartment in the barn.  Lots of things changed then.  I had experienced the RocknRoll, I had experienced the drugs and now I was about to learn about sex.  I witnessed the oldest cousin go into the his bedroom with a much younger cousin, while the rest of us were out in the living room.  Sometimes my cousin would tell the other band members to start practicing and he would be out in a minute.  We all knew what was going on.  The band members even chuckled about it.  I never liked it much.  Even in my innocence, I knew something was going on.  When they came out, they acted as if nothing had happened.  They were not “a couple”.  They didn’t act like a loving couple.  They were secretly having sex.  This continued for a few years.

Seeing this must have created some mixed feelings inside me.  I was a kid in elementary school.  Is this the right message for a young girl?  Is this how a couple acts?  Is this what love is?  It also made family gatherings very awkward.  I had to maintain the secret or else.

The ironic part is there were times when my sister tried to leave the house without me.  My mother would tell her she couldn’t go unless she took me.  I don’t know why my mother was adamant.  My sister got angry and would grit her teeth and tell me to come on.  Once we left, she would tell me she didn’t want me there.  She’d warn me, more like bullied and threatened me that I better not tell our parents anything.   I was trapped in a world of chaos and there was no way out.

I saw many things over the next few years.

Then, one day, the summer before I entered high school, my sexual knowledge would change in a big way.  One of the band members who was four years older than me and my cousin by marriage, made a proposition.  He knew I was a virgin.  Not only was I a virgin, I had not hit puberty yet.  I was flat chested, looked several years younger than my actual age, and had not had my first period, which did not arrive until three years later.  I was a girl in every sense of the word.

He asked me if I wanted to learn how to “give head”.  I nodded and told him yes in an unsure way.  I didn’t fully understand the proposition.  I had never had oral sex.  I looked up to my cousins, like most younger cousins and siblings do.

He said he was willing to teach me.  We were standing in my parents’ front yard.  I guess they were out to the bar or the horse races that day.  He pulled his pants down and told me to get on my knees.  I did.  In broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon, with my knees pressed against the dirt, him standing tall, looking down on me, he began to instruct me how to give a proper blow job.  As time got closer to the climax, I heard him begin to moan and he began to grab the back of my head and thrust it, gagging me at times.  He wanted to ejaculate in my mouth and I had no choice.  He did.

At the end, he chuckled and arrogantly said, “How was that?  Now you know how to give a blow job.”  And that was that.  No love, no compassion.  He could have cared less about me.  My first sexual encounter was cold, unloving, and an uncaring experience.  And of course, I was told to not tell anyone and that it was our “secret”.

Afterwards, I felt something was very wrong about this experience.  I felt used and degraded.  With my troubled relationships with both my bio-father and step-father, this left a bad taste in my mouth for men in general.

When I got to high school, I began to experiment with all sorts of drugs; pot, uppers, downers, crank, cocaine, and acid.  It was probably my way to escape reality and deal with what happened.  I was rarely home on the weekends.  I stayed with friends and we partied the whole weekend long.  My parents didn’t know what I was doing over the weekend except that I was staying with a friend.  My parents rarely questioned me.

Looking back, I couldn’t imagine putting my son in these situations.  My sister and I were expected to make appropriate choices at such a young age with no adult supervision, being strongly influenced by older cousins and siblings who were supposed to look after us and protect us not sexually take advantage of us.

Why would a parent allow vulnerable pre-teens to hang out with older teens and legal adults who were four, five and six years older than them is beyond me.

Life has taught me some hard lessons over the years.  I was put in situations beyond my control.  I was forced to make choices with an innocent, uneducated mind in the prime of my childhood.  These choices changed me in enormous ways and would set me on the path for adulthood.

Quinton School, 4th grade

4th grade, 9 years old

Adoption 101

Here is my two cents for what it’s worth.

First, saying you “have a birth mother” is inappropriate. You don’t really have her right? (like you have a child, a dog, a car, a house?) She is not yours. You might say, ‘an expectant mother has chosen us,’ or ‘the agency has matched us with an expectant mother.’

Secondly, if the expectant mother has not given birth yet nor has she signed relinquishment papers, she is in no way a birth mother. Once she gives birth (hence the term “birth” mother) AND if she proceeds with the relinquishment, than she may be a birth, first mom, or the biological mother of the child.

Lastly, open adoption takes on many meanings. If you are uncomfortable, unsure or not enthusiastic about an open adoption, then you should find someone who wants a closed adoption, although I am not a big fan of closed adoption at all. But you shouldn’t agree to an open adoption unless your heart is in the right place and you feel this is the right path for you and your family. In other words, don’t just agree to an open adoption because it seems like the trendy thing to do or because it may help you become a parent easier or faster. And especially if you don’t plan to follow through with your open adoption agreement, promise and commitment.

I am a birth mother. I have an open adoption with my son and his family. And while I will agree that at first, our relationship was awkward only because it was new and we were exploring new territory, our relationship has evolved. Each year I grow to love them more and more. We have become one big family. We share a mutual respect and honor each other for our role in our mutual son’s life. My son knows he is loved by his first, birth, original family and his adoptive family.

Remember, adoption is about the children.1999 Momma and boys

Adoption is supposed to satisfy the needs of the child, not the needs of an adult.

You Might Be a Single Mother…

I had worked for my employer since 1996 and I had accumulated a good retirement as well as a beneficial 401k which allowed me to take a year off from work in 2012. Since having my son, life has been a whirlwind.  Being a single mother, life was non-stop, always going somewhere, and doing something.  I didn’t realize how busy my life was until I took off that one year.  I began to think about what makes a single mother.

Taking into consideration for me and my single mother friends, here are some things that are common to single mothers or single parents.

If you are the only parent who has changed your child’s diaper, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only parent who taught your child how to talk, walk and ride a bike, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only parent who shows up for your child’s parent teacher conference, you might be a single mother.

If you are the only one who takes your child to the doctor, or stays home with them when they are sick, you might be a single mother.

If you’re a one income family and you’re the sole provider and protector for your household, you might be a single mother.

If your kids get new clothes (though maybe not in large quantities), while you haven’t bought anything new for yourself in many years, you might be a single mother.

If you shop at second hand stores, you might be a single mother.

If you use coupons, shop sales and sale racks, and buy marked down meats at the grocery store; you might be a single mother.

If you have ever wondered how you were going to pay the bills, you might be a single mother.

If you get paid and your paycheck is already spent on bills, daycare, groceries, lunch money, gas, and you only have $5.00 to last until your next paycheck or zero money or already have a negative balance in your account after just getting paid, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever called a utility company and asked for a payment plan, or an extension, you might be a single mother.

If your phone or your electric has ever been turned off since becoming a parent, you might be a single mother.

If your child hears the ice cream truck and ask you if she can buy an ice cream and you tell her no because you don’t even have one dollar in your purse to give, you might be a single mother.

If your child wants to rent a Redbox movie and you tell him you can’t afford it this week, you might be a single mother.

If you go to a fast food restaurant and tell your child that she can only order from the dollar menu, you might be a single mother.

If you go out with friends and you tell your child beforehand, do not order anything too expensive.  Then get to the restaurant and your child ask you if he can order a menu item that is pricier than the other menu entrees and you give him a dirty look, you might be a single mother.

If you’re going to a friend’s house for a BBQ and they ask if you can pick up some soda’s or chips or deserts and it’s during one of those times when you have spent all your money on the bills listed above but you don’t want to tell your friends that you’re broke, you might be a single mother.

If your pantry and refrigerator are bare, not because you don’t cook at home but because you don’t have enough money to buy groceries for the upcoming week, you might be a single mother.

If you have a thousand ways to use leftovers, you might be a single mother.

If your child asks you if she can eat something before getting it out, because you have told her that the food (cereal, Ramon noodles, Hot Pockets) all cheap single parent foods, needs to last until next payday, you might be a single mother.

If you drive an older car or have no car at all (use public transportation), you might be a single mother.

If you’re coworkers ask you to go out after work for happy hour and you decline because you don’t have a babysitter, nor can afford a babysitter, and you don’t have enough money to buy even one drink for happy hour, you might be a single mother.

If your child gets invited to a birthday party and you don’t have enough money to buy a birthday present, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever made a homemade Halloween costume for your child and tried to get them excited about the creative process because you couldn’t afford to buy a store bought costume, you might be a single mother.

If you’re long overdue for a haircut, not because you don’t want one, but because your child’s needs come before yours, you might be a single mother.

If you feel like you are rushing all the time; get up, get kids ready, make breakfast, drop kids off at school, drive to work, get off work, pick kids up, get home, cook dinner (some of us still do this), clean dishes, take kids to sports or other activities, help with homework, get them ready for bed, and do that for 52 weeks of the year, you might be a single mother.

If you have ever felt stressed and overwhelmed and wondered about your role as a parent, praying to God to help provide for you and your family, you might be a single mother.

If your weekends feel as stressed as your work week; catching up on cleaning, laundry, bills and paper work, and spending time with your kids, you might be a single mother.

If taking a weekend nap or getting pampered with a manicure, pedicure, or a massage is worth more than a million dollars, you might be a single mother.

When your kids go everywhere you go and there’s no such thing as, “Honey, watch the kids while I run to the store real quick,” then you most likely are a single mother.

And if your ex (husband or child’s father) has never gotten up in the middle of the night to feed, change or comfort his crying baby, nor dropped off or picked up his kid at school, nor showed up at his child’s school functions, stage performance or sports game, nor cooked his child a meal, nor helped his child with homework, nor carried his child on his insurance, nor stayed home with his sick child, nor has provided any physical or emotional support to his child or you, no Daddy weekends, monthly or bi-annual visits, and no financial child support, then you are not a single mother, you are a single parent and you ROCK!

What some intended for harm, God intended for good, part 1

My first born son is a high school junior this year.  It’s hard to believe.  I think back to the time when I first discovered I was pregnant with Jaren.  Yes, he was unexpected.  Yes, he was not planned and under my own limited human perception, unintended.  And even with all that, I was not afraid of my future or our future together; despite his father’s lack of enthusiasm.

Even my family was happy for me.  Until…

Yes, until.

Until about seven months into my pregnancy, they learned that my future son would be half of another race of a man that they did not know nor ever met.  Jaren’s father was mostly African American along with some American Indian.  They acted as if I had done the most horrific thing.  And although I was thirty-four years old and lived more than a thousand miles away, they began to scheme on ways to talk me into getting rid of my baby who had not even been born yet

Then the phone began to ring.  This is how coercion begins.  Mom’s sister called first.  I had not talked with my aunt or seen her in many years.  However, she is calling me not to congratulate me or support me or to ask me how I was doing; no, none of those things.  She was calling me to ask me to “give up” my future infant for adoption.  She was very persuasive in her argument.  Even though just months before she had supported my pregnancy and was a guest at a baby shower given in my honor by my family back home, race had now played a very big factor in my decision to parent my own child.  She thought it would be more difficult to raise a bi-racial son as a single mother.  Apparently raising a white infant is easier than raising a bi-racial infant, especially if the race includes African or a darker skinned race.

It’s not like I didn’t know how my family felt about race.  I remember as a teenager, my mother had a variety of cabbage patch dolls.  One of them was a black cabbage patch doll.  When my niece was a toddler, she would play with the cabbage dolls and carry them over to my step dad.  He would allow my niece to place them in his lap except for one.  Whenever she placed the black cabbage patch doll in his lap, he would throw the doll across the room and call it a derogatory name.  Not the n-word but other derogatory names.  My niece would go get the doll, give it back to him, scold him, and they would repeat this performance several times.

So I knew my family didn’t really care about my role as a single mother.  Neither was their concern that this new offspring that extended from our family tree would get adequate care under my supervision.  They were masking the truth.  They didn’t want to be the family with the daughter who got pregnant by a black man.  They wanted that branch to be removed or at the very least hidden.  If they could just talk me into getting rid of my new baby boy and hide him away through adoption, they would have succeeded; they would have won the coercion battle.

But God had different plans for my son and me.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  Genesis 50:20

I don’t know where I would be if I had allowed my family to convince me that parenting my child was wrong.  I’ve thought about that many times over the years.  What if Jaren was somewhere out there in the world and I had no idea where he was?  It’s heartbreaking to think about.  Thankfully, I was stronger and God was louder and I am so very thankful I listened

God has been my source of empowerment and has continued to support and guide me all these years.  I won’t say it’s been easy as a single mother but most things in life are not easy.  But parenting my son has been worth it.  As for the racial aspects, I don’t think it has impacted my life negatively.  I would say I have benefited from the things I have learned as a mother of a mixed-raced family.  Sure, I’ve faced race issues but nothing that I have not been able to handle.  In fact, I would say my family has caused me more hardship about race than society in general.  All of which has helped me learn more about the human race and has increased my understanding and compassion.

As for my son, he is my life.  He has brought so much joy into my world.  He has raised my soul to another level of conscious learning.  I have experienced the greatest love I have ever known.  And I am so proud to have been chosen by God to be his mother.

Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Single Mother

I injured myself yesterday really bad.  We had some objects and boxes on the floor near the entry way of our apartment that my son and I had gathered the previous night to add some additional garage sale items for the next day.  Jaren’s godfather, Robert had allowed us to bring our stuff to sale in his garage sale.  Jaren had done an excellent job at cleaning out his room which is a really big deal because he likes to hold onto his things.  And I told my son that he could keep the money from my stuff that sold too.  I said, “This is your summer money so make it last.”

I got up in the morning, still sleepy with very little light in the apartment.  I had folded some blankets and walked to the coat closet to put them away.  Just before getting to the closet, I tripped over some of the garage sale items.  I went down hard along with our kitchen counter stool.  I knew I hurt something bad.  I knocked the wind out of myself and the first thing I thought was to tell my son that I was okay.  Because it was such a huge strain to be able to talk at first, it sounded as if I was crying but I wasn’t.  I almost cried though.  The pain was that bad.  I sat there on the floor for a few minutes, unable to get up at first.

When I was able to stand up, I knew I did some damage.  For one, my pinky toe that I previously broke a few years back had that same kind of pain so I was pretty sure I broke it again.  But that’s not what really concerned me.  It was my ribs on my left side that were throbbing.  I had a lot of pain.  Any movement was very difficult and painful.  At the same time, in the back of my mind, I knew my son was counting on me to help him with the garage sale.

Jaren and his godfather started selling on Friday while I was at work.  Sometime around lunch, Robert had gotten really sick.  He wasn’t sure if it was the flu, food poisoning or what.  Jaren took over selling for the rest of the day on Friday.  I picked up Jaren Friday night and helped him pack up and place all the sale items back in the garage for the next day.

With Jaren’s godfather out of commission, I knew Jaren needed my help on Saturday.  So I tried as best I could to put on my big girl face and push through the pain.   I told my son that I would help him get set up for the garage sale but that I also may need to leave at some point to go to the emergency room for x-rays.  Jaren understood.

We loaded the car and I drove us over to Robert’s house.  Robert was still very sick and bed ridden.  Luckily, Jaren’s godfather has two roommates and they were able to help Jaren carry the larger stuff (TV, etc) onto the front lawn.  I helped with the smaller boxes.  We got tables set up and organized.  I waited to see if the pain would subside or go away but it didn’t.  I was hoping it would.  We were trying to make money, not spend money.  But every time I reached down, sat down, or got up the pain would shoot into my side.  Not to mention walking around with my broken toe.

Here I had been without insurance for over a year.  During that time, I tried very hard to stay healthy and with God’s help, I was.  No illnesses, no flu, no injuries.  My insurance kicked in May 10th 2014 and a month later, bam!

I shouldn’t complain.  Thank goodness this occurred after I had insurance.

About four hours into the garage sale with my pain no less painful, I opted to go to CareNow Urgent Care.  They’re like doctors’ offices and ER’s combined.  They are open on the weekends, they have X-ray equipment, and the co-pay is much cheaper than the ER; mines was $35.00.  And the best part is you can do Web Check-ins which means you check-in online.  After you check-in, they call you to confirm your appointment and your illness/injury.  Then they ask you about how far away you are from the office.  This is so they will know when to call you to come in so that you don’t have to wait as long in the waiting room.

After reviewing the X-rays, CareNow confirmed that I had a broken toe.  They also said that I had a rib contusion.  The doctor said that a contusion is equally as painful as a fractured rib and the treatment is the same.  She gave me a wrap for my ribs and prescribed two pain meds.  The doctor said she had prescribed Ibuprofen, 800 mg and then said she also prescribed a narcotic.  I was like, “narcotic.”  I knew it was something serious for them to prescribe that kind of pain medicine.  I guess they knew something that I didn’t know at that point.  As with most injuries, breaks or bruises, if I hurt this bad on the first day, the next day would surely double my pain.  Since I was driving, I was unable to take the narcotic pain medicine so I took one Ibuprofen which did reduce some pain.  Especially, considering I had spent five to six hours moving around, lifting boxes, setting up for a garage sale, walking around, waiting on customers, any pain relief was better than no pain relief.

So I get back to the garage sale and share my diagnosis with Jaren, Robert and his roommates.  I sat down outside with Jaren as he finished up with the garage sale.  Then, just before cleaning up, we sat on the front porch for a moment, gazing at a most beautiful tree across the street. We’ve admired this tree in the past.  Jaren mentioned how healing it was to watch the tree so much so that it inspired him to write a meditation for a lesson he was doing for his Sunday school class the next day.  We both agreed that the tree seemed to be nurturing and comforting, almost mother-like.

Then it was time to close down the garage sale and we both were less than enthusiastic about packing up the remaining items and moving them into the garage.  Jaren was both hot and tired.  I was hot, tired, injured and in still in pain.  As we were packing up, I was making requests or suggestions which Jaren was not happy about.  Okay, maybe I was barking orders a little.  We both bickered at each other and I felt unappreciated.  Despite my injury, I was helping him as best I could.  Whether it was the meds, the long day, the pain, I’m not sure but I began to have an emotional  breakdown.  I reminded Jaren of my injury and that per doctors’ orders, I wasn’t supposed to be lifting anything.  Technically, I should have been sitting or laying down, healing.  I also reminded him that I was not benefitting financially from this garage sale in no way.  I was providing merchandise and free labor service.

It was not a shining moment for either of us.   In the midst of our argument, Jaren’s god father could hear us and came out to intervene.  Calmly, he mediated our conversation and diffused our anger and frustration.  Then he thanked us dearly for all we both had done.

Later that evening, Jaren humbly apologized to me.

Today, I dropped off my son to spend Father’s Day with his father.  Tomorrow is another day…

 

Mother’s Day Prayer

Written by my son…

 

PRAYER:  Father-Mother God, this Sunday may we bless all the mothers in this world; for the things they give up and give us, for everything they do to better their children no matter the circumstance.  Let mothers feel the joy that they bring to the world, and to others.  Show them the endless love that everyone feels for them and wrap them in warmth and bliss.  Let us realize there is good in every circumstance, and positivity in every cause.  It’s not the end if we don’t feel true inner happiness.  Nothing in our life happens without reason and it’s apart of divine order.  Guide us and let us be whole.  Amen

Dear Unexpected Pregnant Woman

First, let me say how sorry I am that you are going through this experience.  I truly do understand.  Having an unplanned/unexpected pregnancy can sometimes be distressing with uncertainty; and possibly even more so in your tender teenage years.

I have made three different choices.  I have chosen to abort, I have chosen to single parent, and I have chosen to relinquish my parental rights.  Speaking from my own personal experience, all of these choices come with some sort of consequence.  As for your choices, I don’t want to persuade you one way or the other but I will share some of what I have learned and give you some things to consider.

If you are considering having an abortion, I do support a woman’s choice to abort for whatever her reasons are.  Women react differently to abortions, while going through the procedure and in the days and months following the procedure so I am not sure I could give you much more information that is not already available online.  But you should do what you feel you need to do to move forward in your life.

As for the choice to parent or relinquish, there are many factors to consider.  Here is a list of questions that you may want to answer to help with your choice and plan for the future:

  • Is the father of your child supporting you?
  • Is your family supporting you?
  • Does the father want to help raise this child with you as a couple or as two single parents/co-parents?
  • Is his family being supportive?

Having some sort of support system will benefit you (and your baby) greatly especially if you are still in school.

As for the adoption choice, if you feel you are unable to parent your child and are not being pressured or coerced by loved ones to make this choice, then review the various adoption plans closely and do what you feel in your heart is best.  I do believe that some adoption choices are necessary.  However, know that a richer/wealthier life for the child does not mean a better life for the child.  This is what I hear from adult adoptees all the time.  Love and security are the most important things a child needs.  I chose an open adoption.  For me, that has helped in many ways.  Know that the emotional pain from relinquishing your parental rights can be overwhelming at times.  It’s not impossible to heal but healing after your child leaves your womb and your arms can take a long time, sometimes a lifetime.

If you decide to parent your child, please honor that choice.  Make your child your priority.  A child should never feel like you gave up your life because you got pregnant.  What I am trying to say is, don’t place shame or guilt on your child for showing up unexpectedly or that you had to give up your dreams so you could parent him/her.  Nor should a child need to be unnaturally grateful that you decided to keep him and parent him.  As I said previously, having a good support system is beneficial but many of us have done the single parenting thing alone without our partner or family.  Nothing is impossible if you believe in what you are doing.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask for public/government assistance.

I truly hope that your loved ones are supporting you during this time.  But more importantly, I hope you understand that this is your decision about your body, your baby, and your life.  Do not allow anyone to tell you what is best for you.

I know you have a lot to consider.  And I trust that you will make the best choice for you.  Sending you much needed blessings and prayers, asking God to guide you in this choice, and wishing you all the best as you move forward in your life.

Supporting Women

When I say I support women and their reproductive choices, I mean it, wholeheartedly,

Recently, I received a personal message from a woman, who was in the midst of a dilemma, in a group I follow in BabyCenter.com.  She had seen one my comments that I shared on a post where I touched briefly and lightly on all three of my choices.  She asked me to elaborate.

At first I was hesitant.  I waited a couple days before replying.  I needed to gather my thoughts.  Since I have made three different choices due to unplanned pregnancies with three varying outcomes that led to a multitude of emotional residue, I didn’t feel it would be fair to build up one choice as a better alternative than another.  I also didn’t want to convince or persuade her in one way or another of what she should or shouldn’t do.  That’s not my place.  It would be no more fair of me to glorify open-adoption then it would be to glorify single parenting.

I strongly believe that I have no right to evoke a thought that may persuade any woman to make one choice over the other.  However she decides to move forward in her pregnancy, she is the one who will live with her choice for remainder of her life.

I know what it’s like to have others pressure you into making a choice that is their preferred outcome.  It makes one feel insecure and inadequate.  When someone forces or coerces another person or tries to paint a picture that is not based on facts but on their own limited perception, it’s all about control.  It’s one person trying to take another’s power away.  For some, they want to create their version of the perfect outcome of someone else’s life, as if they are God.  While others are conveying  from a personal point of view, as if this had happened to them, this is what they would choose or maybe have chosen.  But the truth is, it’s not happening to them.  It’s happening to the woman who is pregnant and is faced with a choice about her future.

Who am I to tell another woman what is best for her.  I have no right to tell another human being that she should end the life that is in her womb.  Neither do I have a right to influence her to surrender her newborn infant.  And I surely don’t want to guilt someone into parenting.  My intent is to provide as much information as possible for a well-rounded image.  Not all rosy, not all dark.  Not all positive, not all negative.  But always the truth.

I will say that I do understand and sympathize with the women who have become anti-abortion or anti-adoption because of their own personal experience and emotional trauma more so than coming from a man or woman who has never experienced a similar circumstances or choice in their life.  Woman who have lived through these experiences and life alterations are biased because of their involvement.  As sisters, we may not want another woman or mother to have to endure the gut wrenching pain that becomes a part of the aftermath of such turmoil.  We feel it’s our duty to protect other woman from this heartache and emotional mind game.

I guess that’s why I wrote One Woman’s Choice.  And I’ve had people upset with me because I discuss abortion and they do not approve of abortions.  Others who didn’t know me or my story before reading One Woman’s Choice said they were sad when they came to the page that told of my signing relinquishment papers because they were hoping that I had decided not to go through with the adoption.  While others felt I glorified adoption as a wise, religious choice.

The three most important things that I want people to understand after reading One Woman’s Choice are these:

  • Men are equally as responsible for unplanned pregnancies as women.
  • No one has the right to suggest, force or coerce a woman to make a choice (aborting, parenting or relinquishing)
  • God is a loving God.  And despite what some think, even after abortion, God is a loving God.

Truth is, there are no easy answers, no common outcome.  The issues are too complex and every circumstance is unique.  And if we choose abortion or adoption,  the road to recovery is experienced in many different ways.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve or heal.  My experience may be very different than someone else’s.  It doesn’t mean that either one of us is right or wrong, or weaker or stronger; we’re just different in our human experience.

In the end, I respect woman enough to know that with honest feedback, knowledge (pro’s and con’s), and compassion, we are very capable of making a well informed decision.  And when all is said and done, I will be here to support my sisters as best as I can, no matter what choice they decide to make.

Humble

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  James 4:6

I was recently hired by the employer that I had been working as a temp for the last few months.  One of the things that I noticed at my new place of employment is the humility of the employees and even the management staff.  They even include the word “humble” along with respect, integrity and fairness in their employment contract.  Now that’s very unusual.  I can tell you that after working in the corporate world for the past twenty plus years, humble people is not a common trait seen among the corporate workforce.  What a concept.  To have humble, compassionate and nice people to work with.

A phone conversation I had over 30 years ago with the mother of the boyfriend I had been dating at the time turned very sour.  She had overheard a conversation and decided she needed to confront me about it.  Someone remarked, “Karen might be pregnant.”  My boyfriend’s mother immediately assumed that it was her son’s girlfriend (aka me), also named Karen.  After accusing me of being pregnant, she then tells me that I was not going to have this baby and that I needed to get an abortion.  Assuring her that I was not pregnant and telling her it must have been another Karen, I decided to go one step further.  I asked her why she didn’t like me.  What had I done?  I knew that she didn’t care for me.  A person knows when someone likes or loves them and when someone doesn’t.  That’s part of how friendships are formed.  Besides having things in common, we feel a warm endearing presence from another who also seems to enjoy our presence when we’re together.

Well, I didn’t get that warm fuzzy feeling from my boyfriend’s mother.  Her response, “You’re too nice.” 

How do you respond to that?

Years later, when I looked back, I would joke about it with some friends and comment, “I should have told her to go “f” herself and then maybe she would have liked me more.”

This wasn’t the first time that someone made this kind of opinion of me.  I recall my mother and older brother saying this is why they believed our stepdad liked my sister, Colleen better than me.  I think their exact words for the reason, “Dad likes Colleen more because she’s tough and doesn’t take any shit.”  He had more respect for my sister as opposed to me, because I was the meeker one.  Seems kind of strange, doesn’t it; to dislike someone because their too nice or to like someone more because they’re harsher.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl_NpdAy3WY  (You like me, you REALLY like me!)

People around in my later years would be quite surprised to hear that I was “too” nice.  Boy, have I changed.

I guess being a mom has changed me a lot.  My protective maternal instincts sparked very early.  I started off battling prejudices from the time I got pregnant.  For those of you, who have children, imagine having to experience one of the most exciting moments of your life without the support of your loved ones.  I was a fragile fish, who just wanted to grow and nurture her baby, swimming among the sharks.

I would have many more opportunities to prepare my heart for battle.  Racism can make a person very callous.  Dealing with the looks, the rejection, the “we’re better than” attitude can be flat-out exhausting.  Then after becoming a birth mother, another layer of social assumptions and prejudices were added.  My skin got tougher and my meekness was slowly fading away.  I would look back and think how blind and naïve I was before I entered into this world of mixed races and birth families.  The reality can be disheartening at times.  I had no idea how the world was until I was on the receiving end.  I became bitter and insensitive.  Sometimes I was downright mean.  Nope, I had decided that I wasn’t taking no more shit from anyone.  I had listened to their shit and shoveled their shit for far too long.  If they wanted to throw shit my way, I was going to through it right back in their face.  See how they liked it.  

Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been given a test and I think that I may be failing.  But those who were placed in my life to love me unconditionally have failed on some level as well.  It’s a ripple effect.  Once the object makes contact with the water, the ripple begins and we can never go back and stop the movement.  The ripple has already occurred and the action is already in process.

Funny thing is though, once you allow yourself to become like them, you no longer like who you’ve become.  So I’ve been trying to find my way back to my meek heart.   

But I will always stand up against injustice.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

My Storybook Father

The Miami Herald August 6, 1973

People have wondered how my relationship is with my biological father now.  Well, like the Facebook relationship status option, I would say, “It’s complicated.”  But initially, when my father returned to the Philadelphia area after being released on parole, I was happy for him and happy to get the chance to reconnect with the father I hardly knew.

As a little girl, I had a very good relationship with my father before he moved away.  He adored me and treated me like his little princess daughter.  I was still young, sweet and innocent when he committed his crime.  Surprisingly, my mother encouraged my relationship with my imprisoned father.  She fostered our correspondence against the wishes and biased concernment of her family, and I wonder why she thought it was so important for me to stay connected to the man that left me when I was four years old, and murdered his pregnant girlfriend shortly thereafter.  I didn’t know anything that had happened though.  To me, he was the same man that I ran to as a small child, the one who would pick me up and toss me in the air, kiss me and say wonderful things that a father tells his child.

1964 Daddy and Karen

Daddy was very good at communicating his feelings on paper.  He had published numerous poems, short stories and was well known and respected not only among his inmate friends but among the guards and the local society.  His letters were warm, loving, and affectionate.  Letters was all I had that connected me to my father.  While my siblings had a “real” father in their life, my father was on paper, like a story book or a magical dream.  You might say I was living a fairy tale.  I had endless verbal love and written paper affection but no tangible substance to validate the relationship.

When I was nine, mom got remarried.  Together, they added two more children.  And it was yet another reminder of something they had that I didn’t.  I remember the time when my two younger brothers learned that I had a different dad.  My siblings and I we were sitting around, talking and one said, “I thought you, Keith and Colleen had the same dad.”  In fact, school friends and even some family members thought the same thing.  People knew we were a blended family.  They just didn’t know how blended.

No one spoke much about my father, including me.  Most conversations were discussed quietly with my mother in another room or upstairs in my bedroom with my sister.  When I did mention my father, I would get the look.  I knew how my parents felt.  I could see it in their eyes.  I knew people whispered about me or my dad in secret.  How could they not?  When the family saw me, they were reminded of my father.  Maybe that’s why my stepdad had a hard time accepting me.  I was the only brunette in the family and I did resemble my father.  But what no one seemed to understand is that I would have forgotten all about the imprisoned father, if only I was shown genuine love and affection in my home.  That’s all I ever wanted and desperately needed as a young girl.  My two older siblings had a real father they could visit, and my two younger siblings had a real father living in our home.  But I had nothing other than what I received on a piece of paper.

So, in a way, it was like having an affair with my father.  He was someone who could easily tell me about his love and affection for me, something that was seriously lacking from my stepfather; however, he was unable to back it up with real affection, real love, real nurturing as an ordinary father provides in the “normal” sense.  There was no commitment.  It was a deceptive reality.

Here I was living with my stepdad who showed no compassion or support for me with regard to my absent father, along with many other social behaviors and dysfunctions that I carried within me, and then there was this magical father, somewhere far away, who told of how much he loved me, how beautiful I was, how smart I was, and how he couldn’t wait to see me so we could be together again.  Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like the classic love affair with one very big exception, there was no sex involved.  But in affairs, personally I think it has more to do with the emotional connection that keeps a person coming back than the sexual connection.  It’s about a deficiency and belief in something hoped for but not yet seen.  Sounds like faith right?  Well, not exactly.  Faith is something we give to God.  An affair is a dark secret and a desire.

At twelve, I went to visit my dad.  My parents allowed me to board a plane to Florida to learn the truth and figure this out on my own.  This trip would change my perception of my father and my perception of myself.  Learning about his crime and prison sentence made me question many things about whom he was and who I was.  I still loved him as my father.  But was it right to love a man who murdered someone?  I was twelve.  How does a twelve year old rationalize this opposition?  When I left New Jersey, my dad was my hero.  When I left Florida, I didn’t know who my dad was but I was pretty certain he wasn’t the hero I imagined he was in my storybook dream.  And if he was a murderer, than what was I?

By my junior year in high school, Dad returned to the Philadelphia area and we immediately began to work on rebuilding our father/daughter relationship.  For the first time in many years, I had a real person that I could show to people and say, “This is my father.”  Not a letter, not an imaginary parental figure or fairy-tale creature but a real person.  Despite his crime, he was a free man now.  He paid his debt to society.  He was rehabilitated.

It wasn’t easy to rebuild our relationship on an already fragile foundation.  For one, Dad saw me as the little girl he left behind.  But I was a teenager now and quite liberated.  Maybe after hearing how my father physically and verbally abused my mother and seeing a live-in-boyfriend shove her up against the wall one time and bang her head repeatedly, and then seeing my stepfather bully and intimidate her with his words, I just knew that I did not want any man to run my life like that.  No way, no how!  So my father and I bumped heads on occasion.  But he bumped heads with my older sister, from his first marriage, too.  She and I were a lot alike in that sense.  Mario loved his little girls.  But once we became women and had a mind of our own and could think for ourselves, well now, that was a complete different story.  And thus, the trouble began.

I saw my father go from a one room, literally one room big enough for a twin bed to a spacious three-bedroom apartment within a few years.  I gotta give it to the man.  He is smart and very ingenious.  He worked hard and became the owner of a limousine airport transportation service company.  My sister was working for him and he offered me a job to work the front office on dispatch.  Looking back now, it wasn’t the best job for a hearing impaired person who at the time didn’t even have hearing aids.  The drivers had to repeat the information several times.  They got frustrated and complained.  They didn’t know I was hearing impaired.  No one told anybody I didn’t have normal hearing.  I wrote numbers and names down incorrectly and things just went from bad to worse.  This was the beginning of a failed father-daughter relationship; so much for the fairy-tales.

The next major hit our relationship took was when I moved to Texas.  After six months, my live-in boyfriend who I followed to Texas found a job back in New Jersey.  I told him to go on and I would pay the rent and get back as soon as I could settle our affairs.  Shortly thereafter, I decided to call my father to ask for his financial assistance.  Big mistake!

My father scolded me for foolishly following “some man “instead of being independent and staying put in Texas.  A small town girl in a big city, nearly 2000 miles away from my family, in a state, where I had no relatives, no strong support system except that of my boyfriend’s mother and father.  I got infuriated and I began to yell and curse at him.  I reminded him that he had done nothing for me as a child, especially financially, and now I was asking for a loan and he was refusing me?  Then my father tells me, “When you came to visit me during your high school years, we went shopping and you wanted a new coat.  I needed new tires but I bought you that coat instead of getting me the tires I needed.”  He actually wanted me to feel sorry for him for buying me a winter coat instead of buying himself new tires, as if I should be eternally grateful for his generous contribution to my wardrobe, his minor daughter and still technically, his financial responsibility.  This my friend, should go down in history.  I felt like saying, “Are you fucking kidding?”  I didn’t but I did however remind him of all the years he spent in prison without ever having to pay one penny towards my well-being.  Not ONE penny.  And when he got out, he wasn’t forced to pay any child support.  He was free and clear.

So we didn’t speak for many years.

After Jaren came along, I reconnected with my father, who had moved back to Florida.  Jaren and I were taking a trip to Florida to visit my cousin.  I called Dad and asked if we could stop by so he could meet his new grandson for the first time.  Jaren loved his grandfather and visa-versa.  They got along well.  And at the time, my stepfather was still not speaking to me and refused to acknowledge my son as his grandchild, so Mario’s acceptance was a warm and welcome feeling.  It was a short visit so I was able to escape before too much collateral damage was done.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when I wrote One Woman’s Choice.  Mario didn’t like the book and thought that I pictured him in negative light while painting my stepfather in a more positive light.  I was dumbfounded at first.  I was thinking, “Did you even read the same book I wrote?”  His words were very harsh to me, something that no daughter should hear from her father.  Then to close the deal, he said he was removing me as executor of his will and any inheritance.

For me, it never really was about the money.  It was the ultimate rejection.

If you asked me if I loved one father more than the other, I will tell you no.  If you asked me if one was better or worse than the other, I will tell you no.  Truth is, they both had their strengths and weaknesses.   As a child, I just wanted to be accepted.  I wanted what my siblings had, someone to belong to; someone who loved me, who would protect me from harm and who would comfort me when I got hurt.

I guess you could say I had three fathers; the one that is listed on my birth certificate, my mother’s first husband, who gave me my last name; my biological father, who gave me life; and lastly, my stepfather, who gave me a home.   I have more fathers than most and yet I don’t feel like I belong to any of them.

But the one father I do belong to is God.  And His love, acceptance, and guidance are magical.  He may seem like a storybook father, but His love is very real.