I seek no pity, yet request a silent prayer as you read this post because each thread of my human fiber remains deeply affected and permanently damaged by the choices I made at age 16 and 17. To lift my fingers and write what has been on my heart for years and to give voice to my experience is a step towards my healing. I can no longer hide from the truth of my scarred life because each time I attempt to mentally and emotionally isolate myself I am reminded of how a 20-minute procedure has forever affected the way I view myself.
Looking back, I must have hated myself and my life as a teenager. I lived a life of little hope, grave desperation and blinded guidance as a teen, who yearned the attention of both my parents but instead received it from a 26-year old who profiled me through mutual friends. I remember that one photo, highlighted in the ‘View Finder,’ section of the local newspaper that attracted him to me. It was labeled a ‘Sweet-Sixteen’ shot that precisely captured my freshly permed hairdo, red lipstick and green contacts. I was feeling radiant on this day, yet unprepared for the popularity that subsequently followed.
As with any young teen who had recently experienced pubescence, I was ‘feeling’ myself in my small town. It was a sunny, nice day when me and my girlfriends decided to go to Caldwell Park. Cars were lined up, music booming, and everyone was dressed in what appeared to be their Sunday Best. And I was no exception! Although I forget what I wore on that day, I could sense that he was staring me up and down with his hazel eyes, which was shortly confirmed when my girlfriend left his car to deliver the news that he was highly interested. I was immediately flattered but showed no emotions because I knew that he was much older than boys I previously dated.
I never asked his age while we dated and frankly, it did not matter because I thought he has exactly what I needed – good conversation, independence, a great job, his own apartment, a nice car and an inconspicuous reputation. Conversely, it wasn’t soon after getting acquainted that he and I grew closely attracted, i.e. talking to and seeing each other almost every day. Infatuated with this gentleness, particularly when we assertively pursued one another each night, he calling from his car phone in the Toyota Supra that waited for me to exit my bedroom window, he maintained a private lifestyle. His privacy is what drew me closer insomuch that I never wanted anyone to know that I was dating someone much older.
There were many nights, including weekdays, when I excitedly waited for the phone to ring in hopes of another rendezvous. Equally, I slowly felt myself drifting away from my small social environment and my school grades were a distant focus. I was physically present in most classes, but emotionally distant. I thought of him often, wondering where and what he was doing when I had to go to school. I was maturing way too quickly but had no clue how to control my emotions for a guy who cared less about my well-being. It was way too late for me to realize that I was just a warm body at night and a piece of convenient @$$ when his schedule permitted.
Mature Physique. Immature Actions.
I should have known because he was precise with almost everything. The phone calls happened at the same time each night when he wanted to spend time with me instead of his long-term girlfriend who had no idea about us. However, I promptly received a quick lesson in what I now call Relationship 101 when I stood there in confusion and fear on the day I told him that I was pregnant. What? I remember the words up to this day – “I will give you money to take care of it.” I was completely confused and asked, “what do you mean, take care of it.”
My heart dropped. All hope was completely lost. I was totally afraid, alone and left with no choice (or so it seemed). How could this happen, is what I asked myself? What the hell did I get myself into and how do I tell my mother and what will my father think of me? I felt absent from my body and abandoned by ‘the’ person who I thought loved me unconditionally. A few hours had passed before the phone rang after he abruptly dropped me off at the house. “What are you going to do and when” were the questions being tossed at me – one minute after another.
I knew of no one to turn to aside from my older female cousins who both provided their emotional support even after learning I was told to terminate the pregnancy. My mind was scattered, thinking about where my support system was beforehand. I recall thinking one thing, while my body was telling me something different. It was awful and horrifying and his actions, threats, calls and persistence prevailed. It took him no time to give me the money and when he did, he made sure that I called him to report the results.
For years I harbored suicidal thoughts. The year was 1992 when I asked God to take my life in punishment for refusing to parent at such a young age. He gave me two chances to parent and I disobeyed. After the first termination I accidentally bathed against doctor orders and I am positively sure (until today) that that was the day I became infertile. Blood was everywhere, while excruciating pain came over me like a ton of bricks. I had never, ever experience that type of pain. Doctors are very particular about the ‘do’s and don’ts’ after an abortion.
On the list of what not to do because of the dangerous side effects is to “not sit in water (e.g., take a bath), douche, or use any medication in or for your vagina” – only shower. Persons are further asked to keep away from the use of tampons and refrain from “swimming in pools” and “bathing in hot tubs or jacuzzis.” I am sure these warnings were clearly shared with me along with handed literature about safety and health tips, but all memory was lost when I arrived home after the procedure. I physically felt empty and invaded. I wanted little to do with life, particularly after my second termination but – somehow in some odd way – I kept on existing.
Until this day I am disgusted by my experiences because it was less than six months later when I became pregnant again, succumbing to the same outcome. The second pregnancy occurred with a different person who I openly invited for reasons that I cannot explain, aside from feeling empty and so desperately wanted. He and I hardly knew one another and when he found out I was pregnant, he and his mother called me to share that I must terminate. They each wanted nothing to do with the pregnancy and I was fearful of the constant calls. After the second procedure, which severely scarred my ovaries, I was numb about not having a voice and knew that God had finally disowned me as His child.
Today I am a witness to how your life will forever change when impulsive decisions are made. God clearly wasn’t happy with me then and He hasn’t been ever since, although I believe my sins are forgiven. I was 17, looking young, yet feeling like a mid-20-year-old who had experienced a life-time of events. My body was physically tired and my emotions where scattered all over the place. I felt used, washed up and forgotten about. It was 1988 and next year I graduated high school. Somehow, someway, I made it through the tumultuous year. Frankly, I was surprised that I managed to keep my grades up to graduate on time. I had survived, literally, two life-threatening events and few people knew about it.
After my first termination I remember returning to school and continuing my normal events like nothing major in my life had changed. I believe I told the mutual friend about the first procedure, but I cannot recall her reaction nor comment. The silence I received from the few persons who knew about what happened should have spoken to me, but I was senseless to the whole process and series of events, which was very troubling. I wish then I knew what I know now! Before I became pregnant I was once a loving person who felt things; was somewhat emotionally healthy and naive to how things worked in the real world.
Ahem! Maybe I should rephrase the last sentence to say that my heart beat was a healthy one because it is apparent that I was not emotionally healthy through the ordeals, nor did I think much of my body and self-worth. There are many days and nights that I ask myself ‘why’ and ‘where’ did I go wrong in seeing the value in others but not within myself. Why did I feel that my voice, feelings, desires and wants meant nothing? I clearly had choices, but chose not to listen to my heart but the sentiments and demands of others. Why did I diminish my self-worth by putting a high price on those of others? What the hell went wrong that, at the age 16 and 17, I felt nothing inside me that spoke to how wrong decisions were with the choices that I had made?
I wanted so much to speak to and cry out to someone who would understand, but I trusted no one. The only three people who knew my true worth and provided sound advice were my older brother and two older female cousins. My brother was supportive as much as he could while also dealing with his own personal matters. One female cousin supported me the best she could by providing consolation and advice about how wrong decisions in life can have a positive learning experience. Of course, I did not understand her words then as much as I do now. My other female cousin, who is the oldest of us all, gave me housing, food and clothing when I needed it most. Subsequently, all three supporters were finally told who the older guy was that impregnated me first and neither were happy to learn that his identity was nearly 10 years my senior.
“Accepting what is instead of resisting frees you up to change.”
– Josie Kelly M.F.T.
It took two major-life changing events, a tumultuous relationship that involved physical abuse from a guy that I dated for 2 years when I worked for a company in NJ and other suicidal thoughts that paused my life and lead to a Complete 180! The year was 1993. Before accepting my aunt’s offer to visit and potentially live in MD for a life-changing overhaul, I prayed to God for forgiveness, asking for grace, favor and mercy for all my transgressions. I further asked Him for a second chance at life to correct and make right what I had wronged. There were many days and nights of prayer, but there is this one time when I clearly heard Him say that ‘experiencing another pregnancy will gravely cost me.’ That was the closest I had come to God’s voice and decided that I would do whatever I could to keep my promise and make conscious decisions about the precious life He gave me.
The common adage we regularly hear in the Christian faith that reads “… more than I deserve” could not be more relevant to what I have and continue to experience because of my actions at such a young age.
Again, the choice to parent as a teenager was that of my own, as was the decision to refuse. My kids would have been in their late 20s today. I will forever be haunted, affected and emotionally scarred in my many roles as a sister, daughter, aunt, female, woman, mother, niece and granddaughter. However, I know that our God is a great God! He reminds me every day of how a 20-minute procedure (twice) will have a life-long affect each time I see pictures of young adults in their late 20s and early 30s whose mother gave them life! The pill I swallow each day when I think of what happened years ago chokes me up, and then I am reminded that I have a major role to play to ensure that no one should ever experience what I endured.
I love differently than I used to and my sexual life isn’t as healthy as I would like. Today I question everything about myself and subconsciously wonder if I am being taken advantage of by men. The way I love myself is different. Sometimes I wonder if I am deserving of the things and blessings that are bestowed upon me.
“Don’t ever criticize yourself. Don’t go around all day long thinking, ‘I’m unattractive, I’m slow, I’m not as smart as my brother.’ God wasn’t having a bad day when he made you… If you don’t love yourself in the right way, you can’t love your neighbour. You can’t be as good as you are supposed to be.”
– Joel Osteen
The 180 that Mattered
In 1994 I visited my aunt and late cousin where a few weeks at their home resulted in permanent living quarters in the Mid-Atlantic region. The complete 180 happened outside of my state of NC in a place that was literally foreign to me. A culture shock is how I will describe it! Public transportation was offered, diversity was on the rise, jobs were plentiful and everything and everyone moved fast as if there was always somewhere urgent to be or someone urgent to see, respectively.
I found a job at a local theatre in no time. My cousin showed me the ropes and schooled me on how to ride public transportation to and from the city. We lived in Silver Spring (SS) MD, a city 24 minutes from Washington DC. Mostly I was reserved about my new area because I was unaware of what to do when and how to maneuver around the city. Yet, when I had doubts, my cousin was there to help me transition. That cousin of mine was the real deal and I miss her so much. Life happened in SS and my job at the movie theatre was short-lived to about 6 weeks when I subsequently accepted a receptionist position at a law firm in White Oak, a nearby unincorporated neighborhood. Unbeknownst to my aunt, MD became my place of refuge, hypothetically and it was the place where I would find my husband of 16.5 years and ultimately create a multi-cultural family.
Fast forward: my new male friend who had migrated to the United States 2 years ago became my husband after our 4-month friendship. Today my mental and emotional condition speaks volumes to where I was some 24 years ago when I met my former husband at age 23. Supposedly I had self-healed, was convinced that a physical move from NC would psychologically repair the severed life I created some 400 miles away. It was like I had traveled across state with torn luggage, unpacked midway, and put on new clothes before I reached my destination in hopes that I could masquerade around in an healthy soul. Accordingly, I loaded every fiber of me on that bus from NC to MD factually unaware that my messy flesh would further hemorrhage.
Remember that voice I told you I heard when God clearly spoke to me, i.e. another chance at motherhood? He spoke after several unsuccessful attempts at natural conception when I prayed to Him. Our preteen daughter is the ultimate gift that happened to me and my then husband! We are grateful to God, the many prayer warriors and a village of emotional supporters for our baby girl. I finally decided to publish this blog for reasons that support my present motherhood. When I look at my child today in our many chats about pubescence, I cannot honestly speak from the heart unless I am cleansed of my wrongdoings. Have I told her what happened to me when I was only 5 years older than she is now? No. Will I? Most likely when it is age appropriate unless she reads it here first. Why? Because she, as do others, can benefit from my testimony.
Where is my emotional condition today? God has delivered me but I am forever reminded of my decisions. Do I live in the past? No, but I am cognizant about how my past influences my relationships, particularly, with men. I regularly talk to God and not just on bending knees. He and I talk as I commute to work, before I write and publish a post / blog, before I eat, when I parent, and the list continues. I confessed to be a sinner many years ago and my relationship with Him is improving now that I am finally seeking therapy.
Please continue to pray my strength in Him, as I work to obey His instructions, follow His deliverance and seek His guidance in every path that I cross. Today I am at peace that this story is going public because I pray that for all who read, reserve judgment. My soul is now delivered from the multiple threats from that one person who said she’d go public with my story if my book on PA was published. She wanted the first voice, yet God has given me strength to share.
One last thing! Please keep an open heart to receive the words of all teenage mothers for reasons that are multiple.