When the dope sickness would crawl over my mama like fire ants, when the beautiful, twinkling woman who gave the best hugs was so far away that I was certain that I would never see her again; she would start making demands. She would demand my love, my respect, my obedience and my money.
My love, respect and obedience were used for her to feel in control when her world was spinning off of its axis. My money, money that I would diligently squirrel away in a little grey safe with a surprisingly secure lock, would be used to procure what she needed to make her skin stop aching and to keep her insides from flipping out.
If I refused to bend to any of her demands, her words turned to bullets that she used to hatefully shred my heart. When she was at her most vile, her most vengeful, she would fix me in her sights and fire off that she should have aborted me. She would hiss that I should appreciate her l because she chose to bring me into the world when everyone else wanted her to “kill” me.
No matter how much she screwed up, no matter how much she disappointed me I needed to be grateful to her because she was the only reason that I had a life to start with. She was the only one who wanted me. Therefore, how could I ever turn my back on her?
And, this worked.
Her words were also the seeds for an idea that haunted and splintered me for the first 35 years of my life. I had been unwanted since the moment I was conceived in the back seat of a Chevy Nova that was parked in the back of a hollow chiseled into the rolling Appalachian Mountains. I was unworthy of simply being loved. I had to work for it. If someone tried to simply give me love, I guiltily refused it. I didn’t deserve it.
In my teenage years, as her drug addiction continued to bring heartache, strife and embarrassment to my life, I would respond to her ransom demands for not “murdering” me, my words dripping with a mixture of sardonic bitterness and throbbing sadness, about how grateful I was that she didn’t get an abortion and instead decided to provide me a life lush with drug abuse, poverty and prison stints.
“Why didn’t you just do it, mom? Why didn’t you just abort me? It’s not like I would have ever known!”
I could have been aborted. Perhaps should have been aborted, but I wasn’t. Instead the reminder that I became a person was my own prison. As an illegitimate child of drug addicted, welfare-collecting high school dropouts I saw the hypocrisy of those who claim to be pro-life. Trust me, the majority of them are quite simply pro-birth. My mom was not exalted or lauded for having me. The pearl clutchers shunned and shamed her. Politicians did not embrace and cherish the free lunch kid who had three daddies before she was seven.
I am so damn glad that I am here, surrounded by a husband who loves me so [good] that he makes me weak in the knees, a kid who was more desired than all the gold in the world, and friends who make me feel as warm as a spring breeze, but I refuse to remain awash in an ocean of guilt for simply existing. Abortion loomed over me like a monster that I could hear breathing but couldn’t see. I can be thankful for not being aborted while still fully supporting other women’s right, including my mom’s. Mama’s choice gave me life, but it also gave me scars that run as deep and as wide as the Mississippi.
I did not claw my way through seven layers of hell and finally learn to love myself to be told that I wasn’t equipped to make decisions for my own body. When all I had were mayonnaise sandwiches to fill my empty stomach, my body wasn’t your concern. When my skin was goose bumped and my bones were shivering from having to take a cold shower because we had no hot water, my body wasn’t your concern. When my heart was shattered and my brain was scrambled from being told that I was unwanted, my body wasn’t your concern.
You weren’t concerned when my mama was injecting jolts of poison into her veins. You weren’t concerned when Hepatitis crept up from her liver and turned her once sparkling blue eyes to a fading yellow. You weren’t concerned when her lungs took their last haggard breath in a beaten down single wide.
So, what is it about our uteruses that causes such concern?