The majority of countries throughout the world honor mothers on the exact same day of the year as we do here in America, and that day is today.
However gift ideas start being advertised weeks before Mother’s Day, reminding us to celebrate those brave women who brought us into the world, and/or raised us.
THIS can be really tough though, because for many people, today is not a happy day.
So in addition to wishing all the women out there doing “the hardest job you’ll ever LOVE” a HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! I’d like to ALSO honor those women who are hurting. Those who like myself, are just trying to survive another Mother’s Day.
My heart goes out to all the mothers who’ve lost children, or given them up through adoption. Those who’ve had miscarriages, and even those who’ve opted to terminate pregnancies. My heart aches for those who’ve lost their children in vicious custody battles, and all those birth mothers who for whatever reason, aren’t able to raise their children themselves.
Whether the child died, or lived/lives with someone else…the pain of being without a child you conceived can be debilitating, especially today.
I was a street kid.
By the age of 11 years old I was out in the world alone. I continued to go to school and get good grades, while staying with different people here and there…but I was essentially on my own.
My father died when I was young, and my mother had had a turbulent life even before I was born. So by the time I was 11 yrs old, and she wanted to leave Texas with a new guy she’d met, I asked her if I could just stay behind, and live with a friend of mine and her mom. My mom, exhausted from life as a single mother, and the constant contention between us, agreed to it.
So I moved in with my friend and her mother, while my mom left Texas with her new boyfriend, and went on her own adventure.
Unfortunately the stability of life with my friend, didn’t last long. I won’t go into all the details of exactly what happened, but long story short…one day her mom left for work and never came back. After a few weeks she and I left that little apartment and went our own separate ways, unable to pay the bills and certain that the authorities would soon come around, wanting to know why two young girls were living there alone. We were scared to death of going into the system, and for good reason. So we decided to take our chances out in the adult world.
Why Didn’t I Call My Mom?
Back in those days there were no cell phones, and not everyone had a land line. I had no phone number or address for my mother, and simply couldn’t get a hold of her. Besides that, I knew she didn’t really want me around anyway, so at 11 years old, I embarked on a journey into adulthood, without any of the tools, education or preparedness that would have given me a snow balls chance in hell of surviving.
I stayed here and there, sleeping outside only on rare occasion, still going to school, and eating what ever was offered me. Then the year I turned 13 my grandfather found out how I’d been living, and set it up for me to stay with my grandmother, in a small town in Texas. For 9 months I lived with Grandma and went to my freshman year of high school, but then life took another dramatic turn…and I was on my own again.
One night we got the call that my grandfather had been in a car accident, and was in a coma. So my grandmother rushed out the door, then after a time at his bedside, ended up living out in Dallas Texas, close to the hospital where my grandfather was still being treated. For about one year I was able to maintain the bills in that little apartment where I had stayed with her, by quitting high school and working full time. But then a relationship with an older boy turned violent, and I found myself being forced to make a run for it out to the city. Not long after I made it to Dallas, I started working in the girlie bars. I hated working in those places, but oddly enough the friends I made during those years were more like family, than my biological family had been.
The reality was that although it was technically the sex industry, being a stripper brought me out of homelessness and poverty, then offered me more stability and protection, than I had ever known.
Getting Out Of The Life
I started dancing when I was 16 yrs old. At first I worked at some of the small bikini bars on Greenville Ave, and then a few months later I made the jump to a very high end “Gentlemen’s Club” called Cabaret Royal. Although I didn’t like working as a topless dancer, word on the street was that if you HAD to be in this line of work, Cabaret Royal was the best place to go.
I also imagined it would be nice to have someone who loved me, but after all the mistakes I’d made, things I’d done to survive, and things that had been done to me without my consent…I simply didn’t feel worthy of love, so I decided not to spend too much time thinking about things that seemed out of the realm of possibility.
But a home seemed possible, so THAT was my goal. To have a home, and then find a reputable way to earn a living.
All in all, my life as a Cabaret Royal dancer was pretty good. I had a really nice apartment, and got to ride to and from work in the Cabaret Royal limousine. I actually got paid to sit with wealthy men in the Cabaret Royal 5 star restaurant and eat gourmet food. One of the really fun parts of my job was to shop in the boutique upstairs, and pick out my favorite designer dresses. I’d choose the ones I liked, then men who wanted to impress me would choose one of them and pay for it, then have it sent to me and ask that I put it on, and join them at their table. I collected quite a few of those beautiful dresses, but unfortunately I had no where to wear them except work.
We did table dances on top of these little stages or pedestals that came out from underneath the chairs, (this was long before the “lap dances” started happening) and we did themed performances (dressed up in a sexy nurse uniform or like a cowgirl in cut off jean shorts) on the main stage that broadcast throughout the entire club on huge monitors. It was the end of the “Go Go Dancer” era, and at Cabaret Royal I was privileged get a peek into how the other half lives, while meeting lots of cool famous people, I thought I’d only ever see on television.
By this time in my life I’d been through some incredible ordeals, and another one of the perks of the job was that I made really good money, so I could live a comfortable life while only working 8 to 10 days a month. I could go to work when I felt up to it, but then on the days when the torment of traumatic memories was especially difficult, I could stay at home and rest.
No one at Cabaret Royal was angry when I didn’t show up for a couple weeks, they were just happy when I did.
The combination of not having a work schedule, and making a considerable income allowed me a very expensive therapist, who drove a green convertible Porsche. We journeyed together into my suppressed anger issues, and feelings of being abandoned. I learned about dysfunctional families, and positive ways to cope with rage. Then when I ran out of money, I’d go back in to work.
On most nights I sat with clients who were well behaved gentlemen. Not every guy who went into Cabaret was wealthy. Some were just upper class business men, but I was one of the girls hand picked to work the upstairs VIP section, so the men that I danced for were among the elite.
Then one day Playboy magazine came in and started interviewing all the women that worked there, and taking test shots. Selah (the owner of the club) said it was mandatory, so I complied and did as I was told. Then a few weeks later, I was pulled aside and taken to an office to talk to one of the men who worked for the magazine. He told me that they looked at my test shots and I was “Playboy” material. He asked me to go out to L.A. and do a photo shoot, so they could feature me in a layout. He told me that although the job only paid $20,000 initially, he could guarantee that I’d make “Playmate of the Year,” and then I’d get a big bonus check, with additional money for appearances, that would total around $100,000.
I decided that I should definitely do the layout for Playboy magazine and then use the money to buy a little house or condo, and get into school. I wanted to have a normal life, and this seemed to be my best option. But there was one problem, I was only 16 and sure that a company like “Playboy Magazine” would be checking ID’s.
So I thought I better wait. I took the guys card with his phone number on it, and said that I’d think it over. I decided to use the time until my 18th birthday to make some life changes. I needed to get off drugs. I was sure that if I didn’t, then when I got the money for the layout, it would slip through my fingers without having changed my life the way I needed it to.
The last thing I wanted was to have naked pictures of me out there, and still be living hand to mouth. It would ONLY be worth it to pose nude, if I could become an educated, contributing member of society as a result, and finally get that normal life.
You see I wanted that life that I saw people who had parents and families take for granted, but I knew that there were some things about me that needed to change, or no amount of money would get me there.
Soon after I made the commitment to myself to get clean, I realized that I knew too many people in Dallas. It seemed like everyone knew my name and wanted to smoke a joint, buy me a drink, or lay out a line of coke. Things that would get me off track were everywhere FOR FREE. I needed a new stomping ground where no one knew me as a party girl, and then right out the gate I could say “NO I don’t do drugs!”
So I made a geographical to Houston, and went to work at a little gentleman’s club that was in a nice part of town. I stayed away from anyone who partied and quickly found that my circle of acquaintances, became very small. In the late 80’s MOST people that were in clubs drank alcohol, snorted cocaine and smoked pot. But as fate would have it, I did connect with one guy who only drank a few beers on the weekends, and we became friends with benefits. I stayed at his apartment which was just down the street from where I worked, and saved my money. I knew that I’d soon be making that call to the number on the business card for the Playboy layout, and heading to California. My birthday was just around the corner, and I didn’t want any serious “boyfriend” attachments to thwart my plans of taking off, and seizing my ONE opportunity to get a normal life.
Then one day my friend and I had a terrible fight, so moved all my stuff out of his apartment, and I went to stay with a distant uncle who I’d just found out, lived across town. Looking back at the argument I couldn’t understand why I’d gotten so freaked out. We were a “no strings attached” arrangement, so why did I care who called there looking for him, or if it was a woman. I thought to myself, “What’s happening to me? I was able to handle things a lot better, when I was getting high.” But in an instant, my neatly arranged “life plan” was in disarray.
Not long after I moved in with my uncle, I discovered I was pregnant. Oh no I thought, knowing exactly who’s baby it was…”I don’t even TALK to that guy anymore! No way am I going back to explain I’m PREGNANT!”
I knew I didn’t want to get married, because all I’d ever seen of marriage, looked a lot like modern day slavery. You know the woman has no power, isn’t really loved…just kept, cheated on, and beaten. None of that seemed appealing to me, and like I mentioned before…I felt like if there WERE good men out there, they wouldn’t want someone like me. They went with girls who’d grown up in families, and had college educations.
I was absolutely terrified of what pregnancy was going to do to me…I was sure it was going to hurt to give birth, and that my body would be ruined after having a baby. It was like all my dreams, of things someday being ok, were slipping away…I was sure that Playboy magazine wouldn’t want me with a saggy stomach and stretch marks, and that I could kiss my dream of a normal life goodbye, if I went through with this pregnancy. So I called around to the abortion clinics, and found one that only cost $500. I made my appointment for the next week, and planned to put this whole ugly mess behind me, without ever telling another soul.
I’m telling you I was going to take this secret to the grave.
Then the morning I was scheduled to go in for the procedure, I woke up in this sort of half conscious state just staring at the ceiling, with my hands on my abdominal area.
I thought about God, whom I hadn’t spoken to in years. I thought about the baby that was inside me, and what the Lord might say about what I was planning to do. But I also thought about the fact that I’d never been given a chance in life, and now that one had presented its self, I needed to take it.
***Then I felt a flutter beneath my fingers, and was hit by the reality that it was God who’d put that baby in there. A child He had a purpose for, even if it wasn’t in my plan.
I thought that if I killed this life God had put inside me, it would be spitting in His face. And I still LOVED HIM, even though at this point in my life, I was afraid to pray. I felt so dirty, so worthless, that I was sure God didn’t want to hear from me, but I always thought that one day, I’d clean myself up and go back to Him. And I certainly didn’t want to do anything blatantly against the Lord. He was the only Father I’d ever known, and still my first love.
That flutter changed everything, and I realized I couldn’t live with the choice of terminating my pregnancy, so I didn’t. I decided that EVEN if it was going to ruin my life to have this baby, I was going to have to ride this thing out.
EVEN if it was going to ruin my life to have this baby, I was going to have to ride this thing out.
With this decision came serious consequences. I didn’t know where I was going to live, or how I’d make money. At this point I had been a dancer for about 2 years, and knew I wouldn’t be able to dance much longer without having an abortion.
I was also grieving the loss of the life I’d had planned. I felt so disappointed because I was smart, and did well in school. I knew I could BE SOMETHING, if only given half a chance. But I was sure that without an education to help me earn a living, life was going to continue to be hard. In fact I was sure that life was about to be MORE difficult, once my pre-pregnancy body had become a faint memory, and I couldn’t even dance anymore.
When it became obvious to people at work that I had a bun in the oven, the owner of the club came to me with an offer. He said that if I wanted an abortion he’d pay for it, but if I wanted to have my baby but give him/her up for adoption, then he’d give me a place to live, pay for all my medical care, buy me a car to drive, and then when the baby was born healthy he’d give me $50,000 to sign over all my rights. I asked him why he’d want the baby, and he said that his brother and his wife couldn’t have children. He told me that they had money, but the wait to adopt a child was a long one, and they’d be happy to help me restart my life, if I’d place my child with them. I told him I’d think about it, and I did…but in the end it seemed wrong to me, so decided against it.
Calling For Help
Soon I had to reach out to my grandmother. My grandfather had survived the car accident and was back home now. He had a serious head injury and the mind of a child, but he was still my grandpa. I was looking forward to seeing them both.
I moved in with my grandparents at about 7 months of pregnancy, and was still trying to figure out what I was going to do.
It was strange to return to my family as such a failure, knocked up and homeless. I had been the scapegoat in my family before I had been a stripper, and got pregnant outside of marriage. I knew it was going to be tough, and it was.
I found a doctor in a near by town, and started my prenatal care. I didn’t know anything about maternity houses, or programs for unmarried mothers who were open to adoption, so I thought this was something I’d need to do alone.
My doctor was really nice, and I quickly bonded with his nurse. (We’ll call her “nurse Tammy.”) She discretely told me that her and her husband had been married for 8 years and couldn’t have children. She said that if I ever decided to give my child up for adoption, to please consider them. She said that they’d pay for a private adoption and take care of all the paperwork, all I’d have to do is sign. I thought long and hard about it, and had decided that it may be God’s will. This nurse spoke to me about it over the weeks leading up to the birth of my son. She knew my story, and understood that I didn’t get a chance to finish high school. She knew that throughout my childhood I lived with different relatives, and that when I was with my mother it was difficult. Nurse Tammy knew I didn’t get along with my grandma, and that the only person in my family that I was close to, now had the mind of a 5 yr old. She told me that IF I let her and her husband adopt my child, it would be an answer to many prayers, and that I wouldn’t be losing a child but gaining a whole family. She said that I’d finally have a real family to belong to.
That really appealed to me because I knew I needed guidance. I had no idea how to make it in the world, and had been getting by on God’s grace all these years. So as the delivery date approached I was pretty sure I’d made my decision.
The Child Is Born
On July 5th, 1993 my baby was born. He was the most beautiful baby I’d ever seen. It was foreign to me the way this baby clung to me with all his strength. Then something profound happened that I hadn’t anticipated. For the first time in my life, I knew what it was to be LOVED. I wasn’t someone that he tolerated, this little guy REALLY just loved me SO MUCH! It was just instinctual. I was his, he was mine, and HE KNEW IT.
His birth also brought up a lot of things I wasn’t prepared to deal with about my own childhood. I couldn’t help but wonder why my mother had never had this kind of love for me. What was it about me, that my mother couldn’t love? I knew I needed therapy and help to make this decision, but the money I’d once made for therapy was long gone, and for the life of me I didn’t know how to get counseling without it.
So I asked my grandmother if I could stay with her for a few more months and go to some kind of trade school, so I wouldn’t have to go back to working in the bars. She said no, I’d been there long enough and she had her hands full with my grandpa. She said I’d gotten myself into this mess, and needed to get myself out. You see, what I didn’t know at the time, is that there would have been counseling for me in a maternity house, and I would have been given a caseworker that could have explained my options and helped me in whatever decision I made about my son. But it was Nurse Tammy’s job to tell me that during my pregnancy. I found out later that she actually worked for an organization that was in charge of sending unwed mothers to the right housing, and connecting them with the right agencies to best serve their needs, but Nurse Tammy didn’t do that. She didn’t do that because it wasn’t in her best interest for her to do so. She couldn’t afford to adopt through one of the agencies that considered the birth mother to be of value too. She wanted to do a private adoption for just the cost of filing the paperwork with the court, and she knew I wouldn’t do that if I knew that there were other options for me.
So by this time, deeply in love with my son and unaware of the fact that there were options for women like me…I tried to raise my son myself. I decided to try, just try to see if I could be a mom. So over the coming 18 months, I did just that.
I quickly realized that I was not equipped to be a single mother…and I began to think about all the things I’d learned about abusive men, and why they acted the way that they do. I kept thinking about the commonalities amongst most abusers, like that they’d grown up in fatherless homes, and that they often had an unstable home life. I about the fact that that many times they had mothers who were ill equipped for motherhood, with little to no education, and no support network, and it sounded exactly like the stage that was set for my son. I didn’t want him to grow up to be the kind of man that would hurt women and children, the way I’d been hurt. I knew that the only way I could save him, was to lose him. My logical mind knew that I needed to place him for adoption, but every thing inside my heart was screaming to NO!
Giving It A Try
I took my son with me to Austin, found him a baby sitter, and went back to work in the clubs. It was impossible to find a sitter at night, so I started working the day shift. The money wasn’t nearly as good, and back then they really pushed the dancers to drink. They’d say that they were in the business of selling alcohol, and if these guys wanted a pretty girl to drink with them, then we were going to drink. I was getting off work drunk, and picking up my child from the sitter, then taking him back to our hotel room. I couldn’t seem to make enough money to get us into a regular place to live, It was just this dark hotel room, where my little boy didn’t have his own bedroom or a backyard to play in. He had only a few toys, and we lived on fast food. No matter how hard I tried, things just weren’t getting any better. Then one morning my son had woke me up really early, trying to give me hugs and kisses. I was forced to face a stark reality. I wasn’t making it as a mother. I looked around to see fast food bags and wrappers, then I caught my reflection in the mirror. I still had on make-up from the day before, mascara was smeared under my eyes, and there were stripper clothes all over the room. I knew I had to do the right thing by my child, but I also knew that it was probably going to kill me to do it.
So that morning I made the call.
A Final Goodbye
I called nurse Tammy and asked her if she could come and get him. She said YES and that they were on their way. I spent the time it took her to drive to Austin gazing into my child’s eyes, wondering if he’d ever really understand how much I loved and needed him. I remember hugging him so close, and just breathing in his smell. The few hours we had together that day seemed to fly by in a matter of moments, then nurse Tammy was at the hotel room door. It was also almost checkout time at the hotel, and so I was about to have to leave myself.
I said goodbye to my son one last time, gave nurse Tammy all the baby items I had, and walked them out to the parking lot. She put him into a car seat in the back of her car, and then left me standing there alone. The image of my son smiling and waving goodbye to Mommy imprinted on my mind. I knew he thought he was just going away for a little while with another baby sitter, and would see me later.
Remembering the car pulling away that day, while fighting this OVERWHELMING instinct to run after them screaming, has haunted me for decades.
I still cry for him, but know he deserved so much better than I had to give.
Sadly the years ahead would continue to be hard, and nurse Tammy didn’t keep her promise to me about me becoming part of their family. In fact I only saw my little boy once after that day, when he was 14 years old, for a few moments at a fast food restaurant.
I’m still glad I gave birth to him, and that I placed him in a home with a family, but I wish I had known about all the options and programs that are in place for unwed mothers, who are willing to give up their child in adoption. I wish I hadn’t been so naive, as to believe everything that Nurse Tammy told me. I should have talked to more people…anyone who would listen. I should have gone to churches, and the welfare offices, asking about what I should do. This was before we could search the internet, before people had computers or cell phones, but there must have been SOMETHING more I could have done, to find a reputable maternity house.
You see through a maternity house I would have been connected with a traditional adoption agency, I would have received some MUCH needed therapy to help me through the grief of losing my child, and I might have even been able to get back into school. I now realize that it was nurse Tammy’s job to tell me about those options, as she was the head of the department of the hospital that ran those types of programs, and that the “private adoption” that she arranged after having been my nurse was actually illegal.
I suppose to tell me the truth wouldn’t have served her needs, and a so a harsh reality that I already knew played out. Even seemingly good law abiding people, will say or do anything to get what they want, regardless of the cost to anyone else.
So over the coming years I tried to stumble through life with all the cards that had already been stacked against me, falling down around my ears. Grieving for the loss of the little boy I given birth to, with no therapy, and no help. Needless to say I was a mess, but I did survive, and have since helped several woman through unplanned pregnancies, to find families to adopt their children.
I never recommend that these women do private adoptions, because of what I learned in my experience with nurse Tammy.
My hope is that no one I work with, will ever get taken advantage of like that.
However I will say that I’ve heard through the grapevine, that my little boy has grown into a good man, with children of his own.
I suppose that’s all I can ask for.
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