Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. –Psalm 51:5
I wasn’t born into the best circumstances. My mother was seventeen-years-old, on her way to college on a full scholarship. When she became pregnant, my grandmother was devastated. Too poor to pay the doctor to perform an illegal abortion, they experimented with pills, Tanqueray Gin, turpentine, and boiling water. When the popular home remedy failed, my mother was sent to live with her Uncle and Aunt in Hartford, Connecticut. She was supposed to put me up for adoption, return home to Atlantic City, and prepare to leave for Howard University in the fall. However, when she was eight months pregnant, she changed her mind and refused to sign the adoption papers.
My great uncle and aunt sympathized with their niece, but they still felt she was too young to handle the responsibilities of motherhood. They offered to adopt me, hoping my mother would feel more comfortable knowing her baby would be reared by someone in the family. To their surprise, my mother refused their offer, and much to my grandmother’s dismay, her college bound daughter returned home with a baby.
My grandmother had a right to be concerned. My mother was poor, unmarried, and knew very little about parenting, but when I came into her life, she gave me the best that she had. My mother also wanted the best for herself. When I was in Head Start, she went back to school. Four years later, she graduated from Rutgers-Camden with honors, and used her education to educate me. She also sent me to dancing school, read the Bible to me daily, and kissed me every night before bed. Not once in my childhood did I feel unwanted or unloved, so when she told me about the circumstances surrounding her pregnancy and my birth, I was shocked, but not angry.
You may wonder why I know this story and why I’m sharing it with you. First, I know this story because my mother understood that sharing her darkest moments with me would strengthen our bond, and I, in turn, would not be afraid to come to her with my own transgressions. Second, it is important for you to know that over four decades ago, God decided that I should live. He had a plan for me even though I was “unplanned,” and he definitely has a plan for you. God can work anything out for you, and his plan will come to fruition regardless of your circumstances.
Dear Lord, please teach me to cherish my life. Remind me that you have a wonderful plan for me even though I was born in sin, and thank you for your divine virtue that is more powerful than my worst transgressions. Amen.
Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames (Ambassador International 2011)
This excerpt is wonderful. It’s frank, and at the same time humbling. It reminds me a little of your first book, the chapbook “Womb Rain”. I’m glad your mother chose to keep you.
Thank you so much for your heartfelt comment : )
The second act of life, adulthood, is so much more enjoyable than the first. As an adult, I can understand a person’s plight, learn a lesson from it, and hopefully not be judgmental. I would never have thought or known this was your path in life had you not shared it. I enjoy stories of adversity and I think there is a lot of it in this account of one’s life. Well done!
Thank you for your comment, Barry! Well put : )