Monday, November 3, 2008

A Woman of Consequence

Here's another personal essay.

My husband asked me after the birth of our fourth daughter in 1999, how I could stand the pain? How did I endure it without screaming? I just laughed it off with some joke about women being stronger than men, but inside I knew the truth. The beatings I survived as a child were much worse. I learned the art of taking my mind and soul to another place so as to stay alive.

At the age of fifteen, Mother burst into my room one night, informing me I had a doctor's appointment the next day. She had noticed my ongoing sickness each day.

Now, I'm not going to insult the reader here. I was fully aware of my condition or suspected anyway.

The exam room was cold. The paper sheet was the only barrier between the doctor and his diagnoses. He stripped his rubber gloves off and threw them on the metal table.

"Go get the mother." His disgust was evident.

The year was 1973 and the country was not accepting of teen pregnancies. Mother entered the exam room.

"Your daughter is pregnant. I would guess she is eight or nine weeks." He stared at me over half glasses that sat on his nose. I could see he had daughters and never, ever would they act like me. "You could take her to New York City. It's the only place in the country where the procedure is legal."

"How much does it cost?" Mother looked at me as if she held the leather belt in her hand.

"A thousand dollars."

"I guess it's the only way to save our name. Give me the information."

Two adults were deciding my baby's future. Neither held one ounce of compassion. Somewhere deep inside my chest a voice stirred, screaming at me to fight.

"No." My voice was quiet.

Mother looked at me.

"I don't care if you beat me to death, Mother. You can't make me have an abortion."

A flicker of sorrow passed through the doctor's eyes. "You have until she is twelve weeks." He clicked his pen down and handed Mother the information.

"You will do what I say!" Mother stared at me.

I held her gaze without pulling away.

On September 20, 1973, after seven hours of labor, my oldest daughter was born. She was the first beautiful thing to come into my life, my first ray of hope. Full of youthful determination and dreams, I planned our lives. Mother predicted my failure with glee, and I'd be a liar if I said I didn't fail many times. But each time I was knocked to my knees, I struggled back onto my feet, brushed myself off and moved forward. At the age of eighteen I escaped my mother for good after I gained my high school diploma and decent employment.

Twenty-two years and two weeks after the birth of my oldest daughter, I looked into the eyes of Morgan Leigh, my first granddaughter. She stared at me with big eyes, and my world converged. In that moment, with that little bundle in my arms, I knew all my struggles, the beatings, the heart-breaking attacks, brought her to me. I was part of a new legacy; one that taught the women in our family to be strong, to go for what they wanted. Morgan's birth allowed me to believe wholeheartedly in my efforts. At thirty-five, I found myself, held her in my arms, and gave her a pure compassionate love that she deserved.

I came back into my mother's life when I turned forty-five. She had lost her power, shriveled in a wheelchair, struggling with kidney disease. My successes were never acknowledged. But I knew she saw the woman I had become, the woman of consequence.

3 comments:

Ruth D~ said...

A touching . . . no tear inducing . . . testimony to your strength and love, Ann. Congrats on the birth of your grand daughter.

Stacye Carroll said...

Beautiful! Truly inspiring!

Ann Hite said...

Thanks guys! She's a beauty.