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My story is a mixture of racism, substance abuse, and...

January 26, 2017

“My story is a mixture of racism, substance abuse, and . I had a very tumultuous childhood. My mother was a heroin addict and my father an alcoholic. They had me very young and broke up when I was 4.

 

I grew up on the west side of Cleveland without many things people take for granted: food in the fridge (as early as age 8, when I would say I was hungry, my mom would hand me a dollar to walk across the busy street to get a can of chef boyardee), clean clothes (my mom would promise she was going to go the laundry mat every day while I was at school, but never would), and a stable home environment (we moved very often and there were always people sharing our apartment/home, it was not abnormal to see people walking around with a needle sticking out of their arm).

 

When I was 11, I was taken out of the care of my mother and passed around to a few different relatives until I ended up at my paternal aunt's home, a place where I would finally find some stability until I was a junior in High School.

 

My aunt and her husband had three other kids and was pregnant with a forth when they took me, so I became 1/5. Our town was about 45 minutes south of Cleveland and very rural and white. We attended a southern baptist church where we were told that abortion was murder, dancing was a sin, and women should be subservient. I did well in school, had lots of friends.

 

My aunt, whom I had always had a strong bond with and still do, was a nurturing and consistent role model. Her husband, on the other hand, resented my presence and would make mean comments to me when others couldn't hear, but everyone knew how he felt about me. My cousins would make jokes about it. When I would try to address this, he would tell me "there's the door", so while these years were the most stable, they were plagued by this feeling of not belonging and feeling unwanted.

 

When I was 16, I fell for a boy who was half black and half white and adopted into a very wealthy white family in the next town over. I got pregnant. He disappeared as boys often do, but finally we got together to take the pregnancy test (I did not drive at the time and there was no drugstore within walking distance).

 

I took the test in a Wendy's and remember feeling faint upon seeing the positive result. I became resolved to have the baby. My boyfriend went along with me. In fact, he even bought me an engagement ring and proposed to me. His family was firmly against this, obviously. When I met his adopted sisters, they tried like hell to convince me to abort which only strengthened my resolve.

 

At that time, college or even a career like the one I have now was beyond my wildest dreams. There was not a single person in my immediate or extended family even suggesting I go to college. As the weeks went on, this boy completely disappeared again, and the reality of my future started to sink in. I confided in one of my cousins who told my aunt and uncle and, of course, the shit hit the fan.

 

The man didn't want me there and now he had the ammunition he needed. Because my boyfriend was half-black, he said he would never allow the baby to live under his roof. He even went so far as to say that the baby could end up 100% black. I have no idea where he came up with that. There was so much accepted and casual racism at that time (early 90's).

 

So I couldn't live with them if I had the baby, but I also was couldn't live with them if I had an abortion, because you know. Jesus.

 

So there I was age 16 with a boyfriend (technically fiance, insert laughing emoji) who had disappeared, a home that I had to move out of regardless of what I chose to do, and not one single ounce of support anywhere in sight.

 

A figure from my past, my mother, reemerged. She had moved to Pennsylvania where there was no age requirement for abortion. She and a few of my close friends, convinced me that abortion was my best option.

 

When I told my boyfriend my plans, you can imagine his relief. Yay - no longer tied to the poor girl who lives by the train tracks! He happily agreed to drive me to PA.

 

I forget the lie we told my aunt and uncle when we went to Philadelphia, but off we went and my mother scheduled me into a facility that groups you with about a dozen other women going though an abortion. Yes, there were people outside with grotesque signs, but I looked right past them, into my future, as we all do.

 

I don't remember much from that day besides wanting cinnabun afterward. We drove home and attended my boyfriend's prom the following week. A few weeks after that, I moved out of my aunt and uncle's home when they weren't there. I had a friend whose mother said I could stay with them for my senior year of high school.

 

My aunt says her heart was broken when she came home to find me gone. Her husband ended up leaving her less than a year later. It turned out, he had been cheating on her for some time.

 

I would have a 25 year old had I continued my pregnancy. I imagine him as boy, for some reason. He would have been beautiful.

 

I went on to put myself through state college in Ohio, then post-grad at NYU. I have an amazing career that is both lucrative and intellectually rewarding. I have been married to my husband for ten years. When I compare him to that boy, the differences are astounding. My husband is a hard working creative entrepreneur who inspires me every day.

 

I was very clear when we met that I wanted to be a mom. Whether it was needing to make up for the mothering I didn't have, guilt over the abortion, or just a general biological urge, I'll never know.

 

I knew that I had to be a mom, but I teach my kids that having children is choice they can make for themselves and that they will always have my support no matter what choices they make.”  — April

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