You don’t have to have a baby to be a parent. It has taken me twenty-three years to fully understand and discover the true meaning of this. My biological mother gave me away when I was six weeks old to continue her drug habit as well as her journeys in and out of jail and prison. She left me in a roach infested car seat with a bottle of chocolate mild. Yes, chocolate milk at six weeks old. Who does that?
My great aunt and her husband came to my rescue. My aunt already had two sons, but her husband wanted a daughter. After my aunt’s second son was born she decided she didn’t want any more kids, but God had other plans.
After three years of my great aunt and uncle caring for me as their own and adopting me, my uncle was at a convenience store one day after work. He was jumped and beaten by three black men, put into a coma, and days later he died. I am not a racist and will explain why the ethnicity of the men was mentioned here later. My great aunt continued to care for me and her two sons alone. Her sons were twelve and fourteen years older than me, so they were teenagers going about their own lives.
Most of the time it was just me and my “mom.” She began working two jobs to support our family. There was a time I will never forget when we couldn’t pay rent and were behind on our bills. My mom had to pawn her wedding rings, the only thing she had left from her husband. She pawned them and never got them back. She would work extra hours just to make a few extra dollars for something special for me. I never appreciated that until later in life.
As I got older I learned the truth about my biological mother and began to rebel against my mom (aunt). I hated everyone and everything. I felt like if my own mother didn’t love me, then no one could. I began running away from home, skipping school, using drugs and stealing. My mom would beg me to change my actions. She didn’t want me to end up in trouble or hurt. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “This lady doesn’t care about me; she just got stuck with me.”
The reality was she is the only person I had who loved me. I drove my mom insane, I’m sure. I broke out our home’s windows, stole her car, and said very disrespectful things that hurt her feelings. All my negative actions got me sent to a youth center for thirteen months. I was nine hours from home and my mom would drive to see me, write me, send me uplifting cards and was waiting on me to return home.
When I was released from the youth center I was sixteen years old. I began to date. I started dating black men and my mom hated it because my father was killed by three black men. She could not bear the fact that I was dating men who were not the same ethnicity as we were. This was an ongoing battle between me and my mom. We continued to fight and I began to hate her. I was sixteen and knew everything. She was wrong. I wanted everything my way. She continued taking care of me until I was eighteen and moved out on my own.
I got pregnant. I called my mom to let her know. Her first question was, “Are you pregnant by a black man?” The answer was yes. She hung up on me and called me later to tell me she had money for an abortion. I told her I would not have an abortion and we didn’t talk for months. While I was pregnant I had nowhere to go. I was not with my child’s father anymore.
My mom let me come home finally. On August 24, 2007 I went into labor and my mom rushed me to the hospital. She held my hand through all my tears and pain. The doctor came into the room and told me I had to have an emergency C-section. I will never forget the look on my mom’s face when he told us this. We went to the operating room and they put me under.
I woke to my baby’s cries and my mom smiling and holding my son. My child is now four and a half years old and my mom has been there for her grandson every step of the way.
My mom has never treated me unfairly. She never had to continue taking care of me, but she did. She gives me hope and inspiration. I believe that if I wasn’t a major part of her life she would have held a strong grudge against black people. If it wasn’t for her playing a major role in my life I would have given up on life. My mom pushes me toward all of my dreams. We have overcome many obstacles together and she has never given up on me. I have made a lot of bad mistakes in my life, but there she was, always standing by my side, not as my aunt, but as my mother who loves me unconditionally. I pray that I can be half the mother she is to me to my children.
Barbie Gann-Martinez 23