Monday, July 5, 2010

The Chronicles of A Teenage Mom

Dear BC Readers:

I know that many of you are waiting patiently for Part II of the Domestic Violence Chronicles, and I promise you that it's on deck! One of my readers recently asked me, "BC, you have a teenage daughter right?", and I said, "I have two!" and she said, "How do you do it?" and I said, "It's not easy!" My approach to raising my daughters is to try my best to understand why God chose me for the role to begin with? Teenagers will truly test their parents patience in ways that are paralleled to none. Here is another excerpt from the book that I'm writing, which I hope will touch my parents of teens and bring you back to realizing how important we are in their lives (just in case you've lost touch)...enjoy!

Less than 24 hours after giving birth to her, my thyroid gland would stay enlarged for the rest of my life. The nurse midwife explained to me that this was the result of my loud screaming in Labor and Delivery. As I sat on my bed in the ward at Kings County Hospital Center that morning the nurse called out to me, and the other mothers and said that it was time to bathe our newborn babies. I can still remember how my heart skipped a beat at the thought. When I attempted to get up off the bed, I quickly remembered how painful the 30 stitches down in my vagina felt. "Ouch!" 15 inside and 15 outside. The male doctor that delivered my daughter didn't think "it was time yet", when I told him that I could feel my baby's head pushing down and out of my body. In the doctor's eyes, I was obviously too young or too new to the experience to know what I was talking about. Back then (1993) Labor and Delivery rooms were two very separate entities. My daughter was born in a Labor room and I was later pushed to the Delivery room for an hour worth of stitching. Getting up from that hospital bed bought all that pain right back to the surface. I remember thinking, "What am I doing here?" Why had God chosen me to bring this beautiful little girl into the world? I mean of course I participated in manifesting my own destiny, yet I believe all things come to pass for a reason and reasons that are very spiritual in origin. It crossed my mind in a humorous way that I must of selected this challenge after finishing up a past life that was super easy. I must have told the man upstairs that I wanted more of a challenge in this life and I'm sure my motivating spirit thought she could handle it all with ease. As I walked slowly to the nursery I found my daughter in her bassinet with a basin filled with water next to her. As I stood there, my body felt rocked and it definitely didn't feel like the body I had come to know. The West Indian nurse called out to me as she noticed I was just standing there, "Mommy come and wash your baby" and I just stared back blankly. "Come now and wash her up", "She soon have to eat". The little girl in me replied, "I don't wanna hurt her". The nurse chuckled to herself and shook her head. All the babysitting jobs I'd done up until that point could not have prepared this varsity football high school cheerleader to care for this newborn baby that was mine. I hadn't the slightest idea of how to wash my soft and beautiful, caramel-kissed baby that had just released herself from my body less than 24 hours prior.

This was my first experience with my inner soul. My soul felt so separate from my body almost as if it were hovering over the entire experience. The life of the free-spirit I was born to be was unraveling. My stubborn nature would serve as a double-edged sword in my life. In 1993, I never realized how badly I hurt my daughter. I hurt her because psychologically I was way too immature to have her and at that age sadly I could barely wash behind my own ears properly. Less than sixteen-years later my daughter would struggle and experiment with drug and alcohol abuse and have self-esteem smaller than a tiny village. No matter how much I loved my daughter, love just isn't always enough to raise a child. I made my young life unnecessarily difficult at a time when the only expectation I needed to fulfill was obtaining my high school diploma. I loved everything about high school my classes, being a cheerleader, and I loved being the center of attention (I'm a Leo). How did someone who enjoyed the spotlight the way I did have such a low self-esteem at the very same time? I failed my daughter before she was ever born into this world. I didn't know who I was therefore who could my daughter be? The oxymoron's of life are so blatantly complicated. Here I stand today, a woman in her early-thirties trying desperately not to lose the child that I bought into the world sixteen years ago. I look at my daughter today and I see a young lady that just wanted good things from life but had a mother that could only offer the bare minimum. God blessed my baby with the type of creative talents that I could have only hoped for. She can make miracles happen with her hands. She would draw at 10, Sew by 12, paint at 13, and play the violin gracefully from 12-16 (well not always gracefully on my ears). Having a mother that constantly dropped the ball when it came to the investment of her talents ultimately caused my daughter to lose faith in the world. A child's talents are similar to the seeds we plant in our gardens and when we don't water them they don't grow.

I constantly have sleepless nights now and I find myself dreaming of the baby I gave birth to way back in 1993. She was born a Virgo, with the spirit of a bull and by 3 I knew that she was going to take this world by the reigns and make it work for her. I've always lived paycheck to paycheck and what that meant for my baby was that a lot of her talents would tarnish because they would never have the opportunity to fully developed. Always forced to prioritize between sewing classes or my Con Edison bill would keep my baby's natural talents in limbo. Some would say these are the statistics of a teen mom. I would say as long as I wasn't trading my money for a crack pipe I'd beg to differ. I did fall under the radar of a statistic in some ways though because I was most definitely struggling under the poverty guidelines. My only priority now is to save my little girl and to start watering her garden again. She was the 3 year-old child that could light up a room with her smile. She was a little "Broadway Hit," and she often bought joy to others. It was Barbara's job to protect the image she had of the world. When Barbara let the world consume her, she let it consume her daughter as well. The young child that never had to crave for her mother's attention began to starve. The amount of pride I bore began to move me further and further away from God and indirectly away from my child. We moved into the homeless shelter Uptown when she was around 9. She was in the fourth grade and that's when I started to lose her. I was a young mother of 3 by that time, and I had a huge chip on my shoulders. I wanted to prove to myself and the world that I did not need the backing of a man to make it. Travelling everyday from Uptown Manhattan to Queens and back can be trying or anyone, but for a child it's just brutal. She always had a smile on her face. She was my silly child. Her 4th grade teacher couldn't understand her lack of enthusiasm so far into the school year. She was tired. She had a painting on display at the Guggenheim Museum that year but her childlike spirit was starting to diminish. Unfortunately, her life began to take a backseat as my life became consumed with full-time college and bills. By April of 2003, she was missing 22 homework assignments and because she was always such a great student I became confident on just her word, "I finished my homework at school", and I would reply, "great!". The homeless shelter forced her to grow up quickly and I will carry that regret for the rest of my life. As the oldest she was forced to carry the most bags, yelled at most to hurry along and exposed to images of addicts and prostitutes all things children should be sheltered from. My daughter slipped through my fingers in a sense because I was too busy playing out the role of Superwoman to see what was happening right under my own nose. My appreciation for my daughter was replaced by my expectation. I expected her to do well because I knew how bright she was. The problem was I forgot to tell her how bright she was. I forgot to tell my daughter how awesome she was. Even when she was accepted into a gifted junior high school I just expected it. A parent can contribute to their child's low self-esteem without even being consciously aware of what they're doing. While I focused so hard on my studies I forgot to hug and kiss the one little person who looked up to me the most. She was always my biggest fan. Had I been 40 and not 28 at the time I might have picked up on that. I might have been content with the goals already achieved and not aspiring for more and more on my kids time.

Teenage moms grow up and thankfully I have. I have also learned to push my pride aside and to not live my life in accordance to others. A bit of a rebel? Maybe? But I did a lot of things on this journey that other people wanted me to do and I sold myself short each and every time I didn't do what I wanted to do. I'm no longer guilty of doing what others "think" I should do. I make my own decisions and I make no apologies for the decisions I make. I have finally learned to accept complete and total responsibility for my own life and some of my messes have yet to be completely cleaned up. My daughter is stable for now. She has completed drug counseling and she is back on the right track. Helping her heal wasn't just her therapist's responsibility, it's also mine. I created most of the hurt and I have to repair that. A parent is always forced to weigh the balance between working out of the home vs being there for their children. Sometimes the ultimate sacrifice of parenting is putting our own hopes and dreams on hold so that our children are free to have theirs. Fear will never anchor my feet on the ground so I am a parent that will continue to fly. The difference this time around is that I will always take my children with me. I will never fly alone. My daughter will be fine and if you are struggling with a teenager so will they. The best advice I can offer is repeated confrontation. They will hate you now but it will save them later. Secrets have no place when it comes to raising a teenager. Everything must be on the table. You can't solve problems when you don't address that you have problems. The world will continue to tell your children that everything you say is false. It's our job as parents to keep fighting against the current. Knowing that you can really lose them should always be your strength in getting back up and challenging them again. Will it feel like your back will break? "Yes". Will it? "No". Never give up!

In Loving Memory of my cousin Eric 4/28/87 - 5/2/2009 (Had I known how to save a life, I promise you that I would've saved yours). I Love you cousin and you will forever remain in my heart.

Death is coldly permanent folks. Ask questions and help the young people in your lives.

Much Luv



  1. Barbara you’re journalism is so overwhelming and inspiriting. You have been blessed as well as rewarded for your writing. I am delighted that you now illustrate expression. You are a fabulous woman and mother I commend you.

  2. Hi Elena:

    Welcome and thank you for such lovely compliment. I pray that the writing will continue to touch the ones that need it most. My whole life makes sense at this point. The sun always shines after the rain.

    Much Luv