I was born to a teenage mother, who was born to a teenage mother, who was born to a teenage mother. Yep.. three generations of teen moms. My mother was 14 years old when she became pregnant with me and 15 when she gave birth. What’s ironic is my grandmother was also pregnant. Not only was she about to birth to her eighth child at 30, but she was also about to become a first-time grandmother. Can you imagine being 30 years old with eight children and your first grandchild on the way? Oh… and my great grandmother, my grandmother’s mom, had 12 children at the time and she was only 43. Y’all, I’m 47 with two children. Had my first child at 21 and my second at 30. Just thinking about what it must have felt like being a teenage mother is unimaginable, let alone having multiple children and grandchildren by the age of 30.
Well, a few years ago, during one of my mom’s frequent visits to the emergency room, I thought about what it must have felt like to be responsible for another life at such a young age. When I arrived at the hospital, she was in so much pain. Every time the nurses touched her she moaned. I wanted to help but couldn’t. Finally, the doctor gave her something to ease the pain and she fell asleep. I didn’t leave. I just sat there watching her sleep. Honestly, it was like watching a stranger. The person I saw lying there wasn’t the loud, strong, opinionated woman I knew. This woman was vulnerable, tired, and broken. That’s when it hit me that she was so much more than my mother, she was a woman.
While sitting there, I began reminiscing about my childhood and the sacrifices she had made for me and my five siblings. She always made sure our needs were met even if she had to go without. When I was a baby, she worked in the cotton fields to buy me clothes and pampers. She married a man twice her age, and endured abuse so that she could support me. By the time she divorced him two years later, she had another little girl to support. Although she had two toddlers, she graduated from high school early and enrolled in college. At 18 she was walking the campus of Jackson State University with two in tow. I still remember attending night classes with her when she couldn’t find a babysitter. During that time she was always learning something new as well as introducing us to new things. For me, that was the most exciting time of my childhood. Also, she was no stranger to hard work. Throughout my childhood, I don’t ever remember hearing her complain about taking on second jobs or not being able to take off for vacations. She did what she had to do to provide for her family. I remember how one year she walked miles to work in the snow, while pregnant with one of my younger sisters. One day she slipped and fell and still went to work. That’s how dedicated and selfless she was. Although she experienced heartaches, disappointments, and abuse, we rarely saw her cry. She was the rock of the family.
Needless to say, by the time I left the hospital I was a changed woman. I saw my mom through a different lens. Not only her but my grandmother and great grandmother as well. I often wonder what kind of sacrifices and compromises did they have to make to ensure their children had everything they needed. Listen, like most mother-daughter relationships, my mother and I have had our ups and downs. However, it wasn’t until I put myself in her shoes that I was able to better understand some of her experiences and decisions. I will admit that the woman she was throughout my childhood made me the woman I am today, and for that, I’m grateful.