As a young girl growing up in Englewood on Chicago’s south side, in the 1960s, I formed a deep love of reading. Books were a way for me to mentally escape the sexual abuse I endured by a male neighbor, from the time I was 8 to 12 years old. After the abuse ended, I didn’t tell anyone for more than a decade, but the shame, grief and self-loathing stayed with me.
In high school, I felt out of place and overwhelmed at my neighborhood school, but I found happiness and a renewed love of learning when I transferred to Central YMCA Alternative High School. I also fell in love with a classmate. My girlfriends told me about the sexual and reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood of Illinois. Going to get birth control was a kind of rite of passage.
When I was 18, I found out I was pregnant and became a mom with my high school sweetheart. Eventually, that relationship ended, yet I felt like I could still make a good life for myself. I had a job, I was in school, and I was now a mother. However, the trauma from the abuse finally caught up with me and I moved through my 20’s feeling like an empty basket. If I met someone who could fill my basket with as much self-loathing and hatred as I felt for myself, I would let them. I ended up turning to drugs and alcohol to try and fill the void.
By the time I was 26, I had three children, and was living in public housing when I discovered I was pregnant again. I knew my life was spiraling out of control when I tried to buy drugs, but was $3 short and the dealer wouldn’t sell to me. It was a pivotal moment. I couldn’t believe this was my life. The next morning, I was standing in the kitchen crying and praying for help when the sun came out from behind the clouds and shined on my face. I took it as a sign and grabbed the Yellow Pages to find a treatment center. I was scared because I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew I had to try to get better.
I also realized that, if I continued my pregnancy, I would not have enough to divide out another portion of food or resources for one more person, without everyone in my family suffering. So I made the decision to do what was best for me and my family and made an appointment at PPIL for an abortion.
I came to PPIL scared, insecure, and with low self-esteem, but PPIL made me feel like I was someone of value. I wasn’t judged or scorned. Planned Parenthood offered a safe and supportive environment which helped me keep my dignity in a difficult situation.
I’m telling my story now because I believe we all have a right to reproductive health care and there should be no shame in choices we make. I’m now happily married, with five talented children and three grandchildren. I am a writer, storyteller, and healer. My focus is the art of resilience, consciousness, and soul matters. And I couldn’t be more proud of how my life turned out.