Being pregnant in jail, facing prison and knowing that your child will be taken from you right after birth.. never to be seen again. Can you picture this?
I want you to close your eyes and imagine this for me. Picture your baby’s face, picture being pregnant and sleeping on a metal bed and living off of extremely small meals your whole pregnancy.
Truly try to visualize that feeling of emptiness and that hole in your chest that comes with carrying a child that you will never know.
Now imagine every time you call the father of this baby, him telling you that he and his parents would be there the day you gave birth to take her away. And you’d never see her again. Being emotionally tortured over the phone when you’re in such a helpless situation. It turned out to be a lie, his parents didn’t want her at all. My family reached out to them multiple times and were always turned down and told “I’ll get back with you” and never heard back. They didn’t care that she didn’t have anywhere else to go, they knew she would be taken by the state and didn’t care. Like everyone else, it wasn’t their problem. It was mine.
Combine that with crippling night terrors, constant fear and anxiety.
This was my life for 6 months. Now, I get it. There are people who do way more time. I know I didn’t do anything extraordinary but that doesn’t take away from it all. I didn’t think I was getting out. I wasn’t supposed to get out.
I went back and forth. Some days I wondered what she would be like. Some days I convinced myself not to care.
Some days I begged everyone I knew to take her so that I wouldn’t lose her. I just needed a home for her for a few months that’s all. No one would take her.
So many different women I met in jail claimed they wanted to help, I learned not to believe them. As soon as they were free I never heard from them again.
There’s an organization that helps foster babies born to women in prison but they didn’t have any families available. There just aren’t enough people that care about women in prison. There aren’t enough people that care about the babies born to women in prison.
I did my time knowing I would never be her mommy. I would never know what she would grow to look like. I didn’t even know if they would give me a picture of her before she was taken.
I always wondered if I would forget what she looked like or if her image would be burned on my brain.
I thought of every single worst case scenario. What if she never found a home? What if she stayed in the system forever? What if her family abused her? What if she died and I just never knew.. would they tell me?
Would she be loved? Safe? Happy? Would she have curly strawberry blonde hair like me?
Maybe she would grow up to be a nurse or an attorney. Maybe she’d grow up and follow down the same path I did.
I would never know. She’d be a ghost to me as soon as she left my arms.
There were 5 of us in county that were pregnant and due right around the same time. One of us gave birth, they made her stay in her tank for a long time while she was in labor. I was so afraid.
When she came back she was a zombie. I saw her at rec one day and she just sat there. Staring off into nothing. She was empty. Just a shell being forced to exist. I felt her pain, I never felt more connected to someone in my life than I did in that moment.
That would be me in one month. Or less if she came early. I hadn’t seen a doctor since I had left Navarro county months prior. I begged for prenatal care and they wouldn’t take me. At my last doctors visit we saw complications in my sonogram, one of which being that my placenta was covering my cervix.
But I was an inmate. No one listened, no one cared.
My hips hurt from the metal bed, I couldn’t ever get comfortable. The woman next to me snored so loudly I just stayed up all night reading.
I stopped calling anyone because the news of no home for my baby was unbearable every time.
Everyone always told me to ask God to let me out. I knew that wasn’t possible, but everyone insisted that I give my problems over to Him and allow Him to make a way for me. I would get mad at them. How can y’all just tell me to ask to be let out? It isn’t that simple! You can’t just ask to be let out and then that happen.
If there was a God he would find my baby a home. If there were a God none of this would have happened to begin with.
I knew I would never be let out and that wasn’t my concern. My only concern was my daughter. I became so desperate.. so broken.. that I would do anything.
I wrote on the back of an envelope, a prayer to Him. The envelope was a letter from the foster agency telling me that there weren’t any openings.
“Dear Heavenly Father,
I come to you and put my complete trust in you to be with my daughter and keep her safe, happy and healthy. I have 100% faith in you that you will take care of her since I can’t right now. And I pray that you will someday reunite us. Please help me find my baby a home. A place where she’ll be loved. Please.
One day, about a week later, we were rounded up and taken to court but I knew it was a mistake, it happens from time to time: you’re taken to court but it’s not your court date so it’s just a free day out of your tank.
But my grandmother was out in the seating area when I got there. And eventually my attorney walked in, I could hear her talking to the DA and I’ll never forget his words “I’ll sign for this, because I know she’ll be back in 3 months”. I didn’t realize it yet but he was talking about me.
She walked up to me, and showed me my options. They were letting all the pregnant women out of jail on high risk probation. Or I would sign for one year prison time; I would only have 3 months left but that would mean losing my daughter.
Without a doubt I was taking the second chance at probation. She looked me right in the eyes and told me not to take this unless I was absolutely sure that I could succeed. She said that raising this baby under these circumstances will be the hardest thing I ever do in my life. I was a little offended that she doubted me, but if you know me.. I’m always up for a challenge. And I felt like she had challenged me.
I remember being so full of anxiety that I could barely see. I had to sit down from almost passing out. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know I was getting out. This was all happening so fast I didn’t even know where I would go. No one wanted me at their house, in fact everyone sounded upset that I was getting out.
There was a little window with sunlight shining through in the hallway, it was so high up I couldn’t see anything except the light shining down. I thought to myself, “I’ll see you soon. I’ll be with you soon”
It’s a different kind of feeling. Being denied sunlight and air. It’s an unexplainable feeling walking outside without handcuffs or guards. The air feels so good on my skin, there’s this huge world around me and suddenly I feel so small.
There are birds and trees. There are cars passing by and people hurrying to their destinations. I just sat and watched it all, I soaked it all in as if it were my last day on earth. Just admiring the beauty all around me. Taking in deep breaths, I still remember the way the air smelled on this day.
The jail had to give me clothes to wear, I came in wearing dancer attire and was leaving 9 months pregnant.
I was required to report to probation immediately. I was still so dazed and confused on all that was happening. Extremely overwhelmed to be free at all. My grandma picked me up and took me there, my officer was one of the supervisors. Oh and he was not happy to see me at all. And he made it very clear. He told me that no one got this approved with him, because he wouldn’t have approved it. He told me that he wasn’t confident I would make it. He asked me how I would feel if my daughter turned out like me. He was very straight forward and questioned me in ways I wasn’t used to. And weirdly enough, this encouraged me.
Feeling like everyone was against me and no one believed in me, was getting me down. But I learned to just believe in myself. I didn’t need anyone else to think I could do it. Only me.
I cried my first night out. I was so used to the noise. I was so used to be surrounded by people and now I was alone, in this vacant house with a mattress on the floor.
Instead of coming out to a warm welcome I came out to everyone I knew being upset that I was released.
After the first night of being depressed I sucked it up and got myself in the right mindset. It was time to have a baby and be a mom.
I passed my time by putting stamps on envelopes for my Mimi for her work. I didn’t have tv. I mean there was a tv but there were no channels or any kind of service.
My cousin had a bunch of hand me downs from her daughter that was a year old at the time, my papa bought a crib that I never thought I would have. That crib… that to me was a luxury item. I took so many pictures of it. I stared at it in awe. In complete and utter awe.
My baby had a bed. Our home may not be ideal but it’s me and her and that’s all that mattered.
I didn’t think I was going to get to have this baby and suddenly I am, I was trying to let my guard down but it was hard.
I found out that my baby’s father got another girl pregnant. I don’t know why I expected any kind of loyalty but it hurt me. I had been sitting in jail and the only contact I had with him was him threatening to take my baby. Meanwhile he was living the life, knocked up another addict and refused to come see the baby unless she could come too.
All the feelings disappeared the day I gave birth. She smelled so sweet, her skin was soft as silk. She had the most bald head I had ever seen and little pointy elf ears. She was so wrinkly and tiny compared to my first child.
After I had her, the visitors left and we finished our hospital stay alone. I didn’t mind, I had her. And she had me. And no one was taking her from me.
I named her Journey.
Because my Journey always led to her. Because if I had not ever gotten into drugs I never would have gotten pregnant with her, she wouldn’t exist. Something so beautiful and perfect came out of something so dark and awful.
She is, was and will always be my Journey. She saved me. She gave me a reason to live and keep going. My life had new meaning, someone needed me. If I didn’t do good then she had nowhere else to go and I just always reminded myself that there were no other options for her.
I faced temptation head on, I had offers to get high. I had friends that would bring it straight over if I asked.
It wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t graceful by any means.
But Journey always pulled me through. She was the most difficult thing in my life. She cried constantly. 24/7 she was crying. A colicky baby is hard, but a colicky baby ALONE is even harder.
But that’s what I needed. I needed something to keep me so busy and so exhausted that I didn’t have time to think about getting high. I was given a high maintenance difficult baby because that’s what I needed.
I was put in jail at the beginning of my pregnancy because that is what I needed.
I went through extreme emotional trauma while in jail because that is what I needed.
I won’t say I’m necessarily religious… but putting the prayer in the Bible and being let out very unexpectedly a week later.. having all these things fall into place exactly how they needed to. You tell me.
The miracle is there if you choose to see it.
He found my daughter a home. Somewhere she will be loved, and happy and safe. The place she was always meant to be.
And in this moment, as I write this, I run my fingers through my daughter’s hair. We exchange “I love you’s” and I tell her that I thank God for her.
She said “Amen”
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