Provoking Violence

Today we found out that Stephen A. Smith, ESPN commentator, was suspended after his comments regarding Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend earlier this year. Smith said last week that women should avoid provoking men into assaulting them. The internet went on fire. Tell me Stephen, how does a woman avoid provoking a man into assaulting them? Are you saying that women are responsible for the assaults against them because the men are inadequate or incapable of controlling their tempers? We, women can prevent men from knocking us out? Please Stephen tell me how?

It was Smith’s own colleague at ESPN, Michelle Beadle, that called him out on his disturbing remarks by saying that “Violence isn’t the victim’s issue. It’s the abusers. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting”. Thank you Michelle! This is the basic premise that we are all trying to educate men on. Some men get it and sadly other’s don’t. ESPN took a firm stand in suspending Smith for his comments and for that I am happy. Does it take away the sting of his comments? No, but at least they are trying to stand up for women’s rights to not be abused.

This situation runs close to home for me. As a child I watched domestic violence in the form of my parent’s marriage. My first understanding of love and family came at the sound of fists flying and broken glass. I don’t wish that childhood on anyone. I felt helpless. As a mother to a young boy, his father and I stand united on the fact that he should never put his hands on a woman. He’s too young to understand our concern. But, even in his playing with his female friends, I watch his interactions and use it as a teachable moment when he gets too rough with the young girls. Not to hurt his feelings, but to remind him that we keep our hands to ourselves and that you should never hit a girl.

I’m tired of having to stand on my stage and scream that women matter too. I don’t deserve to be abused because I hurt your feelings and emasculate you. You’re grown. You know better. That whole “sticks and stones” nursery rhyme comes to mind. Words never hurt. I know some men will probably say that some women do “provoke” men into hitting them. I offer you this simple explanation: No, they don’t. Life is about choices. You chose to be violent when you put your hands on a woman. Walk away. Women aren’t responsible for your lack of self-control. We all have choices. You can choose right or wrong. I implore men to choose wisely.

Struggling with Infertility

I have a confession…I never wanted children. I liked them well enough. I thought they were cute creatures who should be birthed and reared by other people, but never me. I wanted to be free. Free to do what I want when I want. Children would complicate that. I never wanted to get married either. I wasn’t the marrying type. I wasn’t the mothering type. So, what type was I?

The partying type. I craved three things: freedom, privacy and peace of mind. I was also very self-absorbed and selfish. Not in a mean way, but I didn’t concern myself with things that didn’t directly affect me. Sound bad? Nope, not at all. I was just me. No other way to describe it.

It was year 5 of my marriage and my OB/GYN said “You need to think about whether or not you want children.” I sat there on the table in shock. I didn’t want to have this conversation. My marriage was in a bad place and my cousin was dying. I didn’t need anymore to think about. My womb would have to wait. I didn’t need anymore stress. She said, “I know Hollywood makes you think that you can wait until your 40’s to start having children, but that’s not reality. It becomes more dangerous and your chances of fertility are diminishing with each passing year.” I was 32. I told her that I can’t. I had already tried IVF and it failed. I was a failure. She responded, “Which doctor did you see?” I told her. She replied, “What did he say after your first attempt?” I told her that he called me and told me, “I think you should try again because I know I can get you pregnant.” I hung my head in shame and said, “I don’t know. It was too much.” She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Sweetie, I know Art. If he said he can get you pregnant, he means it.” Three months later I was pregnant.

My struggle with infertility was heartbreaking. For someone who didn’t want children, the very thought of not being able to have children was excruciating. My womb literally ached from the children that I would not be able to birth. Unexplained infertility was the cause. No medical explanation on why I couldn’t get pregnant. I was broken. Why God was my constant cry? Why me? Why couldn’t I be a mother? I cried all the way home filled with the dread of telling everyone that I was a barren woman. Would my marriage survive? I didn’t know. I went home and crawled into bed feeling defeated. Feeling overwhelmed.

We decided to go through a second round of IVF. It was hard. It was painful. The injections, the mood swings, the tests, all of it over again. This time I prayed. I asked God to make me a mother. To fill my womb with a baby. I changed my attitude. I decided that whatever God did for me it was His wish and I would accept it because I vowed to not go through another round. I would refocus my energy on being there for my cousin who was dying. I couldn’t change his fate or mine, but I could change my attitude and the way I chose to deal with things. I would have an attitude of gratitude. Que sera sera. Whatever will be will be.

It was a beautiful day in September when we went back to the doctor to do the egg implantation. I was nervous. What was I going to do if it didn’t work? Could I accept that the one thing I didn’t know I wanted wasn’t going to happen? I had so many thoughts running through my mind. The doctor comes in and smiles and says, “We have two beautiful 2AA eggs that we want to transplant. However, the chances of having twins would be 52%, but the chances of one of them implanting would be 63%. If we do one single egg, it would be 47%.” I asked her what she would do and she said, “I would transplant two.” I said, “Okay, let’s do it.” The implantation phase is the last stage on the journey before the dreaded two week wait before you can take a pregnancy test to determine if you’re pregnant. I had gone through this before and decided that I wouldn’t worry about it. I would stay busy and occupied and just go through the motions that I was stronger than my womb and if it didn’t work, I could always adopt.

Two weeks later, I went in and took the test. I had multiple meetings afterwards and I got the call in the afternoon. My nurse said that I was pregnant. I tested positive. I smiled, “I said, thank you God.” I hung up the phone and began to pray. I wanted this and now a baby was growing in my womb. I was going to be someone’s mom. I literally got up and went into the bathroom to cry tears of joy. When we went in to have my 6 week look at the baby, I cried again. A baby. Wow! I thanked God and the nurse told me the due date and I cried and said, I get it God. My baby’s due date was the same as my cousin’s birth date. I knew at that moment that I was having a boy and God was letting me know He was in control. My cousin would not live to see my son being born. I needed to let go of him, but trust that everything happens according to God’s plan and purpose for our lives.

2embryos

God’s plan can sometimes take you on a journey, you didn’t even know you were equipped to handle which was the case with me. I was about 7 weeks pregnant (2.5 weeks after my positive response) when I felt this horrific pain in my abdomen and rushed to the bathroom. There was blood everywhere. I was in so much pain. I cried. I wanted my baby and there was so much blood that I knew that I was losing the one thing that I had only got to love for a brief minute. I went to the hospital and the incompetence of the admission staff made my pain more unbearable. I explained what happened and he said to me, “You probably already lost the baby.” Wow, I couldn’t control my tears.

My girlfriend Nikki came back to be with me during the examination as I screamed at the pain and the fact that the doctor was doing a pelvic exam while I’m bleeding. Nikki assured me that I needed to calm down. She reminded me that she had gone through the same thing and she delivered her healthy baby boy earlier that year. I smiled and held on to her hands and words as though they were the life line I needed. I needed to calm down. I was in chaos. I was being rolled into the sonogram room and I prayed and didn’t look at the screen or the woman as she tried to talk to me. I was in pain. I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to pray. I wanted God to fix it and fix me. I needed my baby.

The sonographer inserted the trans-vaginal probe into my uterus and I laid there feeling helpless with tears running down my face and the sound of the machine in the background. I was praying hard. She said, “I don’t see the problem. There’s the fetus and there’s the heartbeat.” I couldn’t believe it. I asked, “Are you saying that my baby is still there?” She said, “Yes, look at the screen. The fluttering is the heartbeat. It’s strong.” I couldn’t stop crying and smiling and thanking God. As I was being rolled back into my room, I promised one thing. I would be like Hannah in the Bible and I would dedicate my son to God as long as He promised to protect his life and let me give birth. This was my vow.

fetus

I had many more things that tried to derail God’s wish for me to deliver, but I prayed. My family prayed and my son’s father prayed. I am not as wise as Hannah, but I am a woman of my word. I teach and talk to my son about God all the time. We read his Bible stories and we take him to church. I gave him to God the minute He saved him in my womb and each day I wake up I promise to keep giving him to God. My faith helped me get through this horrific time, but it was not easy. Many things will try to derail you on your road to faithfulness, but you have to remain steadfast and unmovable in the chaos.

Never Stop Marching

I am a woman. I am black. I can’t change the color of my skin anymore than I can change the fabric of my gender. I have so many complexities to who I am that I sometimes have to consistently remind myself of which battle I’m fighting today. With that being said, I’m addressing the post, Why I Will Not March for Eric Garner written by Kimberly Foster, founder of one of my favorite blogs “For Harriet”. I read each word of her post with pain in my heart. I was hurt that one of the women that I admired in regards to feminism was saying that she would cry tears and mourn for him, but that she would not give empathy to black men when it is not returned to black women.

I was sitting at my computer in tears reading this piece. I had to comment. I had to say something. I had to try to reach her with love and pleading in my heart. Would she read it? I don’t know. The comments had been amassed to 973 by the time I wanted to post (24 hours after posted), but still I posted. I couldn’t understand how we could ever deny the fact that all life matters and we should all fight for one another. We are a nation divided and how can we explain that to the younger generation? How can we not support or march for Eric Garner or any man that is tragically murdered in a questionable way?

So, I literally typed “I don’t agree with this. I understand your choice to choose battles, but as a human being, all life is valuable. I have one child. A son who is six. I can’t imagine losing him to foolishness (i.e. Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin) and I would never want another woman to tell me that she will cry for him, but won’t march for him (if he were killed senselessly) because black men aren’t there for black women. We are all one and I can never understand that. I birthed a king and I pray that through my educating him on Malcolm, Martin, Mahalia, Maya, Assata Shakur or the many other important black men and women in history that he will march for black women because his mother is black and he respects and supports the struggle for black women.” There. I had said it. I said what I felt was the truth. We are women. We are black. We matter.

I am the giver of life and I know how the death of this man has sparked a fire in our community once again, but we can’t continue to turn away from each other and stand divided. I have a son. I have to protect him. I am a woman. I am black, but more importantly I am a mother and I will always choose to march and protect the rights of everyone. If not me then who? I know that the author was just tired of the black men who may not defend us. I could hear the despair, but I have your back and so do a lot of other women. Hold my hand when you get tired, but we should never stop fighting or marching for one another because we are all God’s children.

Where Do Babies Come From?

Where do babies come from?  The dreaded question where parents pause, sweat and begin to stutter when their inquisitive child asks that question.  Guess what? You don’t have to sweat the sex talk to your little one, just ask my munch to tell you where babies come from.  It is the most beautiful and endearing parts of motherhood…his ability to put pieces together and explain things to others in the simplest form.

A couple of months ago, munch and I were talking and he said to me “Mommy, do you want me to tell you the story of where babies come from?” Now, I know many of you my find this interesting, but munch likes to tell stories about everything and we gleefully listen as he begins to explain things from his six year old point of view.  I said, “Of course love, tell me where do babies come from”.  
He said, “When a mommy and daddy are married and they want to have a baby, God sends an angel down from Heaven to live and grow in the mommy’s stomach until it is time for the baby angel to be born. God does this because he sent his son, Jesus to die for us so God gives us everything.  Once the baby is born, the baby cries and the mommy and daddy kiss the baby and say I love you forever.” I smiled with complete and utter amazement that my son had formulated a response to one of the most dreaded questions and it was both simple and biblical based that I didn’t know what to do other than say, “You’re so smart munch. Thanks for telling me.”

So, a couple of weeks ago when he attended camp, he told the other children and adults the same story. When I came and picked him up from camp, one of the teachers wanted to know could she please take him to her church’s vacation Bible School the first week in August. She said, “I will bring him home.” She said she loved the way he explained where do babies come from and she had never heard it broken down like that. She asked what church we attended and said how munch told her how he got a medal from his church school because he loved God and was learning about Jesus. I smiled.

I know that it is not medically accurate and I know that one day when he takes his sex education class that he will learn the truth, but that day is still a few years off and I can keep his child like mind in tact. I appreciate everyday knowing that his imagination is filled with his love for his parents and his understanding about God and life. In my child’s brilliant little mind, he has interpreted how children are born to their parents. It is the sweetest and most endearing story and I just smiled because in all my baby’s six years on this earth, I am just overwhelmed by the favor that God has shown me with this little one. So, if you ever want to know where babies come from, just ask my munch because he will tell you and I promise you that you will never be the same.

Bad Things Will Happen

This week I read an article on Huffington Post titled “Children Exposed To Religion Have Difficulty Distinguishing Fact From Fiction, Study Finds” and was taken aback at some of the comments that I read.  It wasn’t a relatively lengthy article, but it had amassed over 757 comments in just two days.  Disclaimer:  I know I shouldn’t read the comments, but I can’t help it.  I like to know what other people think about a particular article and well I was floored.

I was floored because people were saying that they found the church stuff skeptical.  I understand not everyone subscribes to a religious view, but how can we not have faith in light of everything that we have seen or experienced in this world?  I’m not trying to convert you to Christianity or make you subscribe to my point of view, but what I am saying is that my faith is the foundation for everything I believe and I how I raise my son. The article said that of the 66 children who were between 5 and 6 (same age as my munch) who went to church or were enrolled in parochial schools were “significantly less able than secular children to identify supernatural elements, such as talking animals, as fictional.”

I’m not surprised, but I’m not offended.  In my house we serve God. That is what I am teaching my son. The end and that’s all.  That is exactly what I posted in the comment section of the article and another commentator replied to me asking “How could you teach him to believe in a God who would allow Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to be shot down? Does God really do that? How does God allow all those children to die?” I sat there and said a prayer before I simply responded…”Was it God or Evil? Aren’t we taught that there is a balance to everything which creates the understanding of harmony? A battle between good and evil?  The fact that we believe in God and teach our children about God doesn’t absolve them of bad things happening.  Bad things will happen, but God will protect your mind and spirit while the enemy may try to destroy you.  It is simply faith.”

I went home that night and really thought about how important it is for me as a mother to teach my son about God and faith.  It is an important lesson that has to be taught, one that I have never regretted, because it is one that was taught to me by my mother.  My mother was taught by her mother and she taught her children that our God can handle it all and will never stop loving you.  We didn’t grow up with a happy life absent of trials, tribulations or death.  We just knew to never stop believing and that prayer changes things.  Faith of a mustard seed is what she said.  Belief in God was the greatest gift she gave me.

Even when life knocked me down and I ran from God believing that He didn’t love me, want me, understand or could hear me, she prayed.  People prayed.  When I hit rock bottom, I prayed and I knew at that moment that He had never abandoned me.  Nothing would make Him leave me.  So, it is easy for me to teach my son to love a God that has always protected me even in my darkest hour because it is embedded in the very fabric of everything that I believe and go through.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Prayer is not asking.  It is a longing of the soul.  It is daily admission of one’s weakness.  It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”  

There were 298 passengers and crew members that were killed on that flight and 80 of them were children. This is a horrible tragedy and we must continue to pray for the families of the victims and this nation as a whole. Longingly and truthfully because we need God now more than ever.