I tried to meditate this morning, and not that listen to chimes and chant ummm kind of meditation but the kind where you clear you mind and stop thinking…. Its very hard to stop thinking. I realized that its never truly quiet. I could hear the traffic of people trying to make it where ever in the world people go a 4am. I heard planes going over head, the crackling of the flame burning on the wick of my tea light candle and some other random unidentifiable noises. I couldn’t keep my eyes closed so as I tried to focus on the burning flame my eyes started to drift to the right. My gaze settled on a pile of dirty clothes in the middle of my living room floor. I swear I just did laundry! where did those clothes come from. I noticed one of my daughters toys laying next to the laundry I thought I pick all her toys up last night. I looked over at the half empty mug of coffee on my end table. Why did I leave that there when I washed the dirty dishes last night. I couldn’t stop all these thought about how dirty my home is. I feel like no matter how much I clean I’m never done.
This is true for life. No matter how much you do as long as you’re alive you will never be done!
I’m going to start this off by apologizing to my readers for not posting more often. I re-read some of my first blogs and got caught up on how many typos and errors there were. In the beginning I just had so much to write about and I didn’t care to proof read before publishing a entry. Now I’m so stuck on looking good that I hardly post anything at all. That being said this might have a few typos….. I don’t really care as long as you get what I’m trying to say lol.
Now that I got that off my chest I have to write about the fact that 1 out of every 2 HIV positive women experience Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) HIV and abuse shouldn’t be such a common paring. Tomorrow Greater than AIDS Is releasing a new campaign focused on HIV and IPV. I was one of five women who sat down in front of a camera to share our own personal stories of how IPV has impacted our lives.
Im proud of myself for doing the video and sharing my story however Im not so proud about the fact that I allowed the voice and the control of my ex to still effect HOW I presented myself in the video. A week before the filming of the Video I braided my hair. I made sure I waited till The weekend before so that It could be new enough to look good but not so new that the braid didn’t fall into place. Three days before I was scheduled to head to New York I panicked and took all my braid out because I could hear his voice telling me how my hair wasn’t done. I went and spent money that I didn’t have and I bought a bunch of weave hair and called everyone I knew until I found someone to help me install the hair. I was so worried that I didn’t look good with my natural hair style.
I shaved my head when my mom was going through her cancer treatment. ever since then I made the decision to allow my hair to look the way god intended for it to look. I love my kinky, bushy, thick hair. at time I have no idea what to do with it but the journey to discovering my natural beauty has been a fun one.
During the transition period a few people have managed to make me question and second guess my hair just because they were not as happy with my new found hair texture as I was. My ex would say things like “You’re not getting in my car with your hair looking like that” “Are you going to do your hair?” “You should put a hat on” and the list of insults is to long to even start on.
Looking aback at the video and the pictures from the campaign I don’t even look like myself. All I see is artificial hair and it looks like a rope laying on my shoulders waiting to strangle me if I say the wrong thing about the person who has done so much mental and physical damage to me.
He claimed to have loved me and he still to this day says he cares about me and wants to see me elevated but he says those things as he snatches my confidence , stomps on my joy and holds a gun to my self esteem.
I guess I will end this with a question. feel free to comment with an answer if you wish.
I am at a very painful place in my life, Its the moment that you realize nothing that you have been doing is working for you and your not exactly sure how to change. I have this beautiful, happy, intelligent child who is quickly growing right before my eyes. I look at her and I want to be so much more for her. Right now I feel like I’m fighting my past to obtain my future. How does one overcome a lifetime full of having nothing, being nothing, and doing nothing? Poverty is an infectious disease. I would even go as far as to say that it is genetic. There is a cure but its not easy to obtain. A person has to be driven to break the chains and step outside of the picture that has been painted for them.
In my current situation I am at the point of wanting change. I don’t have the tools to break the chains yet but I know it can be done. My daughter can not grow up and think that abuse is normal. My daughter can not think that the answer to everything that she wants is “No we can’t afford it.” My daughter will not be ok with receiving government assistance in order to eat and maintain stable housing. I really feel let down by all the organizations that are set up to “help” those who are living in poverty. Every place that I have ever gone asking for help has only directed me to where I could go to receive a handout. As an HIV positive youth I would ask for information on GED programs and HIV peer counselor trainings or training to become an HIV testing specialist so that I could qualify to help others get through the difficulty of testing positive, I’m no longer considered a youth but I still haven’t been pointed in the direction of where I could be trained for any of the things I’m interested in. At this point I know that the places that appear to be there to help us get ahead are really there to help us have just enough to survive. Every Social worker I’ve ever dealt with only has information that will help me stay poor. The system is not designed to change lives it’s set up to keep everyone exactly where they are.
I call this transforming victims into survivors. Victims are not happy with where they are. Victims see a problem and want to fix it. Survivors acknowledge the problem but they don’t give it any power to make them feel negative. Being a survivor is a good thing when there is nothing that you can do about whatever the issue is. THEY want you to think there is nothing you can do about living in poverty so they offer you food stamps so you can be poor and still buy food. They offer you a few hundred dollars every month so that you can be poor and pay a bill or two. There is low-income housing which encourages you to remain below the poverty line because if you make too much money then you no longer qualify for the nice apartment that you live in. There are perks to being poor so that you can be a survivor.
My goal is to overcome, and defeat poverty. Im at a place in my life where I know it is possible but I’m not certain where to start. It makes me sick to my stomach to know that it took me so long to realize that I’m capable of so much more. I can be a champion. I look at my daughter and see a champion in her. I made her so why don’t I see a champion when I look at myself? She is just a baby and I know there is nothing that she can’t do. I have to do better so she can have a chance to see her own potential before she gets to be my age and relive my story. I love my mother but I hate the fact that I have allowed history to repeat it self by reliving her story. I have given up my power, my joy, my love, and my potential by holding on to the chains of what I saw growing up.
I’m happy to say that my mother is now doing better then she was when my siblings and I were kids but I wish I would have seen her doing well when I was a child so that I would have nurtured the spirit of a champion instead of aiming to survive.
I’m standing at the gates, still on the side of poverty, trying to discover how to make it to the other side. I don’t think its going to be easy. As I get started I plan on documenting the journey so that others can pull strength form my struggle. I believe it all starts with education. I have earned my GED about 3 years ago. I haven’t done anything with it yet but that was the start. I have a few college courses under my belt but right now my focus is finding a source of steady income. I give myself 6 more months to make this happen. I’m hoping that should be more then enough time. I’m not sure if this is the right thing to be focused on right now but that’s the beauty of being in control of my own destiny. If my plan isn’t working out I have the power to change it and try something new.
At the age of 30 I finally feel like its ok for me to be mad at the people who caused me pain. A friend of mines expressed to me that he use to hold on to a lot of anger because of my story. He questioned how anyone could intentionally hurt me. Now that I know someone else held strong emotions about my past I no longer feel like I was wrong to be angry. I have put a lot of effort into acting like everything is ok. I just went through something that was very emotional for me. I went way back to the city that I remember abuse starting. I was a part of a project targeted towards telling the story of HIV and intimate partner violence (IPV). I had to mentally go into my past and speak about the stuff I don’t tell people. The sexual abuse, the memory of my father beating my mother, the past and current abusive relationships. I now know that my coping method is not working. I can’t just pretend that everything is ok. That is what I’ve done my entire life. People have said awful things about me but I’ve always smiled and said silently to myself, ” they talked bad about Jesus so it’s ok.” I’ve never admitted my true feelings because I never gave myself the permission to be angry but yes I’m angry.
My childhood was drenched in abuse and death. That abuse has followed me into the present day. I have tried several times to “fix it” but I don’t think I know how. The earliest memories I have took place in New York. My abusive father convinced my mother to pack up and move 3,000 miles away from everything she knew. It was there that my mother decided to leave him. I remember her making me and my three siblings go out the window and up the fire escape to the neighbors apartment when her and my dad would fight. Arlene would just open her window and let us in. She would turn on loud music so that we couldn’t hear our parents arguing down stairs. I would always want to know why my dad always made my mom cry but I never asked. My mom left him and started to date a guy who would have been the father of her 5th child. During that pregnancy she tested positive for HIV. The baby was born during her second trimester in the 5th month of pregnancy. He survived five months before dying at home. The cause of death was listed as SIDS. Shortly after Raymond died my mom somehow found out that I was being sexually molested by her boyfriend. Her reaction was not expected. She blamed me and she took out her anger on me. Still to this day I make excuses for her. My grandma was abusive to her as a child so she only reacted the way she knew how. I would love to hear her say she was wrong and she’s sorry for the way she acted but I know for a fact that I learned how to forget from my mother. She blocks any negative situations from her mind and its like it never happened. We moved back to California but the Abuse followed me.
I’m not sure how old I was but I know I was in middle school. My mom would make me take the bus to school alone. Some days I would miss the bus so I would go into this store to get snacks and kill time between buses. One day the man who owned the store closed and locked the door behind me. He asked me to follow him behind the counter he pulled down his pants and sat down on a stool he told me to look as he played with himself. I just stood there. He touched me and kissed me then he ejaculated. He gave me $40 as he let me out the back door of the store. He told me to come back and see him and I did. I use to earn money doing stuff around the house for my mom but no one ever gave me so much money to do nothing. It got to a point where he wanted more. I was conditioned not to disagree with adults so I didn’t, I let him do what he wanted to me and he would give me money. I changed schools and no longer took the bus near his store so that ended that.
I have had a total of 6 relationships in my 30 years of life. All except 1 of them were very unhealthy for me. My self-esteem has always been on the low side and I never made decisions for myself. My Lack of self confidence had me fall in love with anyone who expressed the slightest interest in me. The longest relationship I’ve had was with a guy I met on the party line at the age of 19. We ended up in an on and off relationship for over 10 years. This guy was very toxic in my life. I tried so hard to please him but I was never good enough. He would physically, verbally, and emotionally abuse me. He isolated me from my friends and family, took control of my money, told me what I could and could not wear and how to style my hair. I was so dependent on him I would follow him everywhere like a sick puppy. I would sit in his car while he was at work or in class. During one of the off times I was in a relationship with someone who was exactly like him. Very militant, his way or the highway. This relationship ended with me being homeless and with only my purse and my laptop computer. I ran back to the party line guy because I knew what to expect and deep down I knew he was dangerous but I felt safer with him then I did on the streets. I felt I needed him but he rejected me. He still called whenever he wanted sex but I was not good enough to be more than an object to him. I began to date a woman thinking I would be better off with a female since my luck with men was not great at all. This relationship was destine to crash because I didn’t love her. I felt sorry for her I stepped right in to her pity party and allowed my misery to be pushed aside by hers. . .
I could go on and on forever describing the failed love stories that make up my life but the common denominator in each situation is me. I need to do some serious soul searching and learn how to love myself. That is not something that I have ever seen demonstrated to me. I have no idea what it looks like, feels like, or sounds like. I can imagine it’s a beautiful thing but how would I know? I can only say this for sure. I’M WORKING ON IT!!!! When I get there I will blog about it but until then I’m open to suggestions and encouraging kind words.
On November 20th, 2014 I was admitted to the hospital to begin the process of birthing my child. I managed to maintain an undetectable viral load for my entire pregnancy which was the first of four steps to ensuring my baby would not contract HIV from me. The second step in preventing perinatal transmission was for me to arrive at the hospital as early as possible to be given the drug AZT through an IV. This step made me nervous because AZT has always been considered a harsh, toxic drug that did more harm than good. I did my research and I prayed and I put my trust in the medical professionals.
The day turned to night and the night turned to morning without me noticing. I don’t know how long I was actually in labor. I feel like the whole process was only about a half an hour. On November 21th 2014 at almost 3pm I felt a sudden wave of sickness like I was going to throw up but my stomach was empty since I wasn’t allowed to eat (my last meal as a pregnant woman was a spicy chicken sandwich and fries from a fast food restaurant called Jack In The Box). The nurse came in to the room and asked me to flip from laying on one side to the other about 4 times. Next thing I know a doctor came in my room to talk to me about a possible C-section because my daughters heart rate dropped and they wanted to get her out as soon as possible. I closed my eyes and asked Jesus to fix it. When I opened my eyes my room was full of stranger, my bed grew stirrups and I was being asked if I felt like trying to push. 10 minutes and 3 pushes later I heard tiny whimpers and my mom saying “oh my God granny loves you, Your such a beautiful girl!”
I got to hold my baby for a few minutes and they took her away to the NICU. That caused such a panic because I thought something was wrong. The hospital I delivered at was a “Baby Friendly” hospital and separating a new born from its mother wasn’t something they did unless they had to. Seconds after they took her away the doctor explained that it was standard procedure due to the fact that she was going to be started on AZT as the third step to protecting her from contracting the virus from me. I knew she was going to need a low dose of AZT twice daily for the first 6 weeks of her life so I once again said a little prayer and put my trust in the process that had been tried and tested many years before. Step 4 was for me to formula feed her and resist the natural desire to breast feed. I spent as much time in the NICU just holding my baby and crying tears of joy as they would allow me to. I sang to her and told her all about her home and her pets and her family and everything that was waiting for her on the other side of those hospital walls. On November 24th at about 6pm I strapped my baby into her car seat and secured her in the backseat of my friends car. I sat next to her and watched her sleep for the whole ride home. That was the start of the rest of my life!
Its almost been a year since my last blog. I was overwhelmed with frequent trips to the Dr. and trying very hard to remember to take my complera, folic acid, and prenatal vitamins. I also had the challenge of trying to finish the classes that I started, exercise, eat healthy, drink lots of water and get lots of rest all while puking every time I even thought about food. My pregnancy was positively beautiful but towards the end I was just ready for it to be OVER!!! To my surprise I made straight A’s in all my classes and I made it through the summer without melting away.
On November 20th I went with my mom to her medical appointment. She and I go to the same clinic. She suggested that I go get my Fetal stress test done since I was there that day. My appointment was for the following day and if I did the test and ultra sound while I was there we could have used the next day to go to the movies. I stopped in the bathroom and took a selfie in the mirror before going to the room that I would be stuck in for the next half hour. I sat in the reclining chair and let the nurse attached the fetal heart rate monitor to my round belly. My daughter had a strong steady heartbeat. The Nurse checked the results and asked me if I felt the contractions (I still don’t know what a contraction feels like). She squeezed some warm blue gel on my belly and started the ultra sound. I watched the monitor as she measured the dark areas to see how much amniotic fluid was around the baby. I was use to seeing larger areas of fluid and so was the nurse. She informed me that she was going to call me doctor because the fluid was getting low enough to cause concern. I was admitted as soon as the nurse hung up the phone and the induction process started that night…… To Be Continnued
All my life I could be quoted saying I don’t want kids! Something about the fact that I have never heard any woman brag about how great it felt to give birth. I still cry when I have to get a shot at the doctors! Pain has always been something I ran from, in fact, I would tell people I’m allergic to pain. Following my last relationship an old friend came back into my life and he started to tell me how he was ready for a second child. His first just made it to Jr. high school and he thought this was perfect timing to work on number two. He told me that he thought I would make a great mom because he saw how I was with all the other children in my life. I never thought anyone would seriously consider having a child with me. HIV is still stigmatized heavily and no one would intentionally do anything that might put their child at a disadvantage. So I began to think about it. I do love caring for children, and teaching them, and watching them grow. I will be 30 years old next year, and if I’m going to be a mom, I should get to it while I am still young and energetic enough to run through the park with my child. Plus I am 100% sure that my baby can be born HIV negative. I have many friends that are living with HIV and have beautiful, happy, healthy, HIV negative children.
I spoke with the young man about all the options available for him to safely impregnate a positive woman. We talked about PrEP and the advantages of taking the one pill daily to prevent him from possibly contracting HIV from me while we took the risk of having sex without a condom. We did some research and together found out that chances of me transmitting the virus were extremely low do to the fact that I am adherent to my meds and therefore my viral load is undetectable. He wanted to keep it as natural as possible so he choose not to try PrEP.
Three months after he and I had that conversation I found myself searching the local CVS Drug Store for the best pregnancy test. I’ve now been pregnant 19 weeks and he is still HIV negative! My pregnancy is going along well. I take my meds every day and I see my doctor regularly. I have so many concerns when it comes to bringing a new life into this world, but I feel they are the same concerns that every new mother might have. Will I be a good mom? Can I provide a safe and happy home? I’m not currently employed and the dad JUST lost his job so I’m super concerned about being financially able to do for my baby. I know I have love and support from my family and friends but as mom I need to be able to give my baby the essentials. Its grind time and I’m more determined then ever to make this work. I have watched my mom stretch dollars my entire childhood. She never let the lights go out and we always had food on the table. God was there each day and I know he will be there for me for the rest of my days. I just need to keep my motivation, stay in prayer, and understand that everything will work out in the end. Yes it will be hard at times but I will not give up!
One thing I’m not concerned about is transmitting HIV to my baby. I have one of the best doctors and I’m still undetectable. I try very hard not to miss doses of my meds as long as I keep the virus suppressed in my system my baby will be fine!