“You have to protect yourself. You can’t trust that he will always be around.”
Continued… James (my husband) really hoped that my boss was a man at that point because he couldn’t understand how another woman, a mother, could speak so negatively to a young soon-to-be mother. As usual, he stopped me in the mist of my crying and said, “If you believe what that woman said to you, you’re just as stupid as she is. She doesn’t know who you are, so who gives a f**k about what she thinks.” That may sound a little harsh or rough to some, but it was just what I needed to hear.
SO! As a smack in my boss’ face, and any other person who doubted me, I finished the semester with a 3.0 GPA exact (my goal). It was the lowest GPA I had in my entire life. I couldn’t have been more proud of myself. After fighting every urge to strip from my cap and gown, and dress (I was the only pregnant, hot and hormonal student in there), I walked across the stage at 7 months pregnant. I conquered the illustrious Pennsylvania State University. But even in that moment, I was still faced with some hurtful truths. My father wasn’t alive to witness me graduate from college (he died my in my first semester of college), my fiance’ didn’t have a job, I had no job, he and I would be living in two different homes, and at the end of the day I was just unprepared to be a mother. Although I was 20 years old, I felt like a 16-year-old who had no guidance. I was scared to be honest.
I came home to prenatal visits that were now every two weeks, planning a baby shower, job hunting with James, and just stress! Since I was under the age of 26 with no job, I was still covered by my mother’s health insurance. We were members of Kaiser Permanente, and since I wasn’t the policy holder, the only way my child would be covered by her insurance was if my mother adopted her. That made no sense to me, but I had to move to plan B. I had to go Medicaid office and apply for insurance in order for my daughter to be covered.
The day I went to apply was terrible. First, in order to not spend your entire day in that place you have to wake up at the break of dawn (literally) and stand in line. After finally getting into the building (James was right there with me) I started the process. I actually had a case manager who was the mother of two sisters I went to middle school with. I thought “Oh, I know her daughters! I will be okay.” I was absolutely wrong. Right from the jump she categorized me as a young, single mother who didn’t have a relationship with her child’s father. In no way am I saying that women who have been or are in that situation are, for lack of better words, at the bottom of the barrel, but at the end of the day it is a stigma placed among young black women. I was so ignorant to the process, so I was intimated by all the paperwork that had to be signed. I needed all the benefits I could get though. As I’m filling out the paperwork, I noticed there was a portion that needed the father’s contact information. I then saw something about child support. I told her that I didn’t want to provide that information because my fiance’ and I were together and he was in the waiting area. She said that it was protocol, that I had to provide it, and that it helps to have his information on there just in case anything ever happened. She said, “You have to protect yourself. You can’t trust that he will always be around.” I responded by saying, “I’ve known this man since I was 10 years old and our families are joined together. We’re okay.” But I still added his information because I was under the impression that it needed to be done in order to receive the services.
So we walk out of the building, head to the car and make our way to James’ parents house. We stopped to get food, and then soon after the car started making a very loud sound. We stopped at Advance AutoParts, and he put a little oil in the car to hold us over until we got home. While we were there I told him how uncomfortable the woman at the Medicaid office made me, and how I had to put his name down on the application. You should have seen his face. He said, “You put me on child support?!” I replied, “No! I don’t think so. She told me I had to do it!” He then said, “I don’t have a job Tiana. If those people charge me for child support I can have my CDL (Class A for being a truck driver) taken away.” I immediately began to cry. I told him I was so sorry. I didn’t know that’s what I had done. He knew what that system was like from his own experience. I felt so taken advantage of and dumb. I was hurt and confused. We decided to go another day to correct the information and started driving home…
On the way home, the rattling sound in the car got louder. The car started shaking and going slower and slower… I couldn’t believe that after all of that, we were about to break down on the side of the road in the middle of the Summer. Through the grace of God we made it to his parents driveway and the car finally broke down. Now we were young, pregnant, unmarried, no jobs, no home of our own, and no car. Off to a great start huh?
Let’s stop there…
Splitting my pregnancy experience up is somewhat therapeutic. I find myself feeling the same emotions I felt in those very moments while writing. The feeling of fear, like I’m 20 again, frustration and more. When I reread this post, I said WOW. Look at how far we’ve come. I’m holding back tears at this very moment. The same boy the woman at the Medicaid office counted out, is my very best friend, husband of four years, a working, Christian man, and the father of two beautiful princesses. I tell people all the time. People think that a good and stable relationship and/or marriage is solely based off of lovey-dovey moments filled with pixie dust and rainbows. It’s the complete opposite in my opinion. In my experience, it was the moments of pain, confusion, frustration, desperation and destruction that made my husband and I’s bond unbreakable. It was in those moments that we grew closer and stronger. We would cling together so hard because we knew “we all we got.”
To be continued…