Photographer: Robert Waters Graphic Designer: Kyle Barnes

The family joke was, I was the mistake. Although I wasn’t a planned pregnancy per se, I was always my father’s baby. Growing up, he served as my cheerleader and my protector. He instilled in me many things, most notably my strong relationship with God. He planned to set me up for the best life possible. He gave me all the tools that he felt I needed to succeed. My child’s dad was another story.

I was his lady of convenience. When he called, I answered. I was okay with this arrangement until I missed my period.

I waited ten days before I took the test, which confirmed I was pregnant. When I told him the news, he put down his head and asked, Well, what are you going to do? I decided to get an abortion. I called, made the appointment, and waited for him to give me the money. He was out of town and asked me to get the money from my mom. Scared and crying the morning of the appointment, I prayed to God to send me a sign to make the right decision. Then my father knocked on my door. I cried and confessed everything to him, and he told me I might be a single mother, but I wasn’t alone. I had the support of my family. My child and I would never need anything.

My daughter’s dad was livid that I didn’t terminate the pregnancy. He often reminded me that he did not want any more children and that I trapped him. At six months pregnant, my blood pressure skyrocketed. For the remainder of my pregnancy, I underwent stress tests twice a week, weekly doctor’s visits, and monthly sonograms, all alone, without my child’s dad. Though I had my family’s support, I internalized many of my emotions, questioned my decision-making, and chose to walk through some of the tough things I encountered on my own.

When I was scheduled to be induced, I informed my daughter’s dad of the day, time, and location. He never showed. Instead, he called shortly after delivery and said, I heard you had your baby.

High on meds, I don’t remember what I said. I only remember cursing him out. Five days in the hospital, no call, no visit. As soon as I got home, he asked to see the baby. He came over and took her picture. Shortly after, the photo became the talk of the town, and he denied our child. I offered to pay for a paternity test, but he declined. He never made the appointment and never took the test. So I took it up with the courts. Until this day, the only picture we have with our daughter together is the picture we took to confirm the paternity test.

He never went far away from us, really me. He would come over, look at the baby, but pay more attention to me than his daughter. In my mind, if I kept him around, he would eventually build a relationship with our child. In hindsight, that was not the brightest idea. This interaction continued for almost a decade until I took a lengthy examination of my life and our situation-ship. I realized that my self-esteem was nonexistent, and I did not love the skin I was in. I had forgotten the affirmations my father taught me as a young girl; that I was a masterpiece, created in God’s image. Instead, I was broken and hurt. I allowed a man to discourage me from moving on, often telling me, “I’m the only one who wants you” and that “He made me.” Deep inside, I believed his words.

Then on October 16, 2012, something happened. A lightbulb went off. I could no longer be that naïve woman; enough was enough! Learning who I was and the woman God created me to be was vital.

When I finally found my power, my daughter’s dad could no longer take it. He tried, telling me no one liked or wanted me. His rude remarks were the same, but they hit differently. They didn’t stick.

Today, our relationship is still shaky. Sometimes we’re friendly to one another, and other times he is blocked from contacting me. When he does get through, he often requests that I remove him from child support.

He has made some progress, but his relationship with our daughter isn’t close. Of course, he blames the disconnect on me because I will no longer take his mess. I always told him that if he did not do right while she was young when she got older, the only thing I could do was ask her to respect him and give him a chance. Today, as a pre-teen, she deals with him on her own accord. I encourage the relationship because I know what it’s like to be a daddy’s girl.

I also know what it’s like for someone to make you feel less than your worth. We do not have to be the person our children’s dad has told us we are. Someone does want you. God made you who you are today and who you are becoming tomorrow. People do like and value you. Do not let any man break you. Do not let them crush your spirit.

You may be in a place of brokenness, but you do not have to stay there. The way to wholeness is to find your power. I found my power in God. I always read this passage when I was in a dark place. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18. I am no longer the person I allowed my daughter’s dad to crush. I have done the work to piece my self-esteem back together and recognize the power within. This has allowed me to become a woman who my daughter can call her first role model. I persevered. And so can you!

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