***Trigger Warning, I’m going to discuss sensitive topics including rape in this post. If that makes you uncomfortable, please do not read further.****
I was conceived in a prison. That’s right, you read that correctly. My life came into existence because my mom was incarcerated (unjustly in my opinion, but that’s another story) and my biological father was a prison guard. In short, I was conceived in rape.
There was no clear, out of the blue moment I remember being told this, it’s just something I’ve known my entire life. In fact, I do remember a moment when I was 5 years old that I wanted my mother to clarify for me what the word “rape” meant. It was understandably a confusing concept to me as I barely understood where babies even came from—and the only reason I knew that was because I was a very bright child and demanded to know how my sister got into my mother’s belly when I was 4.
Rape. It’s an ugly word. It puts a bad taste in one’s mouth. If you’re like me and it’s something you’ve endured yourself, it might be a word that makes your breath quicken and your heart race. If you’re fortunate enough to never have been closely impacted by this act, even then, it’s likely a word that makes you squirm in your seat a little. It’s no easy topic, but it’s one I feel has to be talked about for many reasons. One big one is because people (yes, people, not just women, not just children, all people) that have been victimized deserve to know that it’s okay to talk about it. There is healing in talking and telling one’s story. If we as a society walk around whispering it like it’s a dirty word, it makes it that much harder for those that have suffered to find peace. It’s not the “f bomb,” it’s real life; it doesn’t need censored.
Now, my mother has never been fond of talking about that time in her life and I understand that, but there came a point for me where I really started to question what had gone on and I wanted answers. This became especially true when I got married and my mom gave me my birth certificate and for the first time, she explained to me that I could not lose it. She told me that when paternity was established in court, my birth certificate was revised to add “him” to the father line, but when that happened, they (whoever “they” are) also changed my last name on the birth certificate from the one I was born with to his last name. She told me that she never went through the court system to change it back; therefore, if I lost my original and had to purchase a new one, it would have his last name. This really sparked my curiosity.
After that point, I started really considering finding him, but I was afraid. What all did he know about me? Did he want to know me? Did he have other kids? Did they all hate me because of my existence disrupting their lives? Would I be shunned? Would he ever face me? What if………?
When I started wondering these things, it was before the Internet was as easy to use as it is now. I started actively looking and calling phone numbers in 2002. I knew only his first and last name and a couple of states that he’d lived in over the years. I had no success and so it was put on the back burner for a long time after that, and yet, it was always in my mind still. 13 years passed before I decided to try something to find him again. I paid a private investigation company to find him. I gave them the details I did have, gave my debit card info, and then waited. Within days I had an email. I was given what the company thought was his address, the names, addresses, and Facebook account links of his 3 children, and the phone number for his youngest child.
I immediately checked out his kids’ Facebook profiles in search of at least a picture of him. I couldn’t see much info, and so I started thinking about how I should reach out. Should I Facebook message them? Should I send a letter? Should I call? What should I say? And it was in that panic of not being sure of what to do that I let that info just sit for almost a year. It was only just over a week ago that I finally decided to just send off a Facebook message and see what would happen. I said:
I hope you see this message in your “other” box. I’ve had your Facebook contact info for almost a year but I’ve been afraid to reach out. I’m looking for information (especially medical history) and hopefully some pictures of XXXXXX. He is my biological father, making you my half sister. I’ve never had any real info and I’ve been nervous to ask. I don’t want you guys to shun me or shut me out. I’m extremely nervous sending this, but figure tomorrows are never promised and I might as well try. Please feel free to contact me here or email me at XXXXXXXXXXXXXX..
I sent the message knowing it would be difficult for them to see it because of the settings with messages from strangers, so when I knew the messages hadn’t been read by the time I’d left work that day, I knew I was going to use the one phone number and just call. I stopped by the liquor store and decided it was totally appropriate to have a shot of whiskey before taking a deep breath and dialing.
Two rings, “Hello?” I felt sudden panic and was shocked at someone actually answering an unknown number (I didn’t even know other people still do that these days).
“Hi, um, I’m not sure how to really say this, I don’t know if you’re aware of me; I’m XXXXX’s daughter.”
There was some shock on the other line and lots of “Um’s” in the middle. His son explained to me that he was indeed in shock, but aware of me and asked to call me back. I totally understood his being blindsided by this and told him to go ahead and process and call me back later.
“But wait, can you tell me really quick, is he still alive?”
“No, I’m sorry, he passed away last year.”
I cried. I started crying before I even got off the phone. I hung up and cried hard. I cried body shaking sobs over this information. I felt instant grief. Not grief over my loss as one would feel over the death of a parent he or she knew, but grief over this missing piece of my personal puzzle. Grief over the fact I never got to face him. I never got to ask him any questions. I never got to hear his side of the story. I never got to know if he was sorry for what he put my mother through or the impact it had on me. I never got to know if he was sorry that he never reached out to me. I never got to look into his eyes and ask anything at all.
I walked back into my house after I hung up and poured another shot and then stood in the kitchen just holding it and bawling. My poor teenage boys had no real idea what was going on. My children, whom are extremely connected to me and my emotions, jumped into action and immediately came to me. My oldest hugged me tight for a few seconds while I proceeded to cry harder. When he let go and I was still standing there doing the ugly cry, my younger son then came and grabbed me with such intensity, I was surprised, He held on even tighter while whispering comfort in my ear.
I was shocked at my own reaction. I had no idea I’d feel so intensely. I had no idea it would hurt me to my very core. I had had a feeling when I was driving home from work that night that I was going to find out he had already passed away as I knew he was in his late 70’s, but I was unprepared to hear it for certain. I literally cried without stopping for more than an hour. Then, for the next several hours, I cried at the drop of a hat. And just when I thought I’d pulled myself together, my biological brother called me back.
We talked for 30 minutes and in that first phone call, I could tell that I liked him already. He was open, honest, and tender. He told me facts I’d been wanting to know my entire life. He told me that he thought that his (our) father had had an affair with my mother. We discussed how even if it was consensual (a claim my mother adamantly denies, and I believe her), the law is very black and white on this topic. When being employed as a prison guard, it is illegal to have a sexual relationship with an inmate. Much like a “willing” teenager with an adult, it is considered rape, and for good reason. It was then that he told me something that was incredibly dear to me; he told me that no matter what the circumstances were, he was embracing our newfound relationship and that he is there for me. I then cried some more.
That night on Facebook I wrote, “Those moments. . .those moments that knock the air from your lungs. . .the moments that punch your heart with the force of a Mack truck. . .the moments that hurt so intensely you don’t know when you’ll come up for a breath between sobs. . .I hate those life moments. I feel a MAJOR blog post coming on.” That blog post I spoke of is this here.
In the time that has passed since that first day, I’ve had so much on my mind. I can’t help but think about what my mother went through. My heart hurts for her. I can’t imagine it’s easy for her knowing that I’ve reached out to his family. I know that she just wants me to have peace. I can also imagine that me revealing what I’ve done to get in contact with them has probably also brought up old feelings for her. Unfortunately, I don’t really get to know what she is thinking and feeling because we’re not very close and we don’t talk much.
Because of the situation surrounding my conception, we never bonded like normal mother and child. She remained in prison after I was born and I went off to foster care. The first 2 years of my life are something I know almost nothing about. But even once my mother was “free,” she was never really free. She endured hell and then had a child to take care of in the center of that. I love my mom, but her entire situation was damaging and had an impact on everything about me. The foundation I had in life set me up for failure–and oh boy have I failed (there are plenty of old and future blog posts about that, so I’ll skip over that here). But I don’t blame my mom. She lived through a really shitty situation and she came out of it the only way she knew how to. She chose to give me life even when the prison tried heavily to convince her to have an abortion. She kept me and later told me that it didn’t have to matter that I was conceived in such a manner, I could be just hers. Sadly, it did matter, it still does, and it will matter the rest of my life.
Through all of this though, I have a newfound respect for my mom. One of my first requests of my brother was to see pictures of “him.” I was simply curious to know what he looked like. Because I look so much like my mother, I never thought there would be any physical resemblance. Within a couple days, my brother sent me some emails with several pictures. I was totally unprepared, and when I opened an obviously old photo of his wedding, I found myself staring at a male version of my own face. It took my breath away and tears again sprang to my eyes (for like the millionth time in the last couple weeks) because I was looking at my own eyes in this old photograph. Once I’d gotten over the initial shock, I again thought of my mother. This woman, this incredibly strong woman, raised me as best as she could, she loved me, and she disciplined me–all while looking at a child, her child, who has her rapist’s eyes.
Side note: When I started writing this blog post two weeks ago, it was meant to be about “him” and I. It’s turned into a complicated post, but more about my mom than anyone else. My mom is exactly where I get my strength from. She is where I’ve gotten my independence, my strong will, and my courage. Ladies and gentlemen, my mother is a regular badass, and I’m proud to call her my mom.