I married young (at 19) and we somewhat unexpectedly began a family right away. I found myself in the throws of marriage and mothering as a 20-year-old, while simultaneously figuring out life and how we were going to put food on the table. We got pregnant four times in the span of two-and-half years and sometimes we survived solely on the generosity of others who left groceries at our doorstep or lent us a vehicle when ours broke down. My husband worked three jobs trying to make ends meet and finish college and I spent most of my days at home alone with no vehicle and two young babies to care for. I delivered our third baby at almost thirteen weeks in the stall of a public bathroom.
The house we had bought and lived in was an absolute dump and we intended to fix it up with any spare change we saved. There was no floor in the living room and for several weeks we stared at the dirt of the crawl space. Winter came and because the house was old and not insulated well our electric bill arrived at over $600. Because we couldn’t afford that, we put the heat to the lowest setting we thought it could go without the pumps freezing over – about 55 degrees – and bought a space heater. For the rest of the winter all four of us lived in one of the bedrooms downstairs with a bathroom attached, only leaving to go get food out of the refrigerator or brush our teeth in the working kitchen sink. Meanwhile, I was pregnant again.
Until now, I have never felt the need to broadcast our humble beginnings. It seemed to me that my minor experiences of suffering were not of any comparison to the images I had seen in books of war-torn countries and the mass graves of the Jews during World War II or the slaves hung by rope on plantations. The way I saw things, if I had needed to call an ambulance to transport me while my husband worked with our only vehicle, I could. If I needed a drink, there was a working sink with uncontaminated water available in my kitchen. I could even pull ice out of the freezer.
Poverty, to me, is often perspective.
My views on feminism were being shaped during this time in my early twenties and I began relating to women who loved mothering but also felt called to shape the world with their ideas. I read anything I could get my hands on that related to business and writing and education. I was especially inspired by courageous women who saw needs in the world and addressed them. Women who knew their God-given gifts and used them not only on their families, but on the communities around them. My husband began noticing a spark and for the first time in our marriage I think he knew I was thriving. He helped me procure my LLC and I began my own photo-journalism business. I often woke up at 4am so that I could work while the kids were sleeping and stay at home with them during the day. I made mistakes and fell flat on my face plenty of times but I was learning, growing, writing, and turning into a grown woman. It felt amazing to be heard.
Fast forward to 2015. I dressed my four children to attend a Protest Planned Parenthood event in Marietta, GA and drew up signs while I explained to my older girls where we were going and what we were doing. “We’re going to stand and make a statement, girls. We’re going to tell the world that it is not okay for doctors to kill babies in their mother’s bellies. And I want you to remember something – it is important to use your voice, in whatever way you can, to stand for what is right.”
We stood there together for over an hour and Emma looked at our baby Hugh and said, “Mommy, I’m glad the doctors didn’t kill our baby.” I thought about the long trail of women before me who have stood for what is right. The Susan B. Anthony’s and the Florence Nightingales and the Mother Teresa’s who used their voices to protect humanity, not destroy.
I thought about the Margaret Sangers and the President Obama’s who have lobbied “for women’s rights” and passed laws legalizing the death of thousands upon thousands of innocent babies. (Our President has even supported the right of doctors to pull a baby out, all but the head, and then suck the brains out, and deliver the child dead, so it can be called an abortion, and not infanticide.)
I thought about the bravery of the people who took the secret videos of Planned Parenthood joking about purchasing Lamborghini’s with the money made from arms and legs and heads of aborted infants. I thought of the woman who described the moment she decided she could no longer work for PP when her colleague said,
“’Holly, come over here. I want you to see something kinda cool.’ So Holly (speaking on the video) goes over and sees a fully intact, manifestly human, baby, delivered by abortion. And the technician says to Holly, “Okay, I want to show you something.’ So she taps the heart with one of her instruments, and the heart starts beating.”