I remember how excited my parents were when they learned I was going to have a sister. They were young — 21 and 24. By the time my sister was born, they had just moved to a small rental home and had bought their first used car, allowing my dad to get a better paying job out of town. They seemed ready, and I was ready to be a big sister. I was six.
As I understand it, there was a different type of “excitement” when they learned my mother was pregnant with me. They were much younger when I was born. My dad had recently graduated high school and my mom had just completed her sophomore year. Their families were disappointed and concerned — how could these two teenagers take care of themselves and a child? We did struggle as a family — we lived in poverty, and we dealt with the challenges and stigma that teen parents and their children often face. But my mother felt it most. I’ve often wondered what if my mom, at the time, had the right to choose? Not because of what that would mean for me, but because of what that would have meant for her, and for our relationship.
I’ve had a happy life and with the support of teachers and others, have been able to explore my potential. But I wish society had given my mom that chance. She was worthy, even as a young mother.
She was whip smart — but never graduated high school. She had boundless energy and ideas to contribute — but she never worked beyond a minimum wage job. She was funny and fun — but incredibly insecure and introverted outside of her family. She loved me — but she resented the opportunities I had, and the ones that having me took from her.
This was 1959, but it could have been written today. What does it say about our society and progress when parents are met with stigma and shame instead of support to have a child? All families deserve vibrant communities to raise their children in, complete with the resources needed to reach their potential.
Our Focus on Women’s Health
Our commitment to women’s health runs deep. For nearly a decade, the Foundation’s Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative has been using equity-focused strategies to save lives through FLOURISH St. Louis and Bootheel Babies and Families. Building on our commitment, we launched The Right Time to empower people to take control of their health. Most recently, we’ve been exploring ways to promote high-quality, equitable maternal health care with partners around the state.
In Our Own Words
The Supreme Court’s decision and the consequences to follow will touch women of all ages, races and ethnicities, across all sectors, industries, socioeconomic levels, and lived experiences. Over the course of the next few days, MFH will release the stories of its women in leadership. This series captures real-life accounts of the five women who are members of the Executive Team at the Foundation, reinforcing how essential women’s rights are and how crucial adequate reproductive care is in reducing health disparities and the role it plays in shaping the outcome of one’s life.