My friend Ozma Bryant is bold and courageous when it comes to raising her five-year-old daughter Olivia. And I just love her to pieces. Ozma wanted to share her journey to becoming a mother. It was not an easy road for little Olivia to come into this world, but she has a dang good mother. And Ozma is so humble and honest when it comes to her imperfections. — peace & love, Jadah
“What’s your faith? What do you believe? What’s your religion? What church do you go to?”
I hate questions like these, but not for the reason you think. I am not an atheist or agnostic or any other number of people who choose to see things in a different way than me. I am not convinced that people understand who God is, or who he/she is to me— so these questions bother me. They bother me simply because in every pore of my body I believe that God is Love. I believe Love appears differently to everyone, in many different bodies— and with many different voices. I know my truth, but it looks different from every other human on this planet, so why would I try and define your spiritual link?
I am still discovering that Love pops up in so many places for me and speaks through children, animals around me, trees… in so many ways I never saw before. This convinces me that I am not the teacher in this world, more like the struggling student who often takes the same lesson with many different teachers (a friend, a book, an ocean outing…whatever it may take) because I am so stubborn I tend to push Love out until I realize all I want is for that Love to guide me, mold me and help me be the best person I can be.
An unplanned pregnancy
Five years ago in December of 2006 I found out I was pregnant. I walked outside the clinic and into my car where I cried so hard the car and my body shook as if an earthquake so frequented in southern California had struck the parking space I was in. I heard a tentative knock on my driver’s side window and I glanced up, tears and snot streaming down my face. A middle-aged woman stood there behind a wall of glass and pulled me out of my isolated fear and pain. I opened the car door and before we had exchanged any words she pulled me into a hug. Blinded by my pain I clutched to this woman and cried harder as she stroked my back and said, “I do not know what you are going through, but I am here to tell you everything is going to be ok. Do you believe? Everything will turn out ok.” I nodded into her arm and let go.
I don’t remember how or when she left or if we spoke any more, after that all I remember doing is driving to my on/off again drug-addicted boyfriend and announcing news I had always hoped would be filled with cries of joy, not the stone cold look of indifference I was greeted with. He managed a hug a few minutes later but the look had already rooted its place into my heart.
I was aware he had another child from a previous relationship that he never saw, yet somehow I didn’t see the casual, “We can’t have it,” coming. I begged and pleaded for a different answer from him, but it didn’t come. I convinced myself he was right and made an appointment.
The dreaded appointment
I was about 5 or 6 weeks pregnant as I sat patiently for the appointment where I would be consulted before making a decision to have an abortion. As I sat in the waiting room I was unperturbed. I was still unmoved when the nurse explained how the procedure worked. It wasn’t until she handed me a piece of paper that would give me permission to “terminate” my pregnancy that I lost my cool. The nurse gazed at me quietly, non-judgmentally and said, “If it’s the best thing you can do…” I don’t remember what else she said. I think I cut her off because someplace buried deep down inside of me was whispering into my heart the truth- that this was already my child, already someone I knew was meant to be in this world.
That night I was supposed to meet up with my boyfriend at the bar we met at less than a year before. He had called me earlier and asked to borrow money so I leaped at the chance to make him love me again. The whole unwanted pregnancy situation left me desperate to know he still wanted me. As I pulled into the parking lot I could tell right away he had been doing cocaine. I hadn’t even told him about the appointment. I looked at him and without batting an eyelash said, “F… it– it’s not like I can keep it anyway right?”
That’s what I believed as I snorted a line off of a cracked, dirty cd case that had seen numerous piles of drugs. That was the last time I did cocaine.
I could not be a good mother
I thought if I was selfish, heartless enough to do drugs intentionally while pregnant that I could not possibly be a good- even decent- mother. I thought by doing that it was making the decision for me instead of having to make a choice. The next day I stayed in bed and cried, prayed, and begged for help. That night I pulled myself together and went to see the movie Pursuit of Happiness. After the movie ended I told myself I couldn’t let go of this child. The tearing of my heart was there because I really knew she was meant to come into this world- and I didn’t believe I was strong enough to pull it off.
Support was meager at best in the beginning. My sister remained the one impartial yet empathetic person who spoke daily encouragement to me from miles away in Texas. I didn’t have the greatest track record for stability within my family, and my friends were understandably weary. Most people who knew me looked the other direction and silently mouthed, “What is she going to do?,” as if I couldn’t feel the energy radiating out of every pore in their bodies. Every birth “announcement” for me was met with a silence that filled my head like it was jammed with cotton balls making it hard for me to show excitement and happiness at my decision to be a mother.
The woman I lived with (who is now a dear friend) made sure I ate healthfully and kept me emotionally strong under her care. My closest friends supported and encouraged me as best they could, and my best friend from Texas offered to adopt the baby with his husband who both desperately want children someday.
The baby is here to stay
Almost 6 months in, when my ex-boyfriend realized the baby was not going away, he and his family started to show support by speaking with me, although not specifically about the pregnancy or the baby. I wasn’t invited to family functions because they did not want to answer any questions. My ex-on/off boyfriend promised to clean up his act eventually, and his mom began sending me little tokens for the baby that would soon arrive.
During this time I decided I had a Tiger Rising inside of me like Kate Dicamillo’s book. I believed this baby was my ticket to strength and wisdom, and I cleaned up my act in every way I knew how. I continue to be a work in progress, and my fiancé stands by me tirelessly through it. He is one of the greatest teachers I have in this world, because his uncodiotional love emenates from him even when I am thouroughly rotten.
Another unexpected surprise
Olivia surprised the heck out of me when she decided to come two months early. I had been struggling with migraine headaches and unusual swelling though I maintained my ability to not complain and kept it to myself feeling I deserved the discomfort for the pregnancy. I went in for a routine checkup with my boyfriend at seven months and when the nurse sampled my urine twice after glaring at my blood pressure results, then asked me to hold on, I knew something was up. I was immediately seen by the doctor who said as calmly as possible, “Your blood pressure is so high you could have a stroke. We need to admit you into the hospital immediately.”
The hospital team explained that they wanted to buy time for Olivia inside of me, a week longer at best, and prepped me for a normal delivery scenario. Things quickly went from bad to worse as my body refused to respond well to the medication to control my blood pressure and got violentally sick instead. As Olivia’s heart rate dropped and my body continued to shake uncontrollably the doctors wheeled me in for an emergency c-section. I kept saying as loudly as I could, “Wait, the father is not here…please, he is not here…” I was terrified and confused that I would go in alone and be unconscious for the birth of our child. Mainly mean and useless as I had felt he was during my pregnancy, this was his baby too. As sick as I was becoming and as scared as they were of losing us both I couldn’t help think I needed someone in there with me.
As the doctor put a mask over my face she looked me directly in the eyes and said, “Everything is going to be ok.” I remembered the woman, and then I heard a different voice inside of me repeat those words and it said, “I love you. I love you both. I am here with you and Olivia.”
Read Ozma’s story, Bald is Beautiful, where she performs a bold act to send an inspirational message to her four-year-old daughter about beauty.