Princess (for Ivy)

A  Iong time ago, I had given birth to a beautiful baby girl, when I was 24 years old. I was a carney, and had been traveling with a midway game company while her biological father was employed by a company that was responsible for setting up the rides. I started dating him about one week after my employment. Things seemed to be going well; we liked each other and it was a good enough reason for us. Since I had already had an abortion in mid October--not even six months before, I knew my body and the signs of pregnancy. The home pregnancy kit I’d purchased came up positive, but the ER doctor at one of the local hospitals declared a negative result through a blood test. But I knew that was wrong. No morning sickness--something I didn’t have with the last pregnancy, but the other symptoms were there just as before. By the time my blood test came up negative, my daughter’s father and I had already split up; the "pregnancy scare" had caused him to break it off with me. It was mid-June when this happened.


The game company, who’s name I can’t recall, was still touring with the same ride company the last week of June. My appetite was increasing and my period had already been about six weeks late. And my girl’s father was still with the ride company, though not for that week as some of the other ride operators were in a different city in Ohio. I can’t remember where we were stationed, but the closest hospital was Timken Mercy Medical Center. Since I was lifting heavy lumber and setting up the game joints with the rest of the crew, I had to know; for the type of lifting I was doing might cause a miscarriage, and this time abortion was not an option--I wanted this child.


I walked part of the way in the nearly pitch-black darkness of the night; I had hitched a ride the rest of the way to the hospital’s ER. And that’s when my suspicions proved to be dead-on: I was pregnant. Obviously, the first test that I’d done was correct to begin with. But, knowing that my boss nor the other "jointies" I toured with wouldn’t believe me without a signed note from the doctor, I had the staff write the results on a script with the attending physician’s signature on it.. I had to stay all night at the hospital since there was no chance of a ride back until morning. With note in hand, I made it back to the campground. I’d thought I was fired for certain since I was gone all night. But thankfully I wasn’t fired. I located my boss and handed him the note, then passed it around to my fellow carneys. By that time, they had already distanced themselves from me due to whom I was dating; I was no longer on their social list. But when everyone was informed, they were much nicer to me, though that didn’t last for too long. To my fellow carneys, I was now an outsider. My boss and the rest of the group did take it easy on me for awhile, since they knew I wasn’t getting an abortion. They weren’t allowing me to lift the heavy lumber, but their concern was for a short time. Soon I was back to lifting the boards and other game components--risking the life of my child.


I knew I had to leave, and soon.


Medical staff at Timken Hospital had given me a bunch of numbers to call--names of organizations that helped find homes for unwed pregnant women. I got lucky and found a surrogate family who would take me in. By this time it was now the last week of June and we were stationed in Cuyahoga Falls, a city just north of Akron. Word was given to me that my child’s father had returned to the carnival circuit and was at this location with the same ride company. I located him and handed him the note. Surprisingly, he wanted to make things right by finding an apartment where the two/three of us could live. But I said no. I told him that we would just wind up hating each other; so I departed from him and never got together intimately with him again. But I thought he should at least know that I was carrying his child.


July 4th came and went. By this time, we were stationed in Orville, Ohio. My ride to my new home sat and waited for my job to be done tearing down our setup; for my boss wouldn’t hand me my saved money until all the work was done.  I didn't even say goodbye to my fellow carneys, I hated them by then.  I was handed my pay after work was finished, and then headed for the sleepy man in a station wagon in the parking lot, who would be taking me to where he and his wife lived. And so began my new journey in life: Preparing to expect my first and only child.


Things pretty much went according to plan. The whole time I was pondering my unborn baby’s gender. I was hoping for a girl. I even had her name all picked out: I would name her Ivy, based on a book I had read a long time ago. Then, one Monday afternoon on February the 17th, my water broke, I went to the hospital, where staff set me up not in a birthing suite, but a birthing room all to myself; it was designed just like a hotel suite, with every comfort one could imagine. I had not just my original childbirth coach, but three of them. Seven and a half hours later at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, February 18th at 1:59, I gave birth to a baby girl weighing a little over 8 pounds and healthy, with a head full of hair. Nearly everyone in the room cried. My tiny little princess was finally in my arms.


And we lived happily ever after? Not exactly.


Throughout the three+ years that I raised her, everything went according to plan. Then one day an elder, a member of a Christian cult I was a part of at the time--someone whom I would’ve taken a bullet for, came to me on a Saturday afternoon while I was watching my three year old child play in her pool in the front yard. It was the early summer of 1989 when the minister of my church back-stabbed me--a man with whom I was still doing pastoral counseling--and sent that elder to tell me that a judgement call was made against me, because of a man who had abused and rejected me. Their plan was to announce in front of the entire church body, that I had sinned; they were going to instruct the women in the congregation not to help me out anymore; this included transportation for my child to emergency rooms and doctors’ visits.


Something went terribly wrong inside of me after the male church member and elder did what they did (and no, I’m not going to talk about it). I had taken up drinking again, almost on a daily basis. Though I was neither physically nor verbally/mentally abusing my daughter, I began to resent her, an innocent who did nothing wrong. I began a rapid descent into suicidal ideation and crying all throughout the day. I had become so sick that I had started leaving my child alone for just 10 minutes at first to go to the corner store. I’d put her to bed first, then made my little trips to the 7-11 across the street. Then the time lapse became longer until I had a rude awakening within myself. I sensed the same cycle of resentment toward my beautiful princess that existed between my mother and I, though I suffered much worse at the hands of my mother--and that’s what scared the shit out of me: The inexplicable feeling of certainty that I would soon do the same things to my daughter if I didn’t do something to get her away from me.  It was time to make a decision that would cost me a lot of friends and the already-declining love and support of my family.


For one year, my child was in foster care; while I was seeking counseling, she was growing by leaps and bounds. I was able to visit her in a neutral location and have her over to stay with me one weekend a month. Not even an entire year had passed before I knew that my princess was never coming back home. Counseling did no good, so there was only one choice: Give my daughter up and never see her again.


So I continued to stumble through life, never finding my place in this world. Many decades had passed since that day I last gazed upon her face and held her in my arms. Even when I was doing street time, I still thought about her. When I had no possessions to call my own, I had a memory of Ivy; I carried her birth certificate with me, no matter where I roamed.


Then one day, nineteen years later, I made a decision to try and find her. And my efforts were rewarded. I made first contact with her. I took one look at her face and knew that it was her. But she would need further proof. I devised a fool-proof means long ago that only my true daughter would know of. I described my gift to her in every detail, pulling as much from my memory as I could. She still had that gift I made. After revealing even more details to her, it was confirmed: In April of 2009, I’d finally found my daughter. I’d downloaded her photo to my computer, staring at it every night. All I could do for two weeks was cry tears of joy each time I looked at her photograph; her eyes alone were a dead giveaway.


Then about a month later, we had an argument, something that I was hoping to avoid. The internet exchanges between us seemed to go from mutual joy to the harsh reality that a friend of mine warned me of: She didn’t wish to see me for awhile, but only through email. My friend told me to prepare for this, as my daughter was now a young woman who is just starting out and making her own way in this world.


Reality can be quite devastating, especially if one is living in a dream world when it hits.  For approximately two months, I was barely able to have any meaningful discussion with my daughter. Then the thought had occurred to me that I needed to apologize for the things I said, and let her take it from there.


For awhile I stepped gingerly when I emailed her, following my friend’s advice and the advice of a few others. My last words with my child went from ugly and offensive to encouraging. I avoided the words "I love you" for awhile until I felt that she was ready for them. From there I meticulously read through my every email before sending it to her. Ivy slowly began to warm up to me, very slowly--which was exactly how I was instructed to proceed. I became genuinely interested in what she was doing, taking great care to proceed with caution. After all, I had not been a part of her life for nineteen years.


You know that part in a letter/email where, at the bottom, the loved one in question ends their letter with words like "I love you" or a shorter version of it? Well: My persistence met with the word "love" coming from my daughter’s lips.


For many of us, the word "love" is an illusion. Either we say the words and do not mean it, because we have been so conditioned by our dysfunctional families to do things to one another that in no way demonstrates its true meaning; or, we simply avoid that word altogether. 


And why have I chosen to write this? Because very soon my "fire tiger" will be celebrating her birthday.


To my fire tiger: I gave you up once, knowing that I may never see you again.


Happy birthday, princess.


Fran Hinkle 02/14/10

Revised 5/25/2019

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