EBook edition available through the publisher, Outskirts Press
by J.C. Sykes
Publisher Outskirts Press
EBook edition available through the publisher, Outskirts Press
In this inspirational memoir, we meet a young woman forced to grow up too quickly when she marries at sixteen. After only five months of nuptials, she loses her husband to an extended prison sentence, and becomes a single mother who must quickly learn independence. Carlen shares her life story in the hopes that others will be motivated to persevere in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by a quote passed down from her father, "A quitter never wins and a winner never quits", Carlen attacks her obstacles head on. Will Carlen continue to maintain her sanity against all odds?
NO EXPECTING MOTHER can be prepared for her unborn child to be born without a definite sex foundation. In very few cases in the world does a mother have to decide the sex of her baby. That part is usually predetermined by “The Almighty.” Expecting mothers can have many questions and concerns while pregnant. That’s absolutely normal, even anticipated! Some women more questions than others, depending on their background and heritage. The most common question in the first five months of pregnancy is: is it a boy or girl? Twenty-year-old Carlen was one chosen to execute this decision for her newborn. This would officially be the hardest decision of her life. How could Carlen know if she was making the right decision for her child? Would she ever know? Will her child grow up to hate her for making such a decision? How would her little one feel mentally and emotionally? These were only a few of the questions that haunted the restless new mother. Learning the uniqueness of her newborn’s condition was draining. Carlen felt like her life was spiraling into being over when she found out she was pregnant with her fourth child at only twenty. The early mother didn’t believe in abortions at the time, but wished she could force herself to go through with one anyway. Preparing herself mentally, and gathering the pieces of what used to be her heart, were all she could give attention to. Living alone without a companion, unable to find happiness for the rest of her days, was what she’d embedded in her mind.
On the other hand, that wasn’t what was in Carlen’s heart. This was but a taste of some of the self-torment destroying the respect and any goals or dreams the youngster might have had. No man in this day and age wants a woman with one child, let alone four. Especially when you’re as young as Carlen was. Not to mention she was single and on welfare. The embarrassment and stereotyping that one can endure in a situation like Carlen’s can be diabolical, no matter your race. If you could take the deepest breath of your life, and hold it as long as you could, Carlen felt as if she’d lived her entire life in that one breath. The rush and buildup of pressure over a short period of time was real. Like when a person is dying and their life flashes before their eyes. The luckless adolescent had grown used to being strained. She under no circumstances had time to react to one situation before another presented itself. Carlen lived a life of going through the motions. Certainly not embracing what was happening to her, or why. There was only time to keep it moving on to the next challenging consequence of her sinful life. Consequences Carlen thought she faced because she hadn’t listened to God when she heard him speaking to her. She refused to let the negative words of her mother, “you ain’t gone be shit,” become her reality. Those words were all that drove Carlen to push forward. Ironically, they were a provocation for her to be up-and-coming. Proving her mother wrong was always unswervingly behind being successful. She’d die in the midst of trying to accomplish them both.
Carlen’s pregnancy was as normal as any other. She ate all the right foods, exercised regularly, and went to every doctor’s appointment. There was never any cause for concern with Dr. Johnson. He’d been her physician for her previous high-risk pregnancy. A multiplebirth pregnancy and being diagnosed with preeclampsia was not a good combination. Carlen was confined to bed rest at St. Mary’s hospital for over two months to prevent pre-term labor in her prior prenatal period. The little rug rats wanted to come out early, but the hospital staff was determined to make them cook forty weeks. That had a lot to do with why she didn’t want to have more kids. Fifteen months later, the vulnerable teen was pregnant all over again. Damn! Why did she have to be so damn Horney and fertile? she thought. Carlen beat herself up about it often. She felt so stupid, but prayed for guidance habitually. Carlen, like most girls in her position, thought she was in love. She believed she’d never become just another baby mama. Well she did, yet again, to the same tiredass dude. Like in a court of law, ultrasounds showed that year’s verdict was another girl. Carlen felt as if she had another case pending against her. She could just imagine how repeat offenders felt. Being pregnant was now a repetitious offense of hers. She’d be contributing to three priors already existing: two girls and one boy. Thank goodness her twins Royce and Raelyn were boy and girl. She’d finally gotten a damn son out of the deal! It was kind of a trend to have twins in her family. It never skipped a generation! Hell, Carlen was a twin herself!
The young mother caught her first case back in February 2001. Bearing her first daughter Abrey at only sixteen. It was a bit rough in the beginning becoming a teen mom. However, with the right amount of time and development, one can either learn or collapse. Living without her four seemed completely impossible. They were what kept her fresh and vigorous. Carlen quietly despised the thought of having another girl. The idea couldn’t seem to grow on the yet again soon-to-be mother. Many times she tried to bargain with God asking, could she at least have another son since she’d been chosen to have so many kids? In the course of her ninth month of being with child, ultrasound photos showed clearly she’d be having another boy—eliminating any possibility of the first verdict, which was girl. Carlen was thrilled with the news! There wouldn’t be another sassy girl attitude to live with. When Carlen left her doctor’s appointment that warm spring day, she quickly spread the news to Rayvence. She figured she’d surprise him at work. Rayvence was not only the father of the bun in the oven, but he was also the father of the twins. He worked on cars and had recently been hired at a local auto parts store in Ferguson. Ray, as the streets called him, was more than overjoyed to hear the news. He already had one older son he’d created while out cheating one year before Carlen had their twins. His eldest son and their twins were only eight months apart. Everybody was astounded as well as upset, seeing as they’d already shopped for a girl. Exchanging baby items from girl to boy was now the task. Carlen’s due date came like clockwork, but she was still pregnant.
The now miserable expectant mom was pissed! Dr. Johnson decided to go ahead and induce labor the following week. Carlen tried most of the hoe medies Dr. Johnson and relatives suggested to her. Going home and having sex was Dr. Johnson’s advice. A usual favorite of Carlen’s, except during pregnancy. Something about the male sperm that made the uterus contract. Drinking castor oil was an old folks’ tale that came highly recommended by Carlen’s mom. Carlen thought old folks’ tales were some of the wittiest stories! Filled with remedies and beliefs that seemed drastically farfetched. Stories that eventually come to be superstition, or good luck–bad luck beliefs. Nevertheless, Dr. Johnson scheduled Carlen’s induction one week after her scheduled due date. That gave Carlen more time to prepare herself yet again for another painful child-bearing process. By this time, the restless mom-to-be was so huge and irritated, she just wanted to get it over with. The twins were just over fifteen months old, and Abrey five. As one could imagine, Carlen’s nerves were shot! Her patience was now buried under her bladder. Carlen and Ray were in an on again, off again relationship. By this time in their present pregnancy, Carlen absolutely couldn’t stand the sight of Ray’s face! He’d begun to grow into a street thug that Carlen felt she no longer knew. He was usually a very quiet, low-key kind of guy. After graduating high school and facing real-life responsibilities, he developed the “I’m a black man syndrome.” That’s when black men complain of not being able to find a job. They begin going out to clubs and smoking weed as a relief from the pressures of being a black man. Second definition of “black man syndrome” is blaming everything on the police. Claiming they’re not able to go to important appointments or interviews because they have warrants and the police are always pulling them over. Alleging DWB (Driving While Black). What Rayvence failed to accept was the fact that he bought attention to himself. For one, he always chose the thuggishlooking cars. The cars that were sure to get any cop’s attention on the streets of St. Louis. The sort of cars that you’d hear coming before you’d even see them. The 1980s Monte Carlos or Cutlasses. Not only was it the style of cars he picked, but Ray added more inviting features to his vehicles. He’d add tinted windows, rims, and beats by the pound. However, he could never afford a real paint job, and he spent most of his time fixing the cars. In other words, he acquired some raggedy-ass cars. Ray’s cars never really looked good, they’d only sound good sometimes. At times they were two-toned in color, or primed since he put them together himself from the junkyards. Working on his vehicles became the center of most of the couple’s arguments and breakups. Making money from his talent to help Carlen with his kids was of more importance to Carlen. Yet, Ray liked doing it for show, which was more important to Ray. Like most broke wannabe gangsters, Rayvence was becoming another statistic. Carlen accrued her own share of driving violations over time, along with traffic warrants. She could never afford to properly register her vehicle—ultimately resulting in failure-to-register tickets, and of course no-insurance tickets. Carlen was on her own with no one to turn to for help or support. Anytime she had to drive was a risk she was willing to take. Carlen even tried to obtain a hardship license, but was turned down. A very usual result in the prejudiced streets of the Lou.
Conversely, giving up was never an option! She had kids to think about. Carlen lived to fight another day. Finally, one week was up. Ironically Carlen went into labor on her own. Just happened to be the same day she was scheduled to be induced. It was about 3 am on a Wednesday, June 1, 2005. A gush of what felt like jelly out of Carlen’s vagina jolted her awake. Rayvence was there with her since he knew any minute was possible for the birth of their son. Carlen wasn’t sure what was happening, because her water had never broken in her previous two pregnancies. She knew this wasn’t her water breaking because it wasn’t wet like water. The sensation was of a thick jell-like substance. Carlen was often hot as hell and slept in only a gown, no bottoms. Getting to the bathroom was urgent when she needed to go. At nine months’ pregnant one can’t run, and doesn’t have time to fight with panties. After a few silent seconds, Carlen woke Ray to tell him something was happening. Still lying on his side half sleep, he rolled over so as to reposition himself for a more comfortable position. The now-anxious Carlen shook him again—harder this time. In a sterner, slightly louder voice, careful not to wake the other kids, Carlen barked, “Wake your ass up, something is happening—you need to look!” When he finally rolled over to pull the cover back to look between her legs, he said in a confused voice, “What the fuck.” He reacted exactly as you’d expect a man to react under the circumstances. He was completely grossed out with the sour-lemon face! Carlen shouted, “What?” He said, “It’s some blood, but it looks like jelly.” Ray was very proper since he grew up in California most his life. His mom had shipped him off when he was about seven to live with his dad. Laughing at his proper California accent was usually Carlen’s amusement.When Carlen saw his facial expression change, she got scared. They both got up as fast as possible to get ready for the hospital. First they had to wake the kids, pack them a bag, and take them across the apartment complex to Carlen’s brother Rodney’s apartment. Once there, Carlen was the type of mother to make sure her babies were settled in. She wasn’t in any pain at all yet, so she made sure to put them down calmly so as not to alarm the sweeties. She wanted them to be as little a burden on anyone else as possible. Carlen being as structured as she was, she had her kids well trained even at such an early age. She truly believed in systems, and kept her children on a regular schedule with everything. The kids were still half asleep when they got to Rodney’s, so Carlen and Ray made them pallets on the living-room carpet. Abrey was awake, and asked if it was time for the baby to come out now. Carlen tiredly replied yes. Abrey was very smart and intelligent for her age. She always wanted to do anything she could to help Mommy, and Carlen hated the fact her baby had to grow up so fast. Abrey was her pride and joy. She was such a sweet little girl, and was the best help any stressed mom could ask for. Abrey told her mom that she would make sure the twins were good while they were gone to the hospital. The sweetheart never failed to amaze her mom, and Carlen loved her so much. Carlen felt sad for Abrey. She was so young and loving.
Unfortunately after the twins were born, her quality time with Abrey was cut down to a bare minimum. She could feel Abrey missed having her mommy, and Carlen missed being able to give Abrey her undivided attention. Now with the new addition on his way, things would be even worse for Abrey. It was one of the issues Carlen punished herself for regularly. Carlen’s bag had been packed for weeks—she was ready. As the two set out for DePaul Hospital, it was an early humid morning in St. Louis. Carlen called Chase on the way to the hospital. There was no way she’d do this without her twin. Carlen didn’t care if nobody else ever showed up; her twin and she did everything together. He was like a vampire anyway. He roamed around at night ready for whatever. He answered asking, “Girl, is you ready to have that damn baby yet?” Chase was gay, and was always very diva-ish. Diva-ish meaning he did all things with feminine attitude and gestures. It was normal for him to be real extra when he talked. Not to mention how rude he could be. It was funny, because even while in labor with three-minute-interval contractions, Carlen had to laugh at the way he answered the phone. One would swear he was the one pregnant! He usually ended up having most of Carlen’s pregnancy symptoms any time she was pregnant. Chase was mad as hell! He’d know when his sister was pregnant before she did, because he would start having morning sickness. He offered to pay for an abortion with each pregnancy after Abrey. Chase even had the damn abortion clinic number in his phone saved in his contacts. Abortions came highly recommended by Chase to anybody he felt didn’t need kids, couldn’t afford kids, or whom he thought had the dumbest baby daddy ever. He was simply hilarious! His heart was usually in the right place, though. He just had a different way of showing he cared. It was hard to hear Chase over Ray’s loud-ass 1986 Monte Carlo, which was growling. Chase would get mad and go off on Carlen for calling him when she was in the car with Ray. He said it was stupid to have an ugly-ass car that sounded like that.
They finally arrived at the hospital, and Dr. Johnson was called immediately. Carlen went through the normal steps of processing, which were vitals, getting into a gown, and getting checked to see if she were dilated. Getting checked was painful. Having a doctor stick at least two fingers up your crotch and feeling around inside was always uncomfortable. Carlen was sure all women felt the same on this. Once Dr. Johnson arrived, the now-worried Carlen felt relief. She wanted to know what was the bleeding and why. She’d never had bleeding in her prior pregnancies. Not even when she was high-risk with the twins. Dr. Johnson reassured Carlen everything was okay after looking her over. Carlen relaxed after settling into her room. Now she began to dread the possibly long childbirth journey that lay ahead. She didn’t feel like going through all the pain this time, so she worked up the nerve to ask for an epidural. Carlen hadn’t requested this procedure during her previous pregnancies. She was afraid from hearing all the risks involved. Carlen had her twin and Ray by her side during this difficult time, and their security made her feel better. Chase made sure he was next to the hospital staff with every move they made. He asked “why ya’ll doing that?” with everything they were doing. Usually her momma was there with her, but she hadn’t arrived yet. Ray had very little say when Chase was there. He knew battling Chase was always a loss. Ray sat in the reclining chair watching as Chase dictated. Ray wasn’t new to the delivery room, especially after watching the C-section with the twins. He could now handle watching Carlen suffer a little better. Ray just knew Carlen would die after they took all of her organs out during the C-section and laid them on the table; let him tell it. Surviving that was motivating to him. Carlen laughed at him when she could later. By 10 am that morning, Carlen was in full labor. Thanks to the epidural things went smoothly, painlessly. It was time to push, and Carlen was asking the doctor, was he ready? After three long pushes, the baby was born at 11:04 am. He was taken to be cleaned and examined as hospital policy declares. Whew! It’s about damn time, was all Carlen could think. Her body was hers again! Chase and Raymond stayed with the little one while the exhausted new mommy got some much-needed sleep.
When Carlen wakened, Chase was sitting in the chair next to her combing her new infant’s hair into its first Mohawk. Chase claimed the baby was having his first photo shoot. He sent picture messages to everybody in his contacts almost. Chase actually thought the baby was cute! If he didn’t, he wouldn’t hesitate to say so. Chase was one of those rude people, where if the baby is ugly he wouldn’t try to cover it up. Most people will say something like “awwww his feet are so tiny,” or “he is so precious.” Chase would just say, “Girl, I told you you should have had an abortion” or “Girl, you better dress that baby cute.” Just plain old rude! It wasn’t the mean kind of rude, it was very humorous and sarcastic most of the time. You still had to love him.
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Juanakee "Colby" Sykes is a native of St. Louis, Mo. She is the mother of three daughters and one son, whom the four of their first initials make up this books title; A.R.R.A. She and her husband own a carpentry company in their home town of St. Louis. Colby is a talented artist of many trades. She enjoys designing and building furniture in her free time, as well as event planning, and mentoring. This innovative wife and mother is the youngest of eleven children between both mother and father, including her deceased twin brother Chase who died when they were twenty five. Colby began keeping a journal of life lessons learned when she was nine years old. This ambitious new author has a story to share with the world. It is her privilege to help other's, as well as her duty.