I was born in a rundown house in a small parish outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, during one of the worst storms on record. It rained so much the banks of the Mississippi overflowed. For most families, bringing a new life into the world should be a time of great celebration. But giving birth to a girl was not a joyful occasion in my home.
My condition was fragile because I had come more than a month early. Mama never said, but I suspected her injuries and premature labor were the result of Daddy’s fists.
Not expecting me to live, the midwife cleaned me up, wrapped me in an old tea towel, and placed me in a knitting basket beside the wood-burning stove. According to Mama, the storm raged until morning, but I never made one sound. So, hours later, when they peeked in at me, they were surprised to see me sucking my thumb, staring up at them with eyes the color of bluebells.
Mama told me, that’s when she cried.
See, she hadn’t shed a single tear during the harsh pain of giving birth or out of fear of the horrible storm taking the house and her with it, but she sobbed when she saw me. To her, it would have been better for all of us if I’d passed on in the night, carried off on the wings of angels, never to suffer the evils of this world. And sometimes, I wondered if she hadn’t been right.