Yes, I'm a Mommie Too!!
By Rae Lewis-Thornton
May 4, 2011
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
I was invited to tea at the Peninsula by MJ Tam and The Chicago Moms Bloggers. These women are dynamite, blogging about the life of motherhood. Well, MJ the Social Media Powerhouse in charge of this outfit, was originally wondering what the "real" Mommie bloggers would say about me crashing their event since I don't have any children. But my girl, Mommie Blogger Dwana said flat out, Rae would beg to differ.
And so it was, I had tea with a group of wonderful mommie bloggers at the Peninsula. It was wonderful! As only the Peninsula can do, they set it out for us while sharing the wonderful details of the kid friendly atmosphere they have. Details coming in tomorrow's Tea With Rae blog. Today, we are going to talk about my children: Imani, Nambi and Sophie. I may not have biological children but over the years God has blessed me with three four legged girls. So Dwana was right, my girls are my children and I would fight anyone who tried to say differently.
I get asked often if I ever wanted to have the two legged kind of children and the answer is yes. Not a whole lot, but at least a girl that I could dress like a princess. But I grew up in the old generation when you didn't get pregnant out of wedlock and embarrass your mother. You just didn't do it! So in those early years of my life having a child was out of the question. And then by the time I got married I was way sick.
It was a very difficult decision of whether or not to have a child. The infection risk for mother to child transmission of HIV was about 30% in those early days. Yes, that was risk taking, but think about it... It also meant that there was a 70% chance that a child would not be infected with HIV.
But nonetheless, I couldn't bring myself to do it. I didn't want to take the chance. Nor did I want to bring a child in the world that I would die and leave in her early years. Abandonment is a big issue for me and I was not adopting or giving birth to a child I would have to leave. Especially with no family at the time that I could trust. Not having children has been one of my greatest losses with HIV.
But honestly, mother to child transmission has had been the greatest of all the HIV medical breakthroughs. Today, if a woman knows that she is pregnant during the first trimester and takes medication, she reduces the chance of infecting her child by 2-3%. But ummm, I'm way to old to be popping out a child with no husband. For Real... For Real...
So Imani was my first born and the apple of my eye. I knew the moment I put her in my arms she belonged with me. She was sweet and full of life. She loved to play. So much so that I had to put her on a curfew. For Real! No ball after 11 p.m. and none before 7 a.m. And some nights she would sleep with that darn ball. Then she gave me grandchildren, Samantha and Nambi. I kept Nambi, who was the runt, and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandi took Sam, who was a straight tomboy.
But Nambi was a Diva. She didn't sit on the floor, she didn't play and she absolutely couldn't be bothered with children. It was as if God had sent her straight to me for me. She came at a time in my life when I was really sick. AIDS was ravishing my body and creating havoc in my life. I spent many hours in the bed and while Imani played and checked in with me from time to time, Nambi never left my side. She was my shadow. There was no place I went in the house where she was not by my side. My ex-husband called her little Rae. And my friends would say, "If you die before Nambi, we gonna shoot her and put her tail right in the casket with you because no one would be able to keep her."
She was mine, it was as if Imani had given birth to her just for me. But Imani was always my first born! Something is special about the first ones. They teach you that life is greater than you. They teach you to love beyond yourself. They teach you unconditional love. And how about my ex-husband tired to take Imani in the divorce. I thought he had lost his freaking mind if he thought for one second I would let him have her. It would have been a War of the Roses fight to the end! For Real!
I couldn't see why he wanted her anyway. After he moved out of the bedroom he would let her cry at the door. I remember one day he told me, "You love those damn dogs more then you love me. "Really?! You jealous of a dog? And then when I asked why he moved out of the bedroom, he said he didn't want to sleep with the damn dogs anymore. Really?! When we bought Imani together, really?! You're such a man that you blame it all on the dogs... Really?! But anyway, I kept my babies a lot longer then I kept him and I'm glad for it. Because the love of a four legged dog is true.. The love of a two legged, well you know the rest.
When Imani started to age and get sick, I did everything I could to keep her alive. She was my child, my first born. Those nights when she couldn't breath, I would turn on the shower and hold her in my arms sitting on the toilet. Putting her to sleep was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I cried for weeks. Well, if the truth be told for months.
I refused to get another dog. No one could replace my first born. But about 3 years in there seemed to be no life in my house. Nambi and I were just two old ladies getting older... So I found Sophie. Now I knew I wanted Sophie because any puppy that could pin two other puppies up under her in the play pen was my kinda gal. But Nambi wasn't having it!
It was the War of the Roses that first month. They each had to sleep on one side of me. Nambi wouldn't let Sophie get near her and Sophie wouldn't take no for an answer. Nambi would look at me like Mommie, why would you do this to me in my old age? But after Nambi made it clear to Sophie that she was the alpha dog, there was peace in paradise.
Sophie is the life of the party. She is my little socialite. On our walks she speaks to everyone she sees, every man, woman, child and dog. For Real... People ask me often if she is a puppy. No, hello, she's almost five. Then I get this *blank stare* then an, "Oh, she sure is full of life." But I think that's what I needed. God knew! In fact, it was Sophie that helped to give Nambi four more years. The vet wanted me to put Nambi to sleep about two weeks after I got Sophie, but I just couldn't. I couldn't! I kept putting it off and off and then she bounced back. Then the vet concluded that having the puppy in the house made her bounce back.
Maybe so... But about 3 months ago, I could see in Nambi's eyes that she was tired. She had given me all she had. It was time... I couldn't let her suffer... So I put her to sleep. I'm still mourning Nambi. I miss her dearly. OMG I miss her.
But Sophie and I have settled into our own. I think she's been waiting to be an only child for the last four years, for real... for real...
No, I didn't give birth to any children, but I have certainly been blessed with three wonderful girls. I have the same heartaches and joys, and the same responsibilities that we have with our two legged children. They must be cared for and loved all the same.
But truly, they have showed me how to love unconditionally. Now Sophie is the most demanding of my three girls. She thinks the world revolves around her.
But she is indeed my Luv-a-pup. She gives me life and she makes me better. She focuses me to live. Some days when I want to stay in bed and hide, she demands that we get up, pull the curtains back and look at the world.
Yes, my girls have been like children to me. With both heartaches and joy. Yes, it would be nice to have a little girl that I can bring to the Peninsula for a weekend getaway and absolutely for tea. But that is not my fate. My fate is wrapped up into AIDS and for me, that swallowed up the possibility of children years ago. But the best thing about the Peninsula for me is that I can actually bring Sophie for tea. For Real!
When I saw Asia at tea time, I knew it was on... Stay tuned for my tea adventure with Sophie!! I'm way excited... As long as the dog is 12 pounds and under they are welcome!! Sophie makes the cut!! Happy Dance! By the way... You can follow Sophie on Twitter... She's helping her mommie fight HIV through social media. She figures if Giggy from the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills could have over 27,000 followers, why not her... She's an overachiever like her mommie...
Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
Rae is an active user of social media -- read "Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter," an article on TheBody.com about Rae's social media activities.
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