As a mother I find great pride in my role as a mother, especially a single mother. Many of you know my story, but let me give you a quick version of a traumatic experience. I was ten year years old excitedly telling my neighbor friends, on a beautiful summer evening, about moving to a big house in Missouri. I was bragging. We had a bigger family since my Mom had married a new man, who also had kids, and it was time to move forward and it was happening quick.
But, just as easily as I could brag, I felt a pit in my stomach and an extreme sense of intuition as more than 20, maybe 30, police, undercover agents, FBI were speeding down my street towards my house. I immediately started gasping for breath. An older friend could see my panic and offered to help me. I ran down the sidewalk towards the crime scene where I saw people in every window, every light on, and cushions were being ripped up with knives and scissors, gloved hands tore through personal belongings, and my mother crying on the porch steps and my step-father looking at the back window of a police car. Soon my own father would pull up to retrieve his kids.
After many months of trial, newspaper articles, the news, even magazines told the news of my family to anyone who wanted to read about us. My mother was charged with first degree murder and received a life sentence with no chance for parole. This would be the fate of my brothers, sister and I. She would forever be institutionalized.
Motherhood always looked good to me before that above experience. My mother took care of babies. She was a foster parent with my Dad. They had over 100 they cared for over the years. I remember my Mom would sometimes have 3 of them at a time. They would stay with us a short while, then off to their new home. My mother baked bread, canned vegetables from our garden, sewed our clothes and made matching outfits on holidays. She went on dates with my Dad, was active in our Girl Scout and Brownie troops, had us in bowling leagues, swimming, singing, and ballet. We had every Christmas present we ever wanted and birthdays were amazing. Not a detail was missed.
When you lose a woman like that, it’s hard to breathe the same way again. If I could describe the experience to anyone, it is whirlwind of disappointment which eventually turned into acceptance, and finally, forgiveness. We tried getting parole boards to give her a chance, wrote to Governors, got organizations involved. But, my Mother is still in prison today, 36 years later in a small town in Iowa.
When I had my own child, Baby Hummingbird, at almost 40, I never assumed that I would feel so much love and instant bonding with another human being. When she showed up in my face (I was draped for the c section), I cried as I knew what it must felt like for my mother to birth me. But, my Mother didn’t stop her love there. She loved so many children besides me and my siblings. She loved her foster babies, her friend’s children, her nieces and nephews, and now all of her grandchildren. Without this love, we might not be the people we are today.
I hope you can appreciate the mothers, forgive them, get to know them as adults, and know how deep their love goes, even when they make mistakes.
Over the past 15 years, Iowa has seen a 191 percent increase in the number of females admitted to the state’s prison system. Thirty-eight of the women here are serving life sentences, including 36 for first-degree murder and two for kidnapping.
Would you like to help children of Prisoners in Iowa? The StoryBook Project is one way you can help.
The number of women in prison increased by 646% between 1980 and 2010. Approximately 9% of the prison population are women. Help families with these grim statistics: