Mother's Day: A Perspective from Prison

May 14, 2017

By Rev. Diane Harrison, Grace Place UMC inside the walls of the Tennessee Women's Prison

Happy Mother’s Day!  As this Mother’s Day has approached I have heard it over and over.  When I was asked to write this blog about Mother’s Day in prison I thought I would be writing about how hard Mother’s Day is for incarcerated mothers.  And it is very hard.  But several weeks ago I got a whole new understanding of what Mother’s Day is like for some women in prison. 

I was at a class Grace Place is offering called “12 Steps a Spiritual Journey.”  I am co-leading it with one of our church members.  Really she is leading it.  I am just there to occasionally offer a prayer or a comment.  I know now that mostly I am there to learn. Vernita, who has given me permission to use her name and share her story, was leading the class.  The discussion was about forgiveness. 

She was telling her story. She told us about the abuse she experienced at the hands of her mother. She talked about getting pregnant at 14 and being forced to have an abortion because her mother’s boyfriend wouldn’t want to come around if there was a crying baby in the house. She shared how her mother verbally abused her, calling her horrible names.  She talked about how even though she knew a 14 year old shouldn’t be having a baby, she longed for that baby because she knew it would love her.  She shared how frightened and scared and heartbroken she was lying on that table as they removed her baby from her body.  And then, when it was over, the only words her mother had to say was to remind the medical staff to please not forget to give her a Depo-Provera shot so this wouldn’t happen again. 

These experiences and her abusive relationship with her mother led to very destructive behaviors that contributed to her ultimate incarceration with a sentence that will not even allow for the possibility of parole until 2058.  Vernita will not live that long.   Vernita spoke of the hate she felt for her mother for many years. Vernita has let go of that hate. Even though her mother still does things that hurt her, she has learned to forgive. 

As I listened to Vernita that day I realized that there are so many wounded adult children in this world who have never known the love from a mother that God intends for all children to feel.  What a painful day it must be for so many incarcerated people who have never known what is was like to have a mother who loved and cared for them, who protected them from harm, who made them feel they were worthy of being loved.  So many incarcerated people began their journey to prison at the hands of a mother who for whatever reason failed to be the mother their child needed them to be. 

So give thanks if you were blessed to have a good mother, and pray for those, and there are so many, in prison for whom the words Happy Mother’s Day are a painful reminder of what they have been deprived.  



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