As a child I was born to a mother who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer and a father who was a career criminal. By the time I was six years old my father was sentenced to three life sentences and my mother passed away when I was eight.
The week my mother passed away I moved in with her half-sister in Michigan. My family thought it would be the best thing for me since I would have a mother to raise me. I was there for a year and in that time I was physically, then sexually abused.
I went home for the summer to my grandmother’s in Tennessee where I had lived with my mother before she had passed away. My grandmother knew me well. She didn’t know exactly what had happened, but she knew I wasn’t the same little girl who had left, so she decided she would raise me.
By this time I had already started down the road to destruction—lying and breaking the rules was part of who I was. Then my brother sexually molested me. I believe my grandmother was doing what she knew to do, but she had never encountered a child with the emotional and behavioral problems I had, so she became emotionally numb toward me over time, and somewhat physically abusive. Sometimes she would really try with me, but I still wouldn’t respond to what she considered reasoning with me, and her spankings would sometimes get out of hand.
When I was fourteen my sister who is thirteen years older than me had moved back to town and was very much a drug addict. Not long after she came home she helped me run away, lose my virginity to a man who paid her for my sex, and begin to smoke crack. All of these life-changing events happened over the course of one day.
Crack was instantly the love of my life. It was the only thing I could do that made me happy and not feel what was real and depressing in my life. I began offering my body daily to men in exchange for drugs or money. I was out of control. The police wouldn’t help my grandmother, they would only pick me up and bring me home. That night or the next I would be gone again.
Eventually my grandmother had me put in a placement home, but the girls I was with were older and more experienced in the world, so they just taught me more ways to scheme and I ran away back to my grandmother’s. Finally I was locked up until a couple of weeks after I turned eighteen.
I was only out of my placement for about thirty days before I went to jail for prostitution and was in and out for similar charges until I was nineteen. At nineteen I met a girl who was older than me in jail and she got out first, so she picked me up and the next day we stole a man’s money and his Ford Explorer. He threatened to have me arrested but I had also been trading sex with a detective that told him I had proof he was molesting me as a child and I would tell it, so no charges were ever filed and I got to keep the money and the car.
I lived in Indiana, still selling my body for the next four years and when I went to jail I was pregnant. I had been messing with a local dope boy and this baby was his, but I was on my way to prison. The judge let me out in order to have my baby, but I would return to finish my time. I only spent four months with my baby, then adopted him out and returned to prison. In a short amount of time I was pregnant again but would be having the baby in prison.
By now I wanted to die. Two babies and I couldn’t raise either due to the choices I had made. While I was in prison I met a lady preacher who told me she would temporarily adopt my baby and return her to me when I got out. I had my little girl in February and would get out in June. To me that sounded great. So I turned my baby over to her, then she stopped visiting me and did not bring her to me. She used God to cause me to trust her, and for a long time after this I stopped believing that He even existed. By now I was about 25 and I was so out of control on the outside, but the inside of me was even more of a mess.
I was in and out of jail over and over—more in than out. One of the many times I was in jail after I had moved back to Tennessee I heard of a program called A Way Out. I called and spoke to Jackie Willcutt, then Carol Wiley and they agreed to let me in their program. I came around Thanksgiving time, and they were the nicest people I think I had ever met in my life. They told me about God, showed me His love, and I really wanted all that He had to offer. I prayed and asked the Lord to forgive me, and I thought that was it, but for me it wasn’t. I was still straddling the fence—wanting to please God but also wanting to please myself and be in a homosexual relationship. Needless to say, I left the program. Back on the streets, this time living harder than I ever had before. Here and there I laid my head, sometimes not getting a bath for three days at a time.
One of my times entering jail I was told I was pregnant, but I didn’t believe it. I was released to go and do the same old thing. March of this year I was in a drug house that was busted by the police. A good amount of drugs and firearms were found. When I first went to jail they checked myself and the baby out, and only by God’s grace and mercy we were both fine. I thought I would be going to prison again and I didn’t know what I could do. I was almost suicidal. One day I decided to call Mrs. Carol at A Way Out and just tell her what happened, then ask her if she knows of a program that could help me. In the midst of this I had begun to pray to a God I thought was there, but wasn’t sure. I told Him, “God, if you just get me out of here so I can raise my baby and you let her be healthy I will never use drugs again. I will live my life to please you.” Well, that next day Carol and Jackie came to see me and said if I got out of jail they would allow me to come back there to A Way Out. After many court dates I was released. Lacey Craig picked me up and brought me back to the same house I had left, and it was the most wonderful feeling I could remember feeling in a long time.
May 1st I was released and 21 days later, May 22nd I delivered a beautiful baby girl who I named Katherine Dale Birdwell after my grandmother, Catherine Dale, who raised me. Since that day I haven’t gone back on my word to my God. I am clean, a good mother, and I follow Him. He has shown me so much grace, so much mercy, and has even blessed me to get back in touch with my first baby. We are slowly building a relationship and I can truly say that He is restoring what the locusts had eaten in my life in many ways.