Am I Enough? – Gillians’ Story
I was born in South Africa to a 16 year old unwed mother. My mom was too young to take on the responsibility of motherhood so my granny stepped in and she raised me as her 11th child. My mom has since gone on to have five more children. It was many years before my siblings were told that I was their sister and not their aunty.
My grandparents were very strict, especially my granny. My granny loved so hard that I say her love language was going to church and a good beating with a hose pipe. It’s a love language that I have learned to understand and appreciate more now that I’m older but it was the source of many tears when I was younger. She made sure that I was raised in church and attended all church activities, Sunday school, youth group and more.
I became pregnant with my first child in 1983; I was 19 years old. It was only when I told my baby’s father that I was pregnant that I found out that he was already married and had four children. I couldn’t believe it, I was so naïve. When his wife found out about me she threatened to beat me up so I ran away. Being pregnant and unmarried meant that I was no longer welcome to stay with granny. My situation was the source of much shame to our family. I had just completed my secretarial diploma and was working as an administrative secretary at a local primary school. Government policy at that time stipulated that if you were pregnant and unmarried then you could no longer be employed.
Now I was pregnant, unemployed and homeless.
My granny sent me to live with one of her son’s and his family. A few days later they had a fight about me being there and I was asked to leave so I moved in with another son and his family. No sooner had I settled in there, than my biological mom asked me to come and live with her and my other siblings. Life was chaotic to say the least.
When my daughter Lizelle was six months old, granny invited me to come back and live with her. Granny was very supportive of us and eventually Lizelle’s father also gave us financial support. Six months later, I started to work again for a primary school.
Six years after Lizelle birth, I was in a relationship with another man and became pregnant with my daughter Justine. I married Justine’s father but our relationship was not a happy one.
I had honestly believed that when men wanted to have sex with me it was because they loved me.
It was only when I watched an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show, where they discussed promiscuity that I realised what I had been doing. I was looking for love and connection the only way I knew how.
There was a lot of stress and tension in my home and it brought me to my knees before God. Like Hannah from the Bible I poured out my heart to Him, in tears. The Holy Spirit stepped in and an amazing work of healing began. The more time I spent worshipping God, praying and serving at church, the stronger I became.
Eventually it became clear that my marriage was over and that for the sake of my daughters I needed to leave. My protective instincts towards them were so strong that I felt like I had no choice but to go. I relied on my church community and they provided a great foundation and environment for my daughters. It is not easy being a single parent but the famous African proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ was true for my family. In fact, almost 12 years ago I sensed God tell me that it was time for me to ‘be the village’ for someone else’s child.
Christelle was only four years old and living on the streets with her mother. They were both sick and malnourished. When Christelle first came to live with us she was unable to eat normal food. Her body rejected everything but dry bread and black coffee and her skin reacted to anything that we put on it. Eventually she regained her health and strength but sadly her mother died two years later.
Christelle has shown me that you become a family not because you share the same genes, but because you share a love for each other.
She is now 16 years old and a beautiful young woman.
It is so hard watching your children struggle and experience times of pain. I wish that children came with their own unique manual but they don’t. However, God’s word has been my anchor through many storms. Despite the challenges of my life, this Mother’s Day I experienced such wonderful peace. All three of my girls were with me and I realised that as painful as it has been at times, I have peace because I have released them into God’s hands. I cannot protect them from everything or control what happens to them, but I can continue to trust God.
‘So now I give her to the Lord.
For her whole life she shall be given over to the Lord.’
1 Samuel 1:28