I have recently been appointed to the Board of Directors of my local Planned Parenthood Chapter, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. It is an honor to be involved with a group I hold in such esteem. Since 1938 Planned Parenthood has helped millions of women and men take control over their sexual health. Not only does Planned Parenthood provide excellent, affordable, medical care, they have made a commitment to educating young women and men about their health, their choices, and the power they have to create their own futures.
At our board orientation meeting I was introduced to the two other new board members, and some of the staff of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. The first order of business was to go around the table and say who we were and why Planned Parenthood was a charity important to us as individuals. I said something about being a mom, and caring about kids, my husband was mayor of our village, we're into this kind of thing, blah, blah, blah, I was nervous. What I said was true, but it wasn't my whole truth.
The truth is, I want every person to have opportunities that I feel I missed out on. My parents suffered from mental illness and substance abuse problems. My sister and I were the victims of physical and mental abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. As a result we had no intrinsic sense of worth. As many children who grow up this way do, I took it out on myself. I was sexually promiscuous. I thought I could make boys love me by giving them sex. I didn't consider my health or well-being. I didn't consider what I wanted, and there was no one to tell me I should. I ended up getting pregnant and getting married very young, far before I was equipped to do either of those things.
By the time my children were 3 and 6, I was a divorced single mom with no money and few prospects. I scraped by. I worked the hours my kids were sleeping or in school. I sometimes had childcare, and I hate to admit this, I sometimes left them alone. I didn't always have enough money for groceries. I once stole money from the PTA for milk. My children had health insurance through their father, but I was uncovered. My only medical care came from Planned Parenthood, where I was given excellent care and treated with dignity at a time in my life when my most predominant feeling was shame.
My two amazing children are now 19 and 22. We made it! We worked really hard, we had incredible luck, and we had a lot of help. In 2008 I met my now husband and our lives changed dramatically. My husband put a secure roof over our heads, puts food on our table, and has provided my children with college educations. He also came with two of his own really fantastic children who are now 20 and 18, and trusted me to help raise them. He helped me learn that I am valuable and have something to offer the world. One of the things I am most grateful for is the opportunity to pay back the people who helped me when I needed it.
All people are valuable and have something to offer. What they need is the opportunity and the encouragement. Planned Parenthood provides sexual and reproductive healthcare, education, information, and outreach to more than five million women, men, and adolescents worldwide each year. They treat each woman, man, and child, no matter their race, religion, sexual identity, or socio economic status with dignity and kindness. Plus they provide the very highest quality reproductive health care. I am so very proud to be associated with this amazing organization, and I am looking forward to helping them help young people the way they helped me.