A Personal Essay From Tamika Fuller…Fighting For My Daughter: Power, Wealth, And Hip-Hop
By Tamika Fuller
There is nothing like the very first moment a woman connects with the child growing inside of her womb. Those first stirrings of life may be barely visible to some people, but when I found out that I was pregnant with my baby, my heart immediately made room for her in my life. I would sit in the stillness and wait for a sign from her like I was waiting to hear the voice of God.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for her father. And having him rip my baby from me feels like an act of willful violence that reoccurs every single day that I wake up and realize that she’s not by my side.
Let me start from the beginning.
When I found out that I was pregnant two years ago, I immediately told Chris. The world knows him as an internationally famous Hip-Hop artist and actor (Ludacris), but despite the hurtful things said about me, that’s not why I was attracted to him. We had been good friends for many years, and when he told me he was newly single in spring 2013 we became intimate. Things took an ugly turn, however, when I found myself unexpectedly throwing up in his bathroom, and ultimately learning that I was pregnant.
The psychological manipulation began immediately. He broke down in tears when I told him that I wanted to keep our baby, and he begged me to abort the child whose heartbeat was developing in rhythm with my own. He told me that it would destroy his career and his image. I contemplated heavily on terminating my pregnancy. I don’t believe in forced parenthood or trapping anyone into raising an unwanted child. However, when I visited the clinic and heard my daughter’s heartbeat on the ultrasound, I knew I couldn’t go through with it.
He promised me the world – trips on his private jet and other perks of the rich and famous – if I would just have the abortion. He made me feel as if I was ruining us. It was as if he believed that our friendship should take precedence over the life growing inside of me and when he realized that it didn’t, it couldn’t, my real nightmare began.
I am fully aware that people often assume an average woman who gets herself impregnated by a celebrity is a gold-digger looking for a quick and easy payday. However, contrary to popular belief, I was fully cognizant that I was going to be a single mother. I knew that he was not going to be involved – I was okay with that. I went through my entire pregnancy alone and worked full time with no support from him. Most of the people in my circle never even knew he was the father until our court case made headlines. Deep down, even though I knew he never wanted the baby, I was hurt at the idea that there was a real possibility that my daughter’s father might not be part of her life. I thought that he would accept our daughter’s impending arrival and want to take part in the process, but I now know that thinking was naive.
Knowing that he had no desire to have a baby, imagine my surprise when he filed for physical custody of our daughter and a judge ruled in his favor. I was stunned, devastated, and overwhelmed. I asked myself over and over again, “How could this happen to me?” What had I done wrong? It felt as if I were screaming into howling winds and no one could hear me say, “I’m a good mother. I love my daughter. I’m a good mother. I love my daughter.”
What kind of mother gets her child taken away from her? I only cut back on my work hours following my maternity leave to ensure that I had enough time to spend with my daughter during the first year of her life. However, it was this financial reasoning along with events that transpired 20 years ago in my teens that were the justifications used when issuing the decision. The retribution continued to roll in because apparently taking away my child wasn’t enough of a punishment. I was then denied assistance with lawyer fees and told that her father needed to authorize the pictures I posted on my personal social media page. As I apologized to my friends and family for not being able to share imagery of the evolution of my child, I scratched my head: What does Instagram censoring have to do with disparate income levels? Subsequently, I now have no child, no First Amendment rights, and I’m in debt to the tune of six figures.