Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): Let’s start from the beginning; how old were you and what was taking place up to the moment you found out you were about to be a father?
Eric Smith (ES): I was a Junior in high school and I was a pretty decent athlete. I met this older girl, you know…I’m trying to be grown.
EM: How much older was she?
ES: She was about 24. I was 16 or 17.
We were cool. She would do a lot of things the girls my age wouldn’t do; spending money and doing the things I thought back then was “big time”, because nobody else was getting it.
So I brought her to meet my family one day, and my mom already had a gut feeling saying, “That’s not the one”. She said it in a roundabout way. What I didn’t know or realize at the time was that the girl already had a child, and the child was maybe about two years old…a little girl. So me being hard-headed, I was trying to do something different for maybe an EGO boost or bragging type of deal for me.
My dad used to work nights, and it was one of those situations where it was the right place and the right time. She came over, and to be honest I used protection…I’m just recalling this…and I really believe that the condom broke. Either the condom broke or I took it off for some strange reason.
So one day I’m at my mother’s house and the phone rang. She was on the other end of the phone crying. So it’s late at night, and I don’t know how to handle the situation. I ask her what’s wrong and she says that she’s pregnant. My first response was, “How do you know? For real? Yeah right. Let me see, what did you use.” She proceeded to tell me that she went to get a pregnancy test and thought that it wasn’t accurate. She went to the doctor’s office two weeks later and it turned out she’s pregnant. I’m really thrown for a loop. I’m quarterback in football and it’s the middle of football season. I’m highly recruited in basketball. So my selfish self immediately began to think about how I’m going to end up having to stay at home, because this girl is about to have this baby. I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about the situation. I couldn’t tell my dad, because I knew how strongly he felt about my athletic career and the opportunity to go beyond in sports. Therefore, it was something that I kept within and cried a lot at nighttime and would just fight the feelings. Yet, at the same time I’m talking to her every night, really trying to get an understanding of what’s going on and at the same time trying to convince her that this may not be the best time or the best moment for her to have this child. I thought I was pretty convincing, and I got to the point where I was strictly selfish about it. It wasn’t about her and the baby; it was about me and my career.
I used to travel out to see her on the weekends and we would cry together, but then again mentally I’m in a mode of convincing. I don’t know what to do, I don’t have any money, I’m going away to school and I’m getting recruited.
After some months she finally said, “Alright, I’m going to go ahead and get the abortion”. At that time, to be honest with you, I played it as if the abortion was something that was going to bother me or as if she still had an option. I was like “You can still have it, but if you love me you would see where I was coming from”.
Once the abortion happened I went off to school. There was definitely a sense of relief. She was still trying to get into the picture, and I would play it as if “I’m going to still be with you and we’ll still have an opportunity to have a kid, just not right now. Maybe in the future.”
EM: Did you accompany her to the abortion clinic?
ES: No. I was so young; I didn’t go with her to the clinic. I think I gave her half of the three hundred or so dollars. Honestly, I just assumed she did it. I didn’t really have the time to go out there, and I didn’t want anybody to know. I was kept track of around that time, so I really didn’t want people to
know what was going on inside my world.
EM: Did you speak with her immediately after the procedure?
ES: Oh yeah I did. I did have a heart to where I felt bad about it, slash selfish about. I did talk to her about it afterwards because I knew it was a big thing. I didn’t know to the extent of how big it was until I got older. So to me it was like “okay, we’re still cool”, but you could see that I was gradually, month after month, backing away and getting away from being in Texas. So I went off to school and we never really talked again.
I ran into her at least four times probably within the last ten years, and every time she mentions that baby, she mentions how she should’ve had it and how she regrets the decision, and as I got older I started to feel something inside of me…that I made the wrong decision or it was a bad decision and wondering if God will allow me another child because I’ve already sat here a made that decision on one, which could have been my blessing, you see what I’m saying? For now I don’t have any, and that’s something that I play…when I’m considering having a child…in the back of my head. I just came to realize that it wasn’t that major then, I didn’t realize what I was doing. I didn’t have the people or the resources to talk to put it to me the way that it should have been put to me.
It was a tough time, and I think that regardless if she would have had that baby or not we would have made it, regardless if I was going to be with her or not. I think that baby would have had a great life, you feel me?
EM: Yes sir.
ES: So now I just try not the think about it, and those personal things you just keep to yourself and keep moving. As guys we think we’re tough anyway, so those are the things we really don’t want to talk to people about. Number one, we’re prideful and ashamed and number two, we don’t want people to think we’re a bad person; that I just killed a baby without a conscience and you can move on with your life and it doesn’t affect you.
Now that I’m older I can…
EM: How old are you now?
ES: I’m 31. It took me 31 years to realize all of the mistakes that I’ve made, and I’m probably going to make a ton more, but it won’t be to that extent. It won’t be to that extent definitely.
EM: Has this affected any of your relationships and getting closer…
ES: Big time. I run. I don’t think I allow myself to become connected like that and I think it’s something I unconsciously do. It’s something somebody had to point out to me that “every time you feel or when you seem to get close to somebody you’ll just stop calling. You’ll just do something different”. That incident…I found that it really hit home for me and was really a touching point for me. Unconsciously, I don’t want to let anyone in, but consciously I’m open. I want to meet some body, I want to open my heart. This is something that I’m now starting to pick up on and somebody had to tell me what I was doing before I could realize what it was.
EM: What do you think would be the threat if you went ahead a let go?
ES: Most men are really, very vulnerable that they don’t want that emotional, that heart and soul to be touched because it’s a sign of weakness. I think that once you’re hurt once, guys really can’t recover. As much as we say we recover. When we’re growing up we’re taught to be “men”. We’ve been taught to be prideful. You have to control yourself. You have to be strong. You have to know how to handle situations. So anything other than that from a guy’s perspective it’s a sign of weakness; opening your heart and becoming vulnerable, telling someone how you feel and asking questions when you have a problem. To us that’s a sign of weakness. A lot of us, not all, but a lot of us have problems opening up because we were always raised to “don’t cry” or “don’t whine” or do things that were more of the opposite sex. Those things carry on. If no one ever tells you how to open up and you’re never comfortable to whom to open up to you’re just going to hold everything in.
A lot of guys, including myself, have problems with relationships today, because we just don’t want to get hurt. Hurting us is kind of like…you can take all our money and you could do probably the worst things to us, but when you touch our heart or when you touch our soul…it’s like all that other stuff just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s the worst feeling ever. Even with my kid, when I finally realized what had happened, what I’ve done and the decision I was pushing, it hurt me. It hurt to the point where it was saying, “That’s your blood. That was someone that was a representation of you that you just didn’t even give a chance to live in this world. So now it’s like do you open yourself up to that hurt again? Or do you just kind of ease your way in to get better but never really let someone get to know the person you are?
EM: So now at the age of 31, what would you say to that 16 year old who comes to you and says “this is what I have going on, this is the situation I’m in, what should I do”?
ES: Talk to somebody, anybody that you can confide in. Talk to a mentor. Go to church and talk to the pastor. Talk to someone that won’t tell your business, but at the same time who can give you an honest and educated opinion about the right and the wrong, the do’s and the don’ts. They’re not telling you what to do, they’re just giving you options. So before I would tell anybody to go through that situation, number one, you should prevent it by not doing it (sex) especially at 16 years old. You’ve got so much ahead of you and that is just a minor aspect of life. Number two, if you decide to take on a grown up’s responsibility talk to somebody. Be a grown up about it. If you’re going to do it as a grown up or as an adult talk and handle it as an adult. Don’t do an adult thing and handle it as a child. Although you know people are going to have some harsh things to say and a lot of people have different opinions, you’ve got to accept that. However get your options. Consult with someone. Never leave the person you’re in the relationship with out of the loop. Eventually it’s you two together regardless, because it’s you two that have to make that tough decision. I wouldn’t advise killing any child, but I do understand that there are people who can’t take care of a child after they bring it into this world and there are options for that too. That’s why I’m saying to weigh your options before you even attempt to make a drastic decision about somebody’s life.
EM: What would you say to those young girls and women who are in that position as well?
ES: I would tell them the same thing I would tell the brothers, just in a different way. Sisters, your body is gold. What most guys want whether it’s now or later is your body. Number one, this stuff can affect your health.
This stuff can affect you mentally and physically and in the long run. Number two, you have to make sure that this is something you want to do and this is someone you want to be with. With sisters, they’re going to mature a lot faster than guys. Their idea of what they want in a man is going to change, regardless if you’re in love in elementary school, middle school, high school or college their idea of the man that they want is going to change. Whether it’s having a little bit of the father, a little bit of the uncle or a little bit of their friends the older they get the more they will change what they like. So give yourself an opportunity to live your life. Don’t take your youth for granted, because you will be older trying to relive your youth. That’s why we have marriages doing what they’re doing today, and a lot of them aren’t working.
We don’t see the old people or the grandparents who we could talk to about these situations around, because all of our grandparents are 30 years old. So now you just have to be smarter about your choices. It’s kind of like eating food. Back in the day we could eat chicken in grease and didn’t really care about congestive heart failure, but now they’re preaching eat healthy because the life of expectancy will be a lot longer. The world is evolving. As good as it feels, and as lustful as you probably feel, you have to think twice. If you decide to take on that responsibility at least be safe.
EM: So what would you tell the woman, who would have been the mother, now that you see everything clearer; the decision that you pressed and all that you went through, what would you say to her?
ES: I would let her know one thing guys don’t understand is honest is the key. We think that we can lie to get out of things when a lot of times all you have to do is tell the truth regardless if they like it or not, at least you’re being honest. So I would, now that I’m older, be honest; this is what it is, and I would put it on the table and I would give her the option to accept it and deal with or not accept it. However, this is a part of you and this is a part of who I am, and it’s something that’s important enough and will impact my life. I want you to know about it.
EM: Whenever you see her and she says what she says, do you ever respond to her?
ES: I try not to, because it rehashes everything from back then instead of
“how are you doing today” or “how is everything going today”. I don’t want to just leave that in the past, but I don’t want to bring up those feelings. The older you get the more it hurts, because you start thinking about it more and pondering on it. So when I do see her, whether it’s at a Wal-Mart or a gas station, she always tells me that she should have had it. We always talk about how we got to that point. I’ve apologized for being that forceful with her about that situation. I wish I would’ve handled it better. You can’t make that wrong right, but you at least try to make it better. I don’t want her to feel as though I was disrespecting her or that I didn’t care about her. I know that’s a big thing on a woman, because you’re the one who has to carry this baby. Men, we can just sit back and let you have it and not be attached to it. But for women, this is your body. This is somebody that’s a part of your body, that’s a different connection then what most men have with their children.
It’s something that I don’t try to think about very often, but I just try to learn from my mistakes and do better the next time. This is really my first time speaking out about it. That just goes to show you how long we’ll keep it in. I was 16…. My mother had answered the phone and heard the whole conversation; the girl crying, me crying… it’s midnight or a little later than that, and I had a phone upstairs. So not only did she pick up the phone she listened to the whole conversation. That was the day that changed everything, because when I came out of the room, acting like I had to go use the restroom but really just to wipe my face, she came out of her room and said, “Handle that”. It wasn’t a handle it in this way or that way, she just said, “Handle it. You want to be an adult, handle it”. That’s something that she and I have kept to ourselves from then on. She’s never told anyone else about it, I don’t think, because no one ever mentioned it to me. It was something between she and I. I didn’t want my dad to be disappointed in me, because he used to always preach, “Don’t get none of these girls pregnant.” That’s why I love my mom to this day, because it was something that I didn’t want to go in depth about, but once she found out about it, she just said handle it and there was no more discussion about it, which surprised me. I thought I would have gotten the third degree, but she never told anybody. If you have a mom to talk to like that, if she’s just cool and will give you the truth, then do that. But talk to a brother or an uncle; someone who won’t run and tell your business to your family.
Talk to someone who is not going to taint your image but will give you your options, because they don’t want anyone to look down on them and judge you behind that. That’s why so many people are afraid to talk about it, because you really just don’t want anybody to look down on you. Image is all you got, your word is all you got and you really want to keep that clean.
Talk to someone who will give you some real options and not tell you what to do. Make your own decision. This is the decision you made anyway and you have to live with it. Before you make that decision, I want to give you A, B,C, and D. Therefore, whatever you choose, you made that decision and you and the young lady made that decision. I think that it’s only right and fair for the child. At least give him a 50/50 chance.
EM: Yes sir. Is there anything else you want to add?
ES: Thank you for allowing me to get this off of my chest (laughing).
EM: It was indeed a pleasure and an honor.