Tamika Fuller, the mother of Chris Bridges (a.k.a rapper Ludacris)’s daughter Cai Bella [conceived out of girlfriend lock]’s bridges over her troubled waters keep managing to stay strong despite her tries and pleas (which reportedly, as of this week, is about to cost her monetarily).
In the meantime and in between time since we last blogged about Fuller and Ludacris, the rapper has since then gotten married and is currently awaiting the birth of his new child with (now-wife) Eudoxie which came much to the surprise of many as, before the announcement-Tamika reportedly thought the marriage to be a fake and ploy to build bridges in favor of Bridges–to basically make him look like more than just a rapper with a girlfriend, but too, a rapper with a wife and strong family unit–to look good for the judge while in court (see 19:00-23:00 of footage atop OSF big screen).
Be that as it may, or may not be-it worked as, Atlanta judge Doris L. Downs served up quite the downer in deed, indeed: Granted the rapper full custody of Fuller and Ludacris’ (now) two year-old daughter Cai Bella.
After which (last week), Tamika Fuller penned an open letter to the public-telling her side of the story in hopes that the public would hear her cries and understand:
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.
I walked into that courtroom believing that no one would take a child from a good mother; I walked out knowing that, in some cases, money is greater than motherhood and being good isn’t always good enough. It wasn’t until I began to do the research that I realized that the stigma attached to a mother losing custody of her child, the stigma I attached to myself, is not based in fact. According to author and researcher Phyllis Chesler, “For more than 5,000 years, men (fathers) were legally entitled to sole custody of their children. Women (mothers) were obliged to bear, to rear, and economically support children. Mothers were never legally entitled to custody of their own children.”
In her book, Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody, Chesler found that 70 percent of fathers who fight for custody win, regardless of the father’s character or even if he’s an active part of the child’s life. The perception of mothers who retain custody of their children is flawed. They don’t all have their children because the courts decided that they were the better parent, but rather, the fathers didn’t fight for custody. So when a father does fight for custody, male patriarchal privilege rears its ugly head. He’s rewarded for being the rare unicorn that wants to raise his child so much that he goes to court.
Now, place those statistics and that history and situate them in Hip-Hop loving Atlanta where Chris is a favorite son. Throw in my less than ideal financial state and accusations that I had abandoned my first child, and I never stood a chance.
Let’s be clear: I never left my eldest daughter. I got pregnant with her when I was a senior in high school. She was raised by my family for a few years, as is the case in many families who pull together in times of need. In many African-American homes, there is still very much a village mentality when it comes to rearing children. The support system and love my child received is immeasurable. Still, I was placed in the position of having to defend myself when I have been a present, involved, and loving mother for more than a decade. My oldest daughter and I are in a great place, but Chris and his attorneys made it seem as if I dropped her off on someone’s doorstep and never worried about her again.
And it worked. His strategy to malign me in order to gain custody of our child, which was only done to avoid having to report his finances and pay me adequate child support (like he does for all his other children), was malicious and cruel. But it worked. They didn’t focus on my life with my daughter and the round-the-clock care I provided for her. They didn’t focus on the breastfeeding (which had to end because the stress of this situation severely affected my milk supply). They didn’t focus on the love. Instead, they dredged up and manipulated the facts of my past to make me look like a degenerate. The irony here is that he suggested that my older daughter was psychologically damaged because of my absence, but here he is, trying to make me absent in the life of our daughter.
I was a product of a blended household, and I know the psychological damage that can come with that paradigm. According to some statistics, step-children face a dismal upbringing. They may have to battle jealousy and other negative emotions, step-sibling rivalries, as well as parental guilt. Of course, there are also examples of emotionally healthy and thriving blended families, but my fear has always been that my daughter will experience trauma.
Unfortunately, my custody situation with my daughter’s wealthy and powerful father, and the court system that loves him is not unique. Tameka Raymond had to go through it with her famous ex-husband and father of two of her children, R&B singer Usher Raymond. Royce Reed had to go through it with her child’s father, NBA player Dwight Howard. Pilar Sanders lost custody of her three children in favor of her ex-husband, NFL legend Deion Sanders.
There is a favoritism shown to wealthy, male celebrities. If they even pretend to act like they care, even if the evidence clearly shows otherwise, they’re rewarded. Their lies are excused, and their past mistakes are viewed as growth while mistakes made by “regular” women many years ago are weapons used against them.
Norma Mitchell, ex-wife of R&B singer Tyrese has been locked in legal disputes with him over the custody arrangement for their daughter. Something she said recently really resonated with me: “A lot of men with money and more power, especially with passive women, are using the legal system to abuse these women. Then they can point the finger and say, ‘Look at her, she’s crazy,’ because one day you just explode and can’t take it anymore.”
I feel that’s exactly what happened to me. He used the legal system as revenge, to spite me. This man never visited our daughter, never called to inquire about her well-being, and never even sent her a gift until the court battle began. You want me to believe that a man who turned down an invitation to witness the birth of our daughter has unexpectedly developed such deep-rooted paternal feelings that he feels compelled to take her out of my arms at night for 20 days out of the month? Even more callous, he knows I cry myself to sleep without her in my bed at night, the pain of her absence overwhelming. I try to call just to hear her voice, but he directs my calls to voicemail. He warned me that he would resent me for not having the abortion, and that’s what I saw in that courtroom. I didn’t see a man who loved his child so much that he wanted custody. I saw a man who hated his child’s mother so much that he would take custody away from her.
This experience almost destroyed me, but I won’t let that happen. I also never want another woman to feel as alone and hunted as I’ve felt throughout this process, so I am starting a foundation for mothers who are in similar situations. I want to provide support for women who are pregnant and aren’t receiving help from the father of their child. I also plan to provide resources that will educate women on how to have a safe and healthy pregnancy while under seemingly insurmountable stress. My organization will guide low-income mothers to financial assistance as well. When this journey first started, I was only advocating for myself, now I feel compelled to provide a voice for the voiceless.
Regardless of what a judge decides, having less money than the father does not mean that a mother cannot adequately care for her child. And we should not be penalized for not being wealthy in a misogynistic society that is financially hostile toward women. I want women out there who are going through this or who will go through this to understand that I hear you. I am you.
Many people in comment sections and blogs have attempted to paint me as a jealous villain intent on destroying his relationship with his new wife, which could not be further from the truth. I am genuinely happy for them. But surely his wife understands that I want the opportunity to parent my daughter every day as she will get to do with hers.
In a perfect world, we could co-parent amicably. This is not the path that I would have chosen, but I am not giving up my daughter without a fight. Infants should not be taken from their birth mothers when they are fit and able to provide for them. I may not be able to supply my daughter with private jets and other high-end luxuries, but she will have everything that she needs.
Most importantly, she will have me. The mother who anticipated her every kick, who nursed her at her breast, who prays for her every night. She will have the mother who dreamed about her arrival and who has loved her wildly since she was still a stardust.
And there is no price tag that a court can place on that.
To learn more about the plans I have for my organization or if you’re a pregnant or new mom who wants to share your custody story with me, please contact me at email@example.com. We’re all in this together.
…As well, Fuller set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with funding to start an organization for other women sharing her story, plight, or experience and as well-to try and win her daughter back.
Last week, (the Petitioner-Tamika Fuller)’s motion for an appeal (to gain custody of her daughter back) was denied and too, the judge who denied her duties as a mom reportedly explained in the 5 page order-her reason why she denied Tamika’s motion for a new trial.
In addition to that (and add insult to jury) judge Downer also ordered Tamika Fuller to pay Ludacris’ attorney’s fees and basically charges to a game [that] Tamika’s pleas, and efforts are all an attempt to publicly damage Ludacris (the Respondent).
That reasoning may very well have to do with previous court docs released in January 2014 where in it, it was noted that Fuller was demanding a car and threatening “unwarranted publicity regarding her pregnancy.”
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