Terry-Ann Bodden's roller-coaster journey - From despair to victory
With no formal high-school education, five children before the age of 25, a mentally challenged son, a son gunned down by police, and the frightening experience of being held in a United States jail cell, Terry-Ann Bodden stands tall today as the recent recipient of a bachelor's degree in social work.
She has been to hell and back. Her story, so gripping, you will wonder how this woman didn't crumble under the pressure.
How did she endure years of abuse from partners and family members? How did she rise with a spirit that shouted, 'I must become someone great and I will'?
She tells it all to Family & Religion.
"I grew up all over the place. I was born in Kingston, then I went to St Catherine when I was eight years old. I lived with my mother at one point, then my aunt at one point and my grandmother ... While I was living with my mother, I was basically living on my own as she was hardly there. She was self-centred and negligent, and I would always hear that she got me when she was young, so I guess she had her whole life ahead of her ... ."
Trade of dressmaking
Bodden went to live with her great-grandmother in St James at the age of 10 and left to live with her grandmother at age 15 to learn the trade of dressmaking. All throughout that period, she never stepped foot in a high school. Instead, she soon needed to learn the art of motherhood.
"Where I went to learn sewing, it was a big yard and they sent me next door to take care of a little girl. There was a man there and he came to my room one night nothing happened but I told my grandmother what had happened and she said to me in these exact words, 'Go back down there because if anything happen to you, they have money can fix it'. I grew up having respect for my elders and I didn't say anything: I just did as I was told."
Nothing happened at the home but this man, about six years her senior, sought to, on occasions, make her feel as though she could trust him not knowing his ulterior motive.
Bodden said after they went out one New Year's Eve it was too late to return home and he opted to stay over at a hotel.
"It never crossed my mind that he would want sex. I was totally naive and I gave in because of fear, it's not something I wanted but I just stood there. The morning I got up I felt so dirty, I didn't go back to his house, I walked back to my grandmother's house."
As time progressed Terry-Ann became withdrawn, her mood changed, her sleep patterns changed, her grandmother's backyard garden was her place of solace, but not for long.
'You cyan tan yah. Any weh yuh go ketch u belly, yuh betta carry it back deh', were the words spoken to her by her grandmother.
You can't stay here
She had no idea she was pregnant. She left to live with her aunt, but was very uncomfortable as a man there started making advances, and her aunt told her she could stay there no longer.
Bodden left to live with her great-grandmother and she had her first baby while there.
"Life was tough: I had very little to give the baby: everyday it was cornmeal porridge, and soon, the father kept coming by asking about his child. I ended up living with him so he would provide for his child, but deep down, I hated him. I got a work at a brassiere factory and I decided to leave this man. One day he came there looking for me, and I took the baby and ran away."
"I met a man who said he would put us up, but soon after that, 'put up' meant more and I couldn't manage, so I left. Life got harder and harder. I met another man, had two children for him, and the abuse started, so I had to leave. He kept saying I shouldn't have left with his children, and so I sent our two boys to live with him.
Church became a panacea to Bodden's worries, but nothing could heal her broken heart after her second son was shot and killed.
"He was my heartbeat, and I blamed myself for his death. He wasn't innocent, but it tore my heart out for not being more involved in his life."
Bodden later got married, thrice. The first marriage she described as undesiundesirablehe second she hails as the best thing that could ever happen to her.
"I had two kids for him and he treated his kids the same as my other kids, he was just great, but an incident occurred while on his job once and it affected him badly. He could no longer be around and so it caused the separation, but to date we are best of friends. I later ended up in my third marriage and had my sixth son."
Prior to this,, Bodden knew her life could no longer continue on such a trajectory and she decided to make be the change she need to see.
"I decided to do some CXC subjects. I had never gone into a high school, but I decided I had to learn. I got the books, never went to an evening school, signed up, paid the fee, and taught myself the material. The first time, around I got three CXCs, and I sought entry into a degree programme."
After gaining two more subjects the road seemed clearer, but, more roadblocks were just around the bend.
They came in the form of detention in a holding cell in the US, the death of her mother, the admission of her son in a mental health facility, and coming very close to a massive heart attack all while pursuing her course of study.
The episodes in her horror story wrecked the relationship she had with God. She vowed never to serve him again. But as the trials came, so did a mental change.
Next week we share with you Part 2, of how this powerful woman triumphed over her trials.