Pregnant Jeannie Mai Says Childhood Sexual Abuse Made Her Question Whether She Was 'Meant to Be a Mom'
Jeannie Mai Jenkins never thought motherhood was in her future, and she'd made peace with that.
Now, however, The Real co-host is eagerly expecting her first baby with husband Jeezy, who she says completely shifted her outlook on her future and made her comfortable with starting a family. In a new episode of her Hello Hunnay with Jeannie Mai YouTube channel, premiering exclusively with PEOPLE, Mai Jenkins explains how she came to have a shift in perspective on the topic of babies.
"I was always — and still am — very protective of women and people who don't want to have kids," she says. "I don't like the guilt and the pressure that's placed on women to have children. Just because we're women, it means that we have the choice; it doesn't mean that we have to have children."
The television personality later gets emotional in the video while explaining how "trust issues" kept her from wanting to become a mom. Mai Jenkins has previously opened up about her childhood trauma of being sexually abused by a family member for five years and not being believed by those meant to protect her.
She says the reason she always was adamant about not having kids is because "I didn't trust myself" to protect her future child from what happened to her at a young age.
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"As a child, when you are taken from things that feel good and whole and safe, it's hard to see anything as trustworthy moving forward. I realize that the reason I didn't want to have kids is because that feeling when I was a kid was so real and so damaging to the point that I'm 42 today still dealing with trust issues and confidence."
Adds the mom-to-be, "It still scares me whether or not I can keep a kid safe from someone else who might hurt them."
The star shares what she learned through counseling: "People who've really bad trauma, they're constantly burdened with this fear that something bad is going to happen next. ... What I've determined to do is face my fears and do everything I can to understand where it comes from so that I know it's not real."
Mai Jenkins recalls meeting Jeezy and getting to know him, saying that it "seemed relieving that there was no pressure on either side" to have children together (he already was a dad to two kids). Soon, she fell into a new kind of love with Jeezy that opened her visions of their life in the future, including building a family together.
She says that she and Jeezy want to "build anew" for their baby and provide a childhood "we never had."
"I'm so thankful because I've never felt this ready. I've been through so much, and I've survived and I'm shining. My heart is ready," she says of awaiting her "pride and joy" baby, adding, "I was meant to be a mom."
In 2019, Mai Jenkins told PEOPLE about having "anxiety with social situations and trust issues today that follow me everywhere I go" due to her past trauma.
RELATED VIDEO: How Jeannie Mai Overcame Being Abused at 9 — and Forgave Her Mom for Not Believing Her
"The first time I was told as a child that what I saw or felt wasn't true, that was the first time I learned not to trust myself," Mai said at the time about being raped at 9 years old by a teenage relative who babysat her. "When I look at the five years that he abused me, I believed him over myself. Then, when I looked to my mom for help, her dismissing of the situation taught me to dismiss my intuition."
At 16, Mai ran away from home, and she didn't speak to her mother for eight years, though they've since reconciled.
She told PEOPLE at the time about her mental health struggles, "I know it comes from that feeling of not being safe in my own home for those five years and because the two people that I thought I could trust most let me down when I was young. These issues keep following me into my work life, my friendships and my relationships, and I'm sick of it. I don't want to be 41, 44, 58 and still dealing with this heavy a-- cloud over me because of what happened to me when I was 9."
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.
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