“I am 38, have five kids, and just became a grandmother. My oldest son recently became a father at age 17 and the mother of his child was 15. I became pregnant at 19 and had my son at 20. I wasn’t prepared, but I wasn’t as young as the teenagers having babies now. My son and his girlfriend broke up, but he wants to be in the baby’s life. She didn’t have any support after she got pregnant. Their situation inspired me to start Ambitiously Him & Her to help teenage parents because it takes two parents to make a child and two parents to raise a child, even if they aren’t together anymore. My son never had a father in his life. He was so scared of being a dad and messing up so we are teaching them how to co-parent. I told him to go to every doctor visit because I never had support at doctor visits and know how hard that is. They didn’t have a car and walked to the appointments on the days the couldn’t get a ride. My son doesn’t want his baby’s mother to go through the things I did raising kids alone. I told him we are going to take our fears and tears and do something amazing.
Teens are younger having babies. Some aren’t old enough to drive, get a job, or assistance and they don’t know how to be a parent. Something is often missing in their lives and they are looking for acceptance and love. I was disowned when I got pregnant the first time and felt like a disgrace to my family because i was always different and the black sheep. I wanted to have my own kids to have someone to love because I felt like no one else loved or accepted me. In the black community, when we have disappointment, we get resentment, throw up our hands, and walk away. We are so disappointed with our kids for doing what we didn’t want them to do and say, ‘That is not the way I raised you. Go somewhere else with that.’ We forget we were that child at one point. When my son first found out he was going to be a father, he was scared I was going to put him out. I had a moment of drama and thought that was going to end everything. But then I remembered that it didn’t end for me or for my grandmother or my mom who got pregnant when they were teenagers and raised babies on their own. We have to be able to accept our kids with their issues and help them through.
I started Ambitiously Him & Her in June to help teenage parents get some of the things they need to raise a baby and teach them life skills. We go from ages 13 through 19, but I will help others if they need it. We have helped 12 parents so far. Some are ashamed and embarrassed that they need help, or they are scared of being honest and getting in trouble. They don’t know how to ask for help. They don’t have maternity clothes and unbutton the pants of their school uniforms as the baby grows. When I was alone and reaching out for help for my kids, there was an outpouring of help and love from my community. I realized I needed to do this for other kids, not just mine. People see a post on social media and they give clothes, car seats, strollers, formula, and baby beds. My kids’ teachers send things home with them. It is all day every day. There is a group of supporters that Cash Apps me $5 every time we need formula. We don’t just give items away. We start out with a consultation to assess their needs and the resources we need to help them with. I start with teaching them responsibility as a parent. We have a resource check off list with AIDS Alabama South, the Teen Center and DESI Career Training Program and they have to go to one of these and get a supervisor to sign off. When they turn that in, they get a baby voucher for items they need.
Teen parents from California and Africa have sent me messages for help because no one is there for them. I mailed the young lady in California a box full of stuff for her baby. Now we send a box every month to a teen parent from another state. My kids are 18, 17, 14, 11 and 3 and helping other people is now what we do as a family. We live in a townhome and donations are everywhere. This building was an old studio that was no longer used and the owner was just letting it go, so we moved in here. It is a good location in Prichard because many of these parents don’t have transportation and they can walk here.
One day I want to have this whole building and add a food pantry and classrooms. I want to have classes for fathers because they have never been taught how to hold and talk to a baby or the importance of being present for their kids. Some teen parents tell me they don’t want donations, they just need support. I sit at doctor’s appointments with them and show them how to fill out paperwork because no one is teaching them how to do this. I guide them to the resources they need. We do free resumes for ones trying to get jobs. I had a 19-year-old girl leave an abusive relationship and move back in with her mom because every day I was feeding her positivity and reminding her she has kids to live for. They call me Mrs. Reality because I help kids deal with real life. A lot of kids call me Mama, too because I helped raise my kids’ friends. My big dream is to have a home for teenage parents and help them start their lives a better way.
I have never been hooked on drugs, but helping people is a high for me. Each parent who feels a little better because someone cares about them, or each donation of someone trying to help. That feels so good that I want to do it again and again. When I have a bad day, I come here and fold clothes and that reminds me of my purpose. I just changed jobs to deliver for Amazon to make more money to help support Ambitiously Him and Her. We are not a non-profit, so the $200 rent and expenses come out of my pocket. I adopted my baby from my sister because she couldn’t take care of him. He has cerebral palsy and they told me he wouldn’t be able to walk or talk or do sign language, but the lady at United Cerebral Palsy told me not to treat him any different. He is now walking and talking. My grandson’s name is King, that is why we have the crown on the logo to remind him that he is a part of this. I have been married to a woman for 11 years and we get through all of this together.
I was a single mother for years and know what it is like to be cast out by family and judged by society, but I also know life can be more than that. My mother is now proud of me and says the Lord let her survive breast cancer twice to let her live to see me do this. She always apologizes for how she treated me, but she and my grandmother gave me strength and courage. My hard life prepared me to help others who need it. Seeing the smiles on young parents faces keep me going. My purpose is to show teenage parents they are not alone.”