I was married to my daughter’s father. He beat the crap out of me. I was in Fort Drum. He beat me because he knew I didn’t have any family there. I ran away to the bus station, I came to Buffalo. I got here, I said “I’m having pains”, so I went to the ER. Fast forward, I was in Children’s Hospital.
My grandma was like “what am I gonna do?” Because at the time, there was my grandma, my cousin, and his girl was pregnant. My worker and the director told me about all the programs Buffalo Prenatal has for new moms. I decided since I was new in Buffalo, again, and was basically homeless I’d give it a try. Then the Healthy Families worker did a home visit, and she had all these applications for income based housing. Thanks to my worker, I got into an apartment. You know how income based housing is… you’re on a waiting list for a year, two years for your name catch up to the top of the list. But my worker wrote a good letter saying I was homeless with a baby on the way. So the guy who called me from one of the apartments said “I got your letter. Are you willing to take a studio apartment until I can find you a two-bedroom? Because by law there’s supposed to be a room for you and your child”. I told him “I’ll take whatever”. I ended up with a one-bedroom apartment.
And that’s how it started. My worker… they all help you more than they’re supposed to. They’re not supposed to take you to appointments, but mine took me to every one. When my daughter was born, she helped me go to Harvest House [who supplies free baby clothes and supplies]. They helped me do what I had to do to become an independent adult. I don’t know what I would have done without you people! Now I’m about to graduate.
My worker helped me find shelter. She helped me find a home for me and my kids. I’m an adult! I’m doing this by myself! I’m working. I love you!
When I was 15, 16 I was messing with a guy that was really older. I don’t know… I was being fast. I ended up getting pregnant the next year, right after I lost my virginity. My mom- she had a boyfriend at the time, so she was always gone. She saw that I was getting older, so she thought she could go out, have fun again.
So I got pregnant the next year. I was so scared to tell my mom, because we were always close. I couldn’t tell nobody, I didn’t know who to tell, because he was really old and I didn’t want him to go to jail.
I had my baby when I was 17. When I was at the hospital, my mom kept seeing these packets and papers that said “prenatal program”.
I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to do it, because I had just had my kid, and I was really depressed. I dropped out of school. I was so miserable. I hated my life.I felt by myself. I couldn’t really eat or do anything. Then, Miss Angie, the Healthy Families worker, came.
I open up to people, but I’m kinda nervous. But once Angie came, I started talking to her. She was very different than my mom. Miss Angie always talked to me. All the time. And she told me I’d get better. She helped me get into this program where I could get my GED.
I felt like I was going to be a bad mom, because I didn’t have my GED. I didn’t have nothing. And then I had the daddy- he wasn’t there. He didn’t help me. Not at all. He was going back and forth to jail. My relationship with my mom declined. It was like she hated me. I had all these problems problems, every day, by myself. I was taking care of my kid. I was just so miserable. I couldn’t talk about it. I wanted to talk about it to somebody. I tried to talk about it to my mom. She always told me she didn’t want to talk about it.
Every time Miss Angie came, she told me we could talk about it. She really did help me A LOT. She taught me how to be a mom. She taught me how to deal with my emotions. She helped me get to where I am today.
I have my apartment now. She told me I’d get my apartment, just keep working at it. I’m about to start college. My son is four years old. He’s in public school. He’s doing really good. And I owe it all to Miss Angie. She really did help me a lot. When nobody was there , she was. She always came through and talked to me.
When I was 16 years old I had my first child. A little boy. I didn’t know nothing about raising a child, or about anything, so I knew that I had to reach out to somebody. I saw a pamphlet in Children’s [hospital] that said they could help me. I really didn’t know anything at this point about raising a child, because I was a child myself at 16. I was like “let me call the number, let me see what this is all about, let me see if it’s true”.
Marissa came out- that’s my worker right there. She came out, and she talked to me about different things I should expect as a mother with a young child. Like I said, I really didn’t know much, and she said “we can talk about anything”. I felt comfortable with her- she was warm, loving. I really didn’t have a mother around to teach me anything. She came into my life, she felt… warm. Like, I could just sit down, tell her about anything, talk to her about anything that was going on with my life. I knew that I was up against A LOT- having a baby young, not knowing much, and stuff like that.
She was like “we’re going to do this. We’re gonna sit down. We’re gonna take this one day at a time”. I looked at her and was like “oh, OK. I like that”. She brought out this paper and said “this is the goals paper. What goals do you have for yourself?”.
I’m looking around I’m like “I’m 16 years old. Not really much. What are goals?”
She’s like “let’s start with this. I want you to finish school first”
I was 16. I was a drop out, I had just come back from New York City to Buffalo.
She was like “finish school first”. That was my first goal.
I was like well, I want my son to have an educated mom. That was my main priority right there. I said “I want a house, too.”
She was like “slow down girl. We can do this. We can do this. We can do everything that you mean to do.”
So with the program, we did it. I got my high school diploma. I went back to high school, and then down the line… I did all my goals. I got my house. I bought my car. Stuff like that. With her help, definately, because if it wasn’t for her I would have been nowhere. At all. What so ever. Because I really didn’t know that much. But I knew she was my role model. When I was growing up, I didn’t have nobody. I couldn’t look up to nobody. I feel like she was my mom, my first mom, really. I’m like “Marissa, this is what’s going on. Can I get some advice about this?” And she was like “girl, you’ve got to do it like this, you’ve got to do it like that”, and stuff like that. I’m like “OK, I did it”. I’m glad to say that.
I was kindda iffy about the program because I’ve always been an independent person. I did daycare for years, so I thought I knew everything there was to know about children. But I was wrong. I was like “Oh my God, I can’t do this.” But I did it, with the help of Patricia.
My baby’s father, he took me away from my mom. So when I had him, I called Patricia from the hospital. She said “call me when you get home”. I called her when I got home. She came by, she brought this little bag and said “congratulations”. It was such a warm embrace. I called my mother later on that day. I caught her crying.
When I got home, I couldn’t hear my baby crying. If it wasn’t for my dog, putting his nose to my face, I never would have heard him cry. My baby’s father left me in the house all day. I had staples. I couldn’t move. I called my mother. In twenty minutes, she was over there, the house was cleared, and I haven’t been back over to that house. I got my dog, everything, I refuse to go back.
Patricia had everything. I wasn’t working for two months straight. When I went back to work I couldn’t see her anymore, but Patricia did the visits with my mom. I’d come through the door, and my mom was like “Pat left this paper for you today. You need to read that”. And it was good. The information was very helpful.
After I had my son I didn’t want to work with other people’s kids all day long. I never had time to see my son. My son was with my mother all day long. I worked from 5:45 in the morning til almost 4 in the afternoon. So by the time I came home it was time to cook dinner, take our baths and get ready for the next day. That’s not what I wanted to be doing.
Then we have Thereasa, who likes to catch people on the off days. It was Saturday. I don’t see anybody on Saturday! As soon as I stepped my foot out the door, Theresa was like “I need to talk to you. In the car. Pat told me you were having problems with your job. You don’t want to be there no more. Come out to Buffalo Prenatal [who runs Healthy Families NY in Buffalo]. Bring your resume. “
Within three months I graduated. My case was closed.
I love it. It’s a helpful program. I tell my girls “it’s not for everybody, but it was for me. If you’re willing to open up your minds, open up your home, we can help you expand. It’s all about what you want to accomplish. Because I will push you, and keep pushing you, until you do what you’re supposed to do.”
I like what I do. I’m where I want to be at right now. Going into these homes, visiting these girls… us, as workers, are the best supporters they can have. Some of these girls, they have nothing. To start over from the bottom, coming up, it’s hard. I know, I had to start over a couple of times. I lost two kids before I had my son. My son is my miracle child.