I was watching my brother when the cramps started that afternoon. By 7:30, I was at the hospital. By midnight, I was administered an epidural. That finally let me sleep. But when I woke up at 2 and couldn’t feel my legs, I started freaking out. For the next nine hours, I kept track of my contractions as they intensified from 16 minutes apart to 1 minute, down to 30 seconds, resulting in more pain, but I didn’t want to take too much medication. “The baby’s coming!” I told the nurse, at around 11, but she didn’t believe me. Sure enough, I was 10 centimeters dilated. And sure enough, around 11:45 am, the doctors and obstetric nurses came running in. “Push! Push!” they said. Then it was as if I had a flashback of my whole pregnancy, my earlier life, and what I wanted for the future.

From the start, my self-esteem issues were always there. They made me the target of bullying. Yet within my social isolation lay the core of my future calling… and my inner strength.

Growing up, my dad worked in a hospital, so I used to make rounds with him and stop and say hi to patients. I loved doing it so much that I asked if I could stay in the adult day care. I helped with arts and crafts, distributed the meals, and enjoyed myself with the patients. Similarly, at home, when my mom would get sick, my dad would cater to her every need, and she did the same for him: old Caribbean and Southern remedies: soups, medication and lots of love was always involved to get one another back to health. It didn’t take me long to realize I was meant to be a nurse, and eventually, how to deal with bullies. Now, whenever I would get picked on in school, I would go to the BOCES room, and play with the disabled and special needs children and help the staff with making their meals. Kids used to laugh at me for it, but I felt happy when I would go there, so I just kept coming. Throughout the years, when a program began to grow up around my ongoing involvement, I received the “Young Staff Member” award for my contributions. My dad accompanied me and I enjoyed it a lot.

I knew I had become pregnant when school started in the fall. I was a senior, with graduation in August on the horizon. I was scared, but at the same time, I knew I was well prepared to have a child. Still, at first, I kept my condition from my mother, because her reflex reaction always is to tear me down. She has her issues, and it’s taken me years not to take her cutting words to heart. But I told my teachers and family advocate at Stamford Academy right away; they were all 100% supportive. To prepare myself to be financially independent, I found a part-time job as a sales associate at Macy’s in the mall. But but then I ended up working full time – overnight shifts which included my carrying and unpacking boxes, putting the clothes out and fixing the models, helping out customers and, in certain situations, translating in Spanish.

At first, it took its toll on me. I had trouble waking up. Mr. Hosny, my math teacher was particularly sympathetic. By the time I told my mother, I was prepared. I even moved myself into a residential facility in Norwalk. It was a good experience for me, and I’m trying to go back now.

…And now it was time to P-U-S-H!

And then, at 11:55 a.m., Ava was here, all 7 pounds 5 ounces, 19 and a half inches of her… with me ready to be the mother that I’ve always dreamed of being… supporting and loving and uplifting… keeping everyone spiritually strong and letting her know that her father and I love her… and that we will always be here for her and support any decision that she makes.

A big part of loving yourself is maturity, I will tell her when the time comes. At a point in your life you have to realize that someone calling you ugly, fat, or saying that you’re too black, won’t stop you from getting into college, it wont stop you from getting a job, a home or the career that you want. When you focus on you and not on what people say, that’s when you gain your strength and learn to never give up and, whenever you can’t find the answers, pray. That has always made me stronger.

I am 19 as I write this. I will be 20 on May 31st, and I am a mother of a 3-week and 2-day old. It feels amazing even staying up at night. I love it. I love every bit of it, from the spit up on my clothes to the crying to her trying to talk already, and her being so alert and smart she just makes me really happy. She’s so funny! She’s doing so much and she’s not even a month old. It’s the greatest things that I could ever ask for.

I’m looking forward to starting school as soon as possible and attending NCC. I am starting a 3-month EMT Paramedic class next week that will certify me, and will be in this special unit so I’m really excited for that. Lawrence, Ava’s father, has gotten a job and is doing extremely well. He’s very tired, he’s working crazy hours, but he tells me every day it’s worth it because it is all for Ava. I believe that we are a great set of parents and we’re doing the best we can, but we will push further to the best of our ability to be the best parents in this world.

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