It was a townhouse style in a complex of over 80 apartments just like it. I had advocated to get myself in. Collecting each of those reference letters had been both tiresome and delightful. Reading each letter of recommendation renewed the faith I had in myself, as the counselor I had entrusted with was still steadily trying to knock me down. As if her sole purpose was to pull down the curtains of confidence I had built and expose me as what she was prejudiced to believe a teen mother must me.
The letters the community wrote on my behalf were beautiful. They really kept me from being discouraged. Between the counselor and on-going issues with the father of my unborn baby, it would have been easy to get mad and give up, because at time I felt like I was just being attacked every time I turned around.
I had a very special parent aid at that time who took me on as more than a case, but treated me as family and looked after me as such. She was a great advocate, and a pillar of support to me at that time. She would call and check in with me and I could call her day or night. Again, with the support of her, my family, my friends and others in the community I was fighting the battle against this counselor as I prepared for the birth of my son and started my new life in my very first place.
I still walked everywhere. I went on and off again to adult ed classes and we went to playgroups everyday we could find one. We took walks over to my friend's houses. Usually Stephanie who'd had a beautiful baby girl or to my friend Caryl's, who lived in the same complex, her parents lived in the complex as well. We walked to the grocery store whenever we needed groceries or to the laundry mat when ever we had dirty laundry which was a lot. Sometimes to my dad's house which was not too far away and sometimes to bigger playgrounds if it wasn't too cold, but by that point it mostly was. It was winter in Connecticut, we'd moved in in November, celebrated our first Christmas in our new place and my baby was due in January.
We didn't have much at first but I enjoyed cleaning the house everyday. I loved taking DeAna to the playground to play with other children anytime of the day. I was slowly and cautiously meeting my neighbors. I signed up to be on the neighborhood crime watch. I also attended Resident Counsel Meeting where we planned events for our little community.
I was learning to cook although I unsure of my self. A usual dinner was chicken breasts and a vegetable for me and Deana. I could make homemade mac and cheese, and collards. I was too scared to try to cook anything like steak or a ham or a turkey. Someone gave me canned ham, I tried making that but was so worried I cook it wrong and would get sick, I threw it away. At lunch we would have rice and beans or pasta. Lots of Cheerios and Kix and fresh fruit. I craved orange juice all the time and still drank about a gallon of milk between me and DeAna a day. DeAna's favorite snack was a can of red beans or Garbanzo beans with a piece of cheese melted on it and a cup of Juicey juice.
I made mistakes with my first place, I didn't know not to use bleach on hard wood floors. I just knew I wanted our home clean and sanitary. So I quickly managed to ruin the freshly lacquered wood floors in our living room. I fell down the stairs on the way to the laundry room, going down with DeAna and a basket of clothes. Thank goodness I was just a little sore, Deana didn't fall and my baby was safe inside my belly.
Our first Christmas was so happy and peaceful. I could hardly wait to wake her to open her gifts from Santa Claus. At 2 1/2, she understood more what it was about, and she was thrilled with her baby dolls,toys and books. We of course saw family Christmas Eve and Chrsitmas day, but Christmas morning was ours alone. She'd made cookies for Santa and he left her a letter in return.
Although we didn't have a lot, we had everything we needed and those first months are some of the happiest times of my life despite other obstacles. I couldn't afford cable so we watch the VHS of the Jungle book at least a hundred times over and over again. DeAna and I could be seen almost any night dancing together in the living room to the that movie. Her room of course was filled with toys and because family and friends had been so good to us, and I had been smart about keeping lay aways going throughout my 2nd pregnancy as well, my new baby would have everything he needed when he arrived.
When he arrived, things in life got worse around us, but his addition was one of the greatest blessings God could have given us. His inclusion to our lives, to my life, was the final push I needed to be all the mother I could be and get this woman and those against us gone for good.
DEANA AND GIOVANI'S FIRST ROOM IN OUR FIRST REAL PLACE
DEANA MARIAH READING BOOKS IN HER ROOM AND PLAYING WITH HER BEST FRIEND SHE MADE IN OUR FIRST NEIGHBORHOODCHELSEA MARIE,