DOCYOUMENTS JOURNAL MAGAZINE
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STORIES

Our Mothers: Newark

Nea, 25

Capri, 5

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"I was in college when I found out I was pregnant. Honestly, I was very upset. I was at Howard, and I had goals and dreams and that just wasn't a part of the plan. But it happened. I think I was more upset because of my future. If I was gonna' have a baby with anyone, it would be him. But it was just the timing that bothered me. I was 18 when I got pregnant, and I had her at 19..."

"Having her was a no brainer, though. I always had the mindset that if I got pregnant, it would be my responsibility to take care of it. Not my parents. I was definitely going to keep her but I just had to figure out how I was going to take care of her, 'cause I wasn't working while I was in school. I was like, this situation is in front of me. It happened. So now I gotta' figure out how to be a good mom. So from there, I got a job and started saving everything. I told her dad, 'we at least have to save a thousand dollars,' which back then I didn't realize wasn't much money..."

"I went into motherhood being a single mom. From the start, I had to grind even harder. I didn't have it in me to leave her with my parents and continue college. I wanted to be there for her, full time. I wasn't willing to miss those first couple years of her life, so I worked, and saved, and took care of my responsibilities. I was young, so I wasn't really going to clubs and stuff like that anyway but regardless, I knew that I had to cut out the fun to take care of her. I also had support from my friends and family, so I wasn't alone."

 

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"I was in love with her father, and I felt like me and him would be together forever.  That was literally my best friend. I met him when I was 14 and I felt like me and him would be together for a lot longer. I was hoping forever."

"Her father was killed. I don't know exactly why but he was from New Community, and his brother was somebody that was really popular in the streets. His name was Ransom. Even still, his death was definitely a surprise to everyone. Him and his brother died 8 months apart. Then, their younger brother died 2 years after. He honestly was a good person, though. I know everybody says that about their loved ones, but I can honestly say that out of all the street guys I know, they were probably the most generous. Especially Ransom, but people only knew what they heard about them. They didn't get to see that side of him, but he looked out for a lot of people. He was 21 when he passed. His brother Ransom was 21 when he passed away, too. So 21 is like that weird age for all of us. He died a month after his 21st birthday. I remember saying to him, 'You're 21!' He was like, 'I'm just happy to see 21.' I was like, 'well the goal is to make it past 21.' Sometimes I feel like those certain conversations we had kinda' jinxed him but I have to tell myself that whatever was meant to happen, happened."

 

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"The hardest part for me is her asking about her dad. I didn't tell her that her dad passed away until last father's day. I didn't tell her how, but she knows that he passed. It was weird though, 'cause it's like she always knew who he was. The first time she ever saw a picture, she knew that was 'Da Da.' I had videos and pictures of him so I always showed them to her. She knows how his voice sounds and stuff like that. We have conversations about him. She just felt like he lived in a different house that whole time. Some people would say that's misleading, but I really wanted her to develop her own love for him. I feel like the way I did it worked because she got to feel that love without having sad or negative ideas about him. Now, she's like 'Oh we gotta' make sure we sing Happy Birthday to my daddy today. Even though he's not physically there, she still wants to bake him a cake and sing. She understands that we're visiting him when we go to the cemetery. If I told her earlier, she probably wouldn't know how significant it is, because kids forget. At 5, she has a better understanding of death. She believes in God and that her dad is an angel in Heaven, and she still loves him."

"I don't know how I would tell her about how he passed though. I definitely would want to give her a full story.  I actually recorded a lot of my pregnancy and the day I had her, I sat in the hospital room with my laptop in front of me and I recorded a video of me breaking it down to her. I was like, 'I'm your mom and 'this is you.' I said, 'you're probably wondering where your dad is.' And that's when I told her the story. I pretty much explained what happened to him and I made sure I explained how excited he was for her. I made sure I did it then because all the emotions and everything were still fresh on my mind. After having a baby, all those feelings came back. So I would just make a montage of all the clips of my pregnancy. Some clips he's in, and after his death, of course, he's not in any more of them. I didn't record it all to post it on social media or anything like that, though. At the time I just needed it for myself."

 

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"I think being pregnant helped me to process her father's death, because I knew that I had a kid inside of me. I couldn't break, or allow my grief to get the best of me. I remember getting really, really sick. I was in the hospital for two days. After that, I was like, okay, no I'm putting my kid at risk and I'm putting myself at risk. I just have to find peace. And the pregnancy helped me to find my peace. Of course, you still have your moments. Like, after I had her that brought back those heavy feelings and emotions. First birthdays and stuff like that were hard, for sure."

 

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"Being a mother is beautiful. It's a love that you never felt before. Even the love you get from your parents doesn't compare to the love you give and get from your child. That's the best part of motherhood. She literally adores me, like she does anything to make sure I'm happy. If she knows something will upset me, she tries to make sure she doesn't do it, but I don't even think she realizes that I adore her just as much as she adores me. It's weird, having someone who watches your every move because they want to be just like you. I just think that's so freaking adorable. It just makes my heart melt. I love it so much."

"The expectations that people have for black women and black single moms are so sad. My coworkers would be like, 'your daughter is in bed by 8 o'clock?' Or, they're shocked when I tell them about regular things that I do for my daughter. I think a lot of it is tied to stereotypes that they have of single Black moms. It's so weird. When I first had her, because I looked really young, people would say smart comments, like 'Oh, I'm not surprised,' or 'Oh, you're too young to have that baby.' I don't think they have the same response when it comes to young white mothers, but I don't care, 'cause at the end of the day, regardless of race, I'm a great mom and no one can ever take that away from me. But I do get annoyed with people acting like good Black moms are rare."

 

"She wants to be a police officer. She's been saying that for the past 2 years. I would like her to be more than that. She says she wants to do it because they save people, so I can't be mad at that. I just want her to take that passion to a higher level. My biggest priority is to make sure she's happy. 100 percent. I would take her happiness over everything. Right now, she feels like the only way she can be happy is if we're going to an amusement park every day, which is impossible, but I always check in with her and ask her if she's okay, if she's happy, if anything bothers her. Sometimes she doubts herself. I remember her asking me to cut her hair off once. I asked her why and she said it was because she wanted to be like the other kids in her class who have shorter hair. I was like, 'No, you have to be yourself and love who you are.' I just want her to have good self-esteem and confidence. I think if that was to continue it could have major effects on her life so I always try to make sure she's happy with herself."

 

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"I want her to understand that the unconditional love that I have for her now, I will have for the rest of her life and I had it before I even had her. When it came to me and her dad we felt like we were gonna' be together forever. I knew we were eventually gonna' have a kid. I didn't know when, but I knew she was gonna' come. That love for her was there, before I even had her, and when he passed away it made me love her even more. Once I had her, it just got that much deeper. Him passing really taught me that you really have to show someone how much you love them. So, I want her to be able to look back later and be like, I remember my mom said that to me. I remember when she showed that to me or, just remember my actions that showed her how much I love her."

 

 

JEAN MASSEROUX

High School Teacher. Photographer. Founder of @thehuemanjournal.

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