"Congratulations! You're pregnant! Here's a bottle of prenatal pills to make sure you and baby are getting the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients every day.” This is the only thing the doctor told me when I found out I was pregnant. Of course, I had years of babysitting experience. Like every other babysitter, I just had to make sure the baby was alive, free of any harm, fed, changed, and sleep. However, this was not going to be like babysitting; I was about to be a mother. I was already three weeks pregnant and all I could think about was, ‘How am I going to take care of a baby when I work and go to school full time.’ I was currently living with family members who already had children, and I was not sure if the father was going to stick around to help me. I instantly became stressed and depressed. For months, I continued life as I always did, going to work and school full time, while living with family. Now, I was a lot more tired, hungry and always needed to use the bathroom. I was emotional, and still, stressed and depressed about what I needed to do to make sure I could take care of my baby.
Day in, and, day out, I would wake up at 5 o'clock in the morning. I’d get ready for work and school, walk 1.2 miles to catch the 6 o'clock bus downtown, jump off and on to the another bus going to the Indianapolis International Airport.
I had to be at work by 8 a.m. In the afternoon, I'd take the bus back downtown, jump off and on to another bus and go to school from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. I had back-to-back classes 4 days a week. After class, I would get back on the bus then walk that 1.2 miles back home. I hated it! Every time I was on the bus, I fell asleep. Every morning and every night, I walked to and from the bus stop in the dark. I walked through neighborhoods that did not have working streetlights. I would always look over my shoulders to make sure no one was trying to rob me for my purse and backpack.
My feet would be killing me, from walking, and dangling on the bus, because I was short. When I had to go to appointments, I had to miss work, pick up an extra day, or switch with someone, because weekend appointments were not available then. When I began having appointments every two weeks, I lost my job. I learned about safe sleep with I was about eight months pregnant.
A program in Indianapolis was giving away free Pack’n Plays to moms, if they completed the Safe Sleep Workshop. When I finally had my son, I was still staying with family members, and their children. I was living house-to-house with no stability. I remember not having enough room to set up the Pack’n Play at the last family member’s house. I stuffed pillows and blankets in a crate, so my baby was not sleeping with me. I would swaddle him, lay him the crate and then put the crate directly by the couch I was sleeping on. I would lay my hand on top of his body to make sure I was able to feel if he moved, or woke up. I became a very light sleeper. It did not take long before I realized I did not want to raise my son in this type of environment. I checked my 1-month old and myself into the Salvation Army, where we lived until I got an apartment.
Early on, I ran into even more difficulties. I learned that to send your child to daycare, you need to have a certain amount of diapers and wipes for each day. To make sure I had enough for each week, I would ration out the diapers and wipes on the weekend, so my son could go back to daycare on Monday. If I did not have enough, I knew my son would be admitted to daycare, which meant I would not be able to go to school or work.
I know this is a reality for many mothers like myself. I worked at a daycare and saw mothers being turned away because they lacked enough diapers and wipes.
I am currently advocating to remove these barriers, through the elimination of sale taxes on diapers, feminine hygiene products, and incontinence products. Other states have already passed bills that support this legislation. Indiana needs to take this step as well. Infant mortality and issues of access should be a priority for everyone in our state.