I Had A Baby at 16. Another at 20. And Today is My College Graduation.

Syreeta Martin and her two daughters, Gabrielle and Arionna

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told him and he was like, "Well, we are about to have a baby. He was completely supportive. So throughout the pregnancy he was there going to doctor’s appointments. He was always there.

EBONY: So you young lovers dispelled the myth that Black men aren’t present in their children’s lives?

SM: Yeah I would say so. He did that, that’s him as a person. I mean it was rough though, and he didn’t always do what he should’ve been doing—which is why I left.

EBONY: What was your reality during the first year of parenting Arionna?

SM: I took a year off after high school graduation, living in Delaware. So, I was working at Bank of America, a hair salon and the baby would go with her father. I am 17 by this time. I started noticing that my baby didn’t know me. I’m picking her up late from his house and bring her back to my moms. As soon as I take her she’s crying with me all night and I saw her struggling to get adjusted and I said I can’t live that type of life where my child doesn’t know who I am. That hurt me.

EBONY: So fast-forward to your first year at Temple. Arionna is here and she’s living with you on campus. How does this structure of your life completely differ?

SM: Once I found out I got accepted to Temple, I knew things were about to change. And I know he thought “we” were about to go to Temple together because I got an apartment on campus. So he had made a comment basically like us being in Philly and I was like…(rolls eyes at the thought). That’s when I was like okay you have to really figure out if this is what you want. I broke up with him in July. I left for temple in August.

EBONY: Emotionally, did you and Arionna bond more when you two moved to Temple?

SM:I went from having the support of family, where my mom was there, her dad, his sister, his brother, his step mom, our friends, etc. You know I went from this support system to being in Philly and having nobody.

EBONY: Did you see a shift how she reacted? I mean she was one, but did the move affect her?

SM: I do remember her asking for her dad a lot. "Mommy where is dad, Mommy where is dad, Mom when is dad is coming?" He was still in Delaware at that time. So he was only getting her on the weekends. He didn’t have a car. He was off and on with jobs. So he wasn’t really stable. I’m barely working; I’m studying for class, doing homework. So there was definitely a shift in our family dynamic. I felt his shortcomings were starting to be become magnified now. Because now I need him in a great capacity. This is a time where I need you more than ever and you’re not delivering.

And then that’s when I a lot of this stress started coming in, the financial issues and not really having money. It got to the point where it was either she eats or I eat, that’s not a choice, my daughter is going to eat. So then at that point I’m stressing, I’m losing hair, I’m losing weight. My mom is like, “What is going on and I’m like nothing, school this and that. I not telling her how serious it is in Philly at this point.

EBONY: So you actually went through a point where you didn’t have?

I didn’t have it; at that point I was still prideful. I wasn’t getting on Welfare. Welfare was not an option to me.

EBONY: Why not though?

I wasn’t going to be a welfare mom; I was not going to be a stigma. I wasn’t going to be that Black mother with a baby on welfare.

EBONY: Would it have been a stigma though or would it have been a better option for the time being?

It didn’t matter, I was too proud for that.

EBONY: But you eventually got on?

SM: Yes, I didn’t have a choice. I remember the day I went to the place. I was in the car on the phone with my mom, and she was just telling me, “this isn’t about you anymore”. So I eventually got out of the car and went inside.

EBONY: Then at 20, while at Temple you got pregnant again with your second daughter, Gabrielle.

SM: Right, but by then, I knew I had what it takes to get through it. I had her and kept it moving in school.

EBONY: Looking back at what you’ve been through and where you are now, are you excited about this next chapter?

I'm very excited! I'm also nervous as hell but I know what I've overcome and I know the word 'No' will