This speech was written by MotherLove graduate Ahmarie Gaines, who spoke recently at the YWCA’s Persimmon Luncheon. Thank you, Ahmarie, for sharing your story.
My name is Ahmarie. I’m 18 years old, and the mother of a beautiful 2 and half year old, Cain.
Ahmarie Gaines speaking at the 2014 YWCA Persimmon Luncheon
I was going into my sophomore year at Erwin high school when I got pregnant. My mom was devastated. She told me: “Either you get an abortion or you leave my house.” So I left my mom’s house and moved in with my dad. I took with me the strong faith that my boyfriend and I were going to make it as a family.
I started my sophomore year at Asheville High when I was 8 weeks pregnant, and I didn’t know anyone. I was uncomfortable at my dad’s house, and my relationship with my boyfriend was falling apart. I felt so alone and vulnerable. I knew I was going to have to do this alone. I had to find faith and strength in myself, and that’s what continued to pull me forward.
When I was pregnant and a new mom I was getting judged from every corner – from family, friends, and outsiders. Because of their prejudices my son’s father’s family threatened me throughout my pregnancy and the first year of Cain’s life that they were going to take full custody of my baby. It was infuriating and terrifying. The threats from Cain’s father’s family eventually ceased, and resulted in the deliberate and total absence of themselves in his life. No communication what-so-ever.
My counselor at school introduced me to Holly, the YW’s MotherLove coordinator, very early in my pregnancy. The program felt like something I had to do because I knew I didn’t have a lot of choices or people I trusted. In fact, I didn’t trust the support of the YW at first – I didn’t believe it could be real. But MotherLove was there for me the whole time, and I grew with the program.
Ahmarie Gaines and Holly Gillespie
At first it was hard for me to open up in the support group meetings that were held here at the YWCA. But after all the babies arrived us moms became much friendlier. We became a community. It felt so good to have people who believed in my ability to be a good mother, and to graduate high school. They had confidence in me.
In the early stages of my pregnancy I was educated on how to be a good parent. Holly and the YWCA had me connected with a mentor, Sally, who I’m still really tight with. Sally’s made it possible for me to focus on my education… she’s helped me so much. The YWCA and Holly helped me get a labor and delivery doula from Start From Seed, and they gave me a car seat to take Cain home from the hospital. They helped me work with my teachers to have everything I needed during my maternity leave so that I wouldn’t get too far behind in school. MotherLove helped me sign up for childcare vouchers, so when Cain was 6 months he got into the Asheville City Schools Preschool.
Holly really gave me the expectation that I would apply for college. I knew I was smart enough and I believed in myself, but my GPA wasn’t too strong. Holly told me about A-B Tech and I’m now working towards and Associates degree, with a plan to transfer to a 4-year university.
In 5 years I see myself out of college, and doing some kind of social work. I’ve always wanted to be someone who can help others, somebody who people can talk to.
I’m still involved with MotherLove. Along with a few other graduates of the program we meet with Holly and give her advice about what we thought helped us, or what should be different, and ideas for speakers.
Ahmarie and other MotherLove graduates who came to share feedback on how to improve the program
I’m excited because Holly’s made plans to allow me to come and talk to the girls occasionally. I want to let them know that it’s not impossible, and it’s not going to be picture perfect either. It’s important to try and to love your child the best you can and do the best you can.
And I’d like to say to all of you today, as supporters of the YW: you can continue a program that saves young girls’ lives. You can help them succeed, and be part of society just like everyone else. MotherLove and the YW is a major support system – to me and all of the young women who participate.
Without MotherLove I wouldn’t have finished high school. I wouldn’t have had the resources I needed—I wouldn’t have known where to begin to look. I wouldn’t have been as competent or confident in being a parent. I learned how to take care of a baby, and myself.
My dreams for my son Cain are endless. I dream of his success through school, I fantasize about his enthusiasm for sports. I dream that we will be thick as thieves as he gets older. I dream of him maturing into a confident young man, who acknowledges and is proud of my strength and the efforts as his mother. I dream that one day I will instill a work hard attitude in him, and he’ll know he can achieve anything.