This story originally appeared on KERA News.
When Natalie Gomez was 16, she ran off with her 38 year-old boyfriend. A few months later, she was pregnant. When she went into labor, her boyfriend dropped her off at the hospital, and split.
“In the beginning I was like oh he loves me, it’s all about me and the baby. Long story short, it was just about him,” says Natalie.
The hospital knew something wasn’t right when she walked into Labor and Delivery all by herself. Natalie was 17 and she’d gone through her entire pregnancy without pre-natal care.
“So they called CPS and CPS got involved and they called my Mom, my Mom came down to the hospital and ever since then my Mom has not left my side,” she says.
Natalie’s Mom begged her to say who the father of newborn Aubrey was. That man now sits in the Lew Sterrett jail.
Over at Alley’s House, a non-profit in East Dallas, Natalie and Aubrey join half a dozen other teen moms and moms-to-be for a program called Summer of Empowerment.
Sharing stories about baby meltdowns and parenting successes is one part of the program. Financial empowerment is another.
“One of our goals is that they’ve have checking accounts, that they will create their own budgets,” says Alley’s House Executive Director Rachel Branaman. “One of our field trips is actually going to ALDI so they can price things and actually have a grocery store budget.”
Managing money is vital to financial stability. It all starts with a job that can actually pay the bills. Making a living wage is especially important for young moms.
“If you’re in a low paying job you might not have access to days off, you might not have healthcare, if you don’t have a childcare provider you’re trying to find friends or family members who will watch your kids while you’re at work, and if you miss a day it’s very likely that you’ll be told you no longer have a job,” says Branaman
Natalie’s still living at home and caring for Aubrey full time. What she’s learning at Alley’s House about job searching and budgeting will help her when it’s time to strike out on her own. Something Natalie says she’s excited about.
“Everybody says it’s horrible being a single mom, but it’s actually not. Yes it’s twice the stress, twice the heartache, twice the crying and everything. But it’s also twice the love,” she says.
Love Natalie radiates when she holds her sleeping 6-month-old.