(Note: This story was produced by AboutFace CLT, an ongoing photographic and storytelling project that gives voice to the voiceless in our community. Learn more, AboutFaceCLT.)
I’m from Charlotte originally. Right now I’m working at a call center. I just recently got employed. Pretty much a single mother, you know, trying to raise my kids, trying to be a good example for them. Showing them I can provide and there’s a positive way of doing it.
It’s challenging. I would say it’s a struggle between, you know, trying to keep a stable place to stay, trying a keep a stable job, and provide for the children.
Me and my six year old, we’ve been through a lot together, we slept in cars before. I was back and forth from my grandmothers house, in and out a hotel rooms, you know, pretty much wherever we could lay a head, you know, from really pillow to post.
I was never stable when I was a child, always bounced from here and here. I was with my grandma, I was with my mom, I was with my dad, I was in foster care. Like, I was everywhere but in a stable environment where my mind wasn’t on this thing or that thing, or mentally, emotionally distracted from where I was really tryin’ to git. You know, I was trying to stay in school and stay focused, but is mom gonna be at home, is dad gonna be there? Like, where am I gonna be tomorrow? I don’t want that for my kids…
My kids father plays a big part in it. I was with him for seven years, I met him when I was fifteen, and of course I didn’t have my sons till I was nineteen but, throughout my life, like, he was a bad role model for me, he was much older than me, but at the same time, like, he knew that I really didn’t have much so I would really go for anything,… which that was not true, but at the time I didn’t use my mind, and I was influenced into doing a lot of things that I shouldn’t have.
I do… have a couple charges because I was trying to cash in some insufficient funds and do these things just to make a way for me and my kids to eat. You know, so… I served my time, I did everything, you know, but it’s still on my record. I regret doing what I did.
But I, like I said, I wasn’t using my mind, and, now he’s not a part of my life. And right now I choose for him not to be a part of my kids life. He’s serving prison for something totally different cause he chose not to go down the straight and narrow but, me, like I said, my main goal is what? Stability.
But yea, plenty a times I’ve, um.., been influenced to do things that, you know, maybe drugs or whatever… I’ve tried a, a bunch of stuff, but it’s never nothin’ to numb myself. It, it probably would numb me for that moment but in the end, it’s still a reality, like, I’m still homeless, my babies still have to eat, you know, we still need clothes, we need this we need that, you know, and it just, like, breaks my heart to-see-my-baby uncomfortable where he is, you know, just because we don’t have no where to go.
He needs his own space, he needs… he needs to be able to open up, you know, be a child, you know, you don’t have to be quiet, because we at somebody else’s house or don’t have to be cold because we don’t have nowhere to go, when we waiting for somebody to call us and tell us we can come over.
It was a moment like… like I told you I served some time, I had did three months in jail and, like it was close to the time for me to be released. And my mom had my children and whenever they would come and visit me it would just like grow-on-me-grow-on-me, but then it was like one day I was in jail I was just like, “No I’m not doing this no more I’m gonna leave him alone, and I’m not going back to wherever I came from”.
That was the moment I decided that I was going to a shelter. “When I get outta here, I’m gonna get right, get my kids and I’m going to the shelter. We gonna make it”. Like, that was just it for me. And I just could not go back to whatever I had previously been going through, so I just let that go. It was that moment for me, and then when I got out, my baby, he was just like, really resistant from me, he didn’t really know, like, he knew I was “mommy” but he was still young, so it was like he hadn’t seen me in awhile and it was kinda like, “I don’t wanna go to you” And I could not, you know, send him through that and then it really broke my heart because that’s my child.
I want them to know that, okay, I’m gonna go to school to learn, and I’m gonna go home and tell my mom how my day was, we’re gonna have dinner, and then were gonna take a shower and we’re gonna go to bed. And on the weekends we’re gonna go out, we’re gonna get a haircut, we’re gonna go play ball, we’re gonna read books together, we’re gonna do this and we’re gonna do that, you know?
I don’t want them to be worrying about stuff that they’re not supposed to be worrying about at six and four.
So, I took it upon myself to go register at the Urban League. And I told them “Listen, I’m a single mom, I don’t have the resources that I need, nobody referred me here. I looked you guys up on the internet.”, and this is what I did. So I went in there, and I filled out my paperwork out, they call back two weeks later and told me this is the day that the GED class was gonna be starting, and I made a way.
Listen, I called my cousin, I called this person and this person, “Listen can you watch the boys for me? Can you watch the boys for me it’s only going to be for a couple a hours a day, you know, I’m trying to get my GED, so I can get out of this position that I’m in, it’s not, it’s not gonna work for me”. Then, after that, that’s when I started going to social services and I applied for some cash assistance, it wasn’t much but they gave me bus passes, that was for transportation. They gave me childcare, because I was back at a training class… So, it just went up from there.
I just want them to expand their minds, cause that’s what I try to do a lot of times, like, I, I did drop out of school, but I went back to the Urban League of Central Carolinas and got my GED in 2013. My passion is to do hair, so I plan on going to college to get a degree. But right now I need to work so I can be stable. Yea (big smile).
While living in a hotel, Shareka gives birth to twins, one of which is too sick to leave the hospital.
So, my day consisted of waking up in the morning, getting the kids ready for school, putting them on a bus, from the hotel, the bus picked them up from the hotel. Then I would get on the bus and go to Novant Health right downtown, and see my child. I stayed up there with her throughout the time they were in school, until around about 2:15 – 2:30 so I could get back on the bus and go back home and get the kids.… It was pretty rough.
I had four little ones at home, plus a newborn baby who just came home out of the hospital, out of the NICU, which was my son, and then I still had another baby in the hospital. And she, she was really sick… she was really sick. She had tracheostomy, she had a, a degenial a, a, a g-tube, she had a um… chromosome abnormality, it’s something similar to down syndrome or, not sickle cell, down syndrome or cerebral palsy. Something like that.
But she was, she had a rare condition, she had a condition that nobody… it’s never been documented, basically. So she had a condition like one in a million. And they really couldn’t tell me what to do with her because her airway was so narrow and it’s like they couldn’t reconstruct it for her. So the only thing to do was to get her on steroids and, you know, to get her lungs developing the way they should be.
But, she lived her life and… at ten months, it was just like… make or break it, she was on her way home two days before she passed and it was just like, she took a turn for the worst, she just wasn’t doing good that day and then I just told them do not resuscitate on her because I have been… seen her through so much and she was so small, like she had a growth, a growth deficiency. She was small. She was like eight pounds at ten months. So it was like, I don’t want them puttin’ too much on my child. So I just sent her on home… and that was it.
I just stayed close to my son because, you know, being that that’s his twin, like…He just made me so strong, because at first, he wasn’t doing good at all. Like when he came home he would get sick, and like when he have a bad day, she’d have a bad day. And then, when she went home, he started getting better, and it was like she was still there, like she, she, she’s with him. So, it’s, it’s hard, it’s hard certain days… but then it’s better other days.
And… I know it was for her good because she wasn’t, she wasn’t doing good. She wasn’t getting better. And I felt like it was selfish of me for just wanting her to be here, just wanting her to live.. And you know, her lungs were not that good, and just recently I… I had another job, I was working at Convergence, which is a call center too, and, I have asthma real bad, and so, I.. I was at work one day and I was just wheezing real bad, real bad, real bad, and I think I was coming down with a cold or something.
And when I got to the hospital, I waited too late, I got to the hospital, and they were giving me breathing treatments after breathing treatments, and it was, and nothing was working! And then, they gave me an hour long breathing treatment and it still wasn’t working. So then the lady was like, “We’re gonna keep you because your airways, your holes are, your airways are closed.”
And then I got upstairs, she sent me straight to ICU, and I was like, “Oh my gosh I’m gonna die…” And so when I got there they were tryin’ to give me CPAP, when they put this mask over your face and it’s real tight, and I was like no, I feel like I’m suffocating, I’m getting’ no air so I screamed, for like thirty to forty-five minutes.
And then, the lady was like Ms. Morris if you don’t calm down we’re gonna have to intubate you, we’re gonna have to put a tube in your throat. And I’m like, “No, just give me the CPAP I’m gonna take it.” And they put it back on my face, and I still couldn’t take it. So… the next thing I knew I woke up it was Thursday, I got there on a Tuesday I woke up it was a Thursday. And I had been intubated for two days… And I’m like if it’s anything like what my child had to go through… Like, I’m just so glad that, you know, it’s over for her… but… I just miss her so much…
Um… I just feel… I feel light… Like I just, at first I feel so heavy because I felt like I had so many stressors, so much stuff to be worried about. But, now I just look at it, I have to take one thing… I have to take things one day at a time.
I try not to let stuff bother me, I think about my daughter from time to time, but, like I said, I have to help my boys understand, and stay strong for them, because they ask me “Hey mama when are we going to the hospital to see the baby?” No baby, she’s gone up to Heaven with God, you know, he needed her more than us, so, you know I have to let her… you know… spread her wings and just watch over them, and watch over us, and watch over her brother, which is her twin.
I just feel like, by 2016 we’re gonna be stable. I plan on having a… not a big house, but I want a three bedroom house so they can have their space. You know, I can probably make a nursery for the baby. And maybe start my education up again, probably take some evening classes or something. Get my budget together. That’s pretty much it.