In a city of over 10 million, the mother didn't feel alone.
The faint flutter of a moth woke Josephine. She lay in the soft dark. Lights from distant Atlantic City traffic splashed colors on the wall. Sleep evaded Josephine despite her exhaustion. The baby was only two weeks old, and Josephine’s body hadn’t recovered.
"She chose me to carry her,"
Josephine speaks reverently of her two-week-old daughter. “I spent ten years as a hard-core addict. I was never careful. I never thought of the consequences. I never thought I could get pregnant. And then, from somewhere on the other side, this little girl chose me to carry her. What a privilege.”
The cramped room where she lay trying to sleep had belonged to Josephine’s boyfriend, Marlo before he was imprisoned. Two blocks away, was her former room–a shared bathroom with strangers at her boarding house and a mold-filled hole in the wall. At least here, she had her own tiny bathroom.
From the house's porch,
Josephine can see the looming 24-story hotel where she worked just a few blocks away.
Three years ago, Josephine had stumbled into the iconic hotel, desperate for work. “I’d just gotten out of rehab,” she recalled. “They had thrown me out of the halfway house. I had nothing but the clothes on my back. I had one outfit. I told my boss, ‘I know I look crazy right now. If you give me the chance, I’ll work my ass off.’ They gave me a chance.”
"I love the people I work with,"
the new mother said. “I love the beach here. I have a little weird community that makes me feel whole. My boss is a saint. I have so much to live for. And a daughter that chose me to carry her.”
The 34-year-old mother admits she didn’t know she was pregnant until she was almost six months along.
“I called Marlo,” Josephine said. “He had just got locked up. I told him we were going to be parents. He has a little girl. She is almost four. His baby’s mother didn’t tell him she was in labor and abandoned the baby in the hospital. He’s been trying to get custody of the baby.”
"He was overjoyed at a second chance to be a father."
Josephine said about her boyfriend.
After learning she was pregnant, the tired hotel worker had spent the evening with a laundry cart, moving her belongings to Marlo’s apartment. As his jail sentence loomed, he had signed over the rental to Josephine.
Affordable housing is hard to find,” she said. “You have to jump on it when it comes.”
“I was exhausted from moving into a room only slightly better than the previous one. I’d live in a rooming house as a child. We’d ended up in a state-funded facility. I kept looking around the room, wondering how long this cycle would last. Would I be able to raise a child and stay clean? What if I went back to heroin?”