Nov 14th 2012
Together in Heaven
Raising a child is no easy task. In the book The First Part Last by Angela Johnson, the reader gets a firsthand look into the life of a young man as he struggles to raise his daughter. This tale hardly seems fiction with the number of teenage pregnancy on the rise. The main character, Bobby, is not unlike your average 16 year old boy; he spends his time doing homework, hanging out with friends at the local arcade, but that all changes when his girlfriend, Nia, shows up at his birthday party with a concerned look on her face and a red balloon in hand. She brought with her news that would change their lives forever. They were having a baby. As the pregnancy progressed the young couple was more confused than ever--between social workers, parents, and school they were not sure what was the right thing to do. Deciding whether they should keep the baby or give it up for adoption was by far the most difficult decision they could ever think of. However Nia and her parents made the decision to give the baby up for adoption. Bobby had no say; this was Nia's decision to make. Tragically, Nia's death changes everything. The First Part Last is a story about teenage pregnancy and its effects on Bobby.
While giving birth Nia's gets eclampsia, a life threatening complication. She then fell into a vegetative coma. The baby was delivered and it was up to Bobby to decide his daughter's future. Even after attempted reasoning by the social worker he knew that his daughter, Feather, was meant to be his to raise. After seeing how much she looked like Nia there was no doubt in his mind that he would keep her. For the first time Bobby felt that he was “not just some kid,” but “being a man” by taking responsibility for his daughter (126) He tells the social worker “But I love her, and even though I'm not
set up for her, she's mine and I'm hers.”
Completely unprepared he took her home and began his journey as a teenage dad. What a scary feeling that must be to be 16 and have a little life depending on you. As he lay awake with Feather he thinks to himself “She only wants Daddy. That scares the shit out of me. Just me. This little thing with the perfect face and hands doing nothing but counting on me. And me wanting nothing else but to run crying into my mom's room and have her do the whole thing.”(15). Bobby felt scared that Feather depended on him, however he was able to change his fear into confidence, “But then I realize. I've done it. I know something. I know something about this little thing that is my baby. I know that she needs me.”(15) He now knew that when she whimpers in her sleep she wants to sleep in the bed with him. This made Bobby feel more confident as a dad.
Some other effects of this decision included many sleepless nights holding and rocking his newborn to sleep. Furthermore, despite being exhausted he had to get his daughter to day care as well as make it to school on time every morning. He no longer had any time for his friends or homework. Once, he even forgot Feather, and left her all alone after rushing out the door to play basketball with his friends. Surely he could have used some help; however, his mother was of no help to him with the baby. Because of her difficult childhood she believed it was important for Bobby to raise Feather all on his own in order to prevent him from being dependent of others. This caused him to be more independent, except when his neighbor, Coco, would occasionally babysit Feather.
When on his way to school one day, he decides to stop and tag a wall. Maybe it was his returning to his old habits, or maybe it was the release that he needed. Whatever the reason, it got him into a lot of trouble. He had completely forgot about school, and lost track of time when a police officer brought him back to reality by taking him to the station. He had to be picked up from the police station and deal with a very upset babysitter and disappointed parents. This made things even more difficult for Bobby. He now fell even more behind in school as well as upsetting the only people that helped him
with Feather. However, even with all the difficulties, he still worked hard to be a good father to his
baby. He knew that he was doing the right thing and that it would all work out, he says, “I know then that even when everything's changing and Feather's not gonna mind as long as she's with me” (104). He says this while holding Feather and thinking of how she looks like Nia.
Another effect of being a teenage father is always needing support and help from his family. He relies on his mom paying the rent, and support from his father. Another challenge he will have to face because of choosing to raise his daughter on his own is that he will have the full time responsibility of caring for her. He will have no one to alternate diaper changes, or late night feedings with. If having a child as a teenager isn't hard enough being a single parent will prove make this challenge almost too hard to bare. Another challenge Bobby had to face was when he had to decide where would be the best place to raise Feather (129) “Maybe I'll tell him how all of the sudden the city just feels like it's too big and I've been having dreams that I leave Feather on the subway and can't get back inside fast enough to get her, and she disappears forever.” He feels he needs to get out of the city like his brother, Paul, who said he loves living in Ohio, and says that it is a great place to raise kids. Bobby wants the best for Feather; it's time to a start new life out of the big city. In the last chapter of the book he moves to Heaven Ohio where his brother lives.
The tone of this story was a cautionary one. It provides a real life look at some of the challenges a teen would face after getting pregnant and not from the point of view of the mother like many other stories or movies, but instead through the eyes of a young man. Many children from teen parents experience abuse, and poverty. Hence they often grow up using drugs, joining gangs and continuing abusive behavior. The First Part Last should be read by every teen as a warning of what could happen when they have unprotected sex.