The Woman Who Wants To Change How We Look At Teen Pregnancy And Teen Parenthood: Rosemary Oglesby-Henry

Rosemary’s Babies Co. is a non-profit organization founded in 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio, by Rosemary Oglesby-Henry with the specific purpose of helping teen parents navigate the treacherous and often frightening world of teen parenthood. Armed with the mantra of being able to help change the life trajectory of young parents and their babies, Oglesby-Henry has, in essence, created a model of how we can all learn to help the most vulnerable group of parents in our communities. I recently was able to interview this inspirational woman about her organization, and our resultant conversation is below.

JMA: What was your inspiration to start Rosemary’s Babies Co. (RBC), and how did you come up with the name? 

ROH: I was barely 17 when my daughter Jaliah was born. My mother, brother, grandmother, and sister were all teen parents. Becoming a teen mom was so humiliating back then because of the stigma and the pressures that came with having a baby at such a young age. I considered my options, which included having an abortion and putting my baby up for adoption. For various reasons decided against them and chose to have and keep my baby.

The name of my organization derives from me being bullied in the 1990s with insults that were inspired by the 1968 movie Rosemary’s Baby. After continually hearing things like “The girl with the devil bastard baby.” or “There she is – Rosemary and her baby.”, I thought it appropriate to take memories like these that were always so painful to me and transform them into something beautiful. 

I remember watching the movie after I got older and being able to identify with Rosemary, the main character. Here she was a mother carrying and delivering a child that was both a blessing and a curse to her who she ends up loving despite the physical and mental anguish she feels about it. When she lays her eyes on her baby, Mia Farrow’s character forgets about all the pain and everything else she is feeling and just loves her baby. In a very real and emotional sense, I felt like this was both of our stories – the character Rosemary from the movie and mine. 

JMA: What do you consider to be the primary mission of RBC? 

ROH: Our mission is to help teen parents master the concept of self-leadership to hopefully leave legacies of being successful parents and successful human beings. We hope to teach teen parents to change the outcomes, if not for themselves, then for their babies. Every parent, including the teen parent, wants their child to be and do better than themselves. We want to teach teens to be resilient, to be great problem-solvers, and to plan their lives as though every step they take matters -because it does. By doing all these things, we believe we can help eradicate generational teen pregnancy and poverty. 

Photo: @Darrian Turner

JMA: What is it about your organization that you feel makes it so unique and innovative?

ROH: The programming for RBC was conceptualized in 2013 when I combined my knowledge from my experiences as a teen mother with the knowledge I acquired earning my master’s degree in Organizational Leadership at Mount St. Joseph University here in Cincinnati. 

I feel that as a non -profit organization RBC is unique because our work addresses the following:

1) we focus entirely on the needs of the teen parent, 

2) involves the parents of the teen parents in addressing the problems that teen parents face,

3) provides in-person and online support to meet teens where they are,

4) teaches teen parents life skills and that they as parents are the baby’s first teacher, 

5) introduces families to STEM education and the arts at the earliest stages of development to give their babies a great jumpstart in these areas 

6) speaks to teen parents from a position of experience because the majority of our team and board of directors were teen parents themselves.

JMA: In so many conversations about teen pregnancy and parenthood in our society, the discussion almost exclusively refers to teen moms. Your organization makes a point to include teen dads in the conversation as well. Why do you feel this is so important?

ROH: Since entering the non-profit space over four years ago, I have learned that when it comes to teen pregnancies and teen parenthood, few social services offer support to the teen father or the entire family of the teen parent. Teen moms are often told to focus only on themselves, and teen dads are often not given any consideration when it comes to making decisions about their child- this is often done by the courts, the teen mom, and members of her own family. 

We at RBC know that the teen father is also emotionally experiencing the fear and stress that comes along with parenthood and through our programming attempt to address this fact. We understand that if we can discuss the issues of fatherhood, child support, paternity, and other similar matters early on, this increases the chances of building healthy relationships and producing healthy children.

JMA: How important do you think it is to serve both teens and their families?

ROH: To serve both teen parents and their families is so important because, as the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise and nurture a child.” Statistics bear out the fact that a high number of teens have experienced trauma and/or abuse, and these experiences play a huge role in a teen becoming a parent. Because of this, there are family problems that may need to be addressed to support the teen parent fully. To help these teen parents to become diligent in pursuing their goals of graduating high school, going to college, and becoming productive citizens, we must address the needs of the family.

JMA: Why do you think the teaching of life skills, which is one of the main things your organization stresses, is so essential for teen parents?

ROH: It is so essential because you cannot truly be like or act like an “adult” without the learning of life skills. Teen parents, by definition, must quickly transition into roles they do not fully understand because they are, in many ways, still children. Many teens are simply incapable of thinking like or acting like an adult because they are not equipped with the knowledge of how to manage money, problem-solve, or manage a home, to name just three examples. This is precisely why the learning of life skills by them at a place like RBC is so vital.

JMA: Do you think that the organizational model for RBC is one that can be replicated in other localities nationwide, and if yes, how so?

ROH: Yes, I believe RBC and its mission can be replicated in other communities nationwide because it was created as a social enterprise with a curriculum , a set of tools and resources that establishes a base standard that can be used to help create new teen support programs and/or be implemented into already existent ones. RBC was specifically and intentionally created in a way to help achieve the lofty overall goal of helping to nationally transform the way we look at teen pregnancy and parenthood. 

JMA: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to help teen parents in their communities?

ROH: To help change the life of a teen parent in your community, become a confidant to them, and by that, I mean to be a friend, a coach, a mentor, or someone who they can count on. Teen parents have experienced life lessons they shouldn’t have way too soon, and they need someone who will consistently say to them, “You are doing good, you matter, and more importantly – everything will be okay.”

Rosemary’sBabies a 501(c)(3) organization. To support the RBC mission and for more information about their 2020 Legacy Showcase, please visit their website.

Photo of Rosemary Oglesby-Henry @Angie Lipscomb

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