Tennessee's High Infant Death Rate

"The only time I met the baby's father was at the hospital the night that Bryanna was born," Drumwright said. "And he would talk so ugly to her. When she, early on in her pregnancy, she would tell me some of the things that he'd say -- I mean, it was pretty, a rough relationship."

Simpson said she's better off without Lewis, calling him a "typical thug" who has a lot of girlfriends.

"He don't care about nothing but his car, rims, money," she said. "But you know, I ain't going to hold no grudge against him. If he ever feel like he want to straighten up and be there for the baby, he can. But you know, there's nothing more between me and him. There can never be anymore us. But if he ever feel like he wants to come see the baby, I'll let him see her."

Durham said she sees past Simpson's bravado.

"I think she very much wants him to be a father, but she ain't going to say that, because that makes her weak," said Durham. "That makes her something that she doesn't want to be. That's just women. Women are very strong around here. They are very strong or at least give you the appearance of it.

"In a lot of cases they're survivors," Durham added. "So, they will raise that child with or without that man. But I don't think the thought process is any different as to everybody wants her child to have a mom and a dad, and grandparents, and all those things. I don't care who you are."

Any hopes Simpson may have had that Lewis might become part of her family ended before Bryanna was two months old. Lewis was shot dead on the street three blocks from the home of his new daughter.

Now, Simpson is forced to think about how she'll eventually tell her daughter about him.

"I ain't going to leave nothing out," she said. "I'm going to tell her the good stuff about him and the bad stuff. I think everybody should know, you know, about their parents."

The Job Search

While coping with the loss of her baby's father, Simpson had to focus on finding a job to support herself and her new daughter. She left Bryanna with a girlfriend to go look for work, but all she could find was a part-time job five miles from home -- a summer job at a city pool that paid minimum wage. It required two buses to get there.

Unemployment is rising in Memphis, and so is the teen birth rate.

It's often said that the best social program is a good job: Studies show that teenagers with jobs are happier and less likely to allow themselves to become pregnant.

When the city offered a summer work program, it got six times as many applications as it had jobs. So it held a lottery.

Even more worrisome, the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department faces more funding cuts this year, which could hurt programs that fight infant mortality. As a result, more and more programs are funded entirely by non-profit organizations.

Erma Simpson, a counselor at the Exchange Club Family Center, a non-profit group in Memphis, found that raising private money to help mothers and babies at risk is not easy.

"I sent out an APB [all points bulletin] across the city: 'Please help me, we need maternity clothes,' she said. "I had one donation of maternity clothes. I had trouble getting Pampers, so imagine trying to get $60,000, $70,000, a $100,000 grant."

But Simpson said people care less about Memphis' inner-city children because the babies at risk are black.

Dr. Linda Moses at The Med said both race and finances affects the quid-pro-quo.

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