It’s been a tough road, but beyond having each other to fall back on, they’ve thrived with the support of others: family, friends and others who have encountered the family along the way.
Miranda was 15 when she first found out she was pregnant. Family helped out with diapers, clothes and other necessities. After filling out a screen at her doctor’s office, the couple received emotional, social and educational support through the Duval County Health Department Healthy Start program and their assigned case manager, India.
For the young Coxes, having someone from the outside, who wasn’t family or didn’t know them from church, was a nice change and a chance to let out a little steam while learning how to care for their impending newborn — Juston, now 8 years old.
One of the most important things India did — and something Miranda now works with other teens to do when she helps out at the Coalition’s 4Me Teen Health Project classes — was have the teens sit down and write out their goals.
“If she hadn’t done that, we probably wouldn’t have made it as far as we did,” Miranda said.
Miranda wasn’t sure what to expect when she signed up for Healthy Start and was a little worried. “I thought she was going to come babysit me.”
And Matt’s response? “You always sign us up for something,” Miranda recalls, laughing.
But they still remember the benefits of the program: the help and encouragement they received, knowing they were doing things right, having someone to give support and advice.
“We ended up really liking India and she became more like part of the family,” Miranda said.
They kept in touch until Juston was a year old, and even visited her in the hospital when she had her own baby.
These days, Matt is a security contractor, about to head back to Afghanistan again for 11 months. Miranda is graduating Chamberlain College of Nursing in July 2013, focused on becoming a nurse in the NICU or labor and delivery — determined to help young girls like herself.
Their brood has grown to three. Juston, the oldest, is quiet and laidback. He was a dream come true for two teens. Hayley, 5, was born to play the role of middle child, a real “spitfire” according to her parents. Brookelynn, who celebrates her first birthday in January 2013, takes after her older brother.
“It’s rough,” Miranda says, “but it’s definitely worth it to stick it out.”