On "Teen Mom OG" last season, Amber struggled bigtime to connect with her daughter, who felt her mother abandoned her for the men in her life and during her time behind bars. The most-recent reunion didn't go too smoothly for Amber and her ex Gary Shirley either, though they ended it by agreeing to communicate better in the future.
When the new season began, Portwood said Leah was planning her 13th birthday and the two were working on their relationship. "I'm being patient and this year, hopefully, we'll be celebrating together," she added, after Amber skipped last year's festivities after Leah hesitated about inviting her.
Viewers then saw Gary and Leah talking about her upcoming celebration, with Gary asking his daughter whether she wanted to invite her mother this time. Leah gave a pretty passive "Maybe" to the idea, while Gary pushed back and said, "I think we should go ahead and invite your mom."
Leah agreed, before Gary called up his ex and extended the invitation. Amber was appreciative and accepted, telling him she knew she had to "keep showing up" for Leah to prove she could be reliable going forward.
"Last year my daughter Leah asked for space and I'm doing my best to be present for her while respecting her boundaries," she added in a confessional. "I also have a son James and his father and I are trying to work out a permanent custody agreement in court. In my next chapter, I want to use the wisdom I've gained from these hard experiences to be the best version of myself for me and my children."
Heading into the party, Amber admitted she was "pretty nervous," but also saw it as a "step forward" in their relationship. She told her costars over a video message that she hoped to get a hug out of Leah at the celebration, but would "keep that decision up to her."
The birthday dinner itself was pretty cordial, with Amber wishing her daughter a happy birthday upon arrival before sitting down across from her. She gifted Leah some jewelry, which the teen really seemed to appreciate as well. When Portwood got up to leave, she also got that hug she was so hopeful for from Leah on the way out.
The next day, viewers saw another conversation between Leah and Gary, who asked whether she was "glad" her mother came to the celebration.
"Yeah, I want us to be friendly together and not have any issues or anything. I don't want to have any tension or be awkward with her," said the teen. "I just want to be friendly and not have issues and stuff, even if we can't get to like a [traditional mother-daughter relationship] ... but I still want something."
"I feel like we're taking a big step and it is still awkward, I don't know what to say most of the time," she added when asked how she felt their communication was now, "but we're taking a big step into having something."
Portwood also felt they were making progress, saying she "felt really good" after getting a hug from Leah in a confessional that closed out the episode.
"It feels like we're moving pretty close to where we need to get to. We're moving at least. Being hugged and having that hug, it just felt so amazing. We are just trying still. We're trying to find where we're at and working on where we want to be at," she added. "I am letting her take that initiative."
Then, getting choked up, she added, "This is no bulls---, there is nothing in this world I am more proud of than watching that girl become so f---ing strong. I really have really great kids and I'm blessed because my kids are f---ing amazing."
"Teen Mom: The Next Chapter" airs Tuesdays on MTV.