When I was 18 I was a typical teenager. I was approaching my twenties with not much of a plan. I was going out drinking with the girls, spending time with my boyfriend and I was still at college.
All that changed when I went into a doctors appointment to find out I was pregnant…what the FUCK was I going to do. I knew and believed that it was meant to be, so I started my journey into motherhood. Little did I know the extent of the judgement I’d get as a young mum and the tougher road I’d have to travel down than most other pregnant women. Motherhood is never easy but for myself I found teen motherhood carries a stigma and it can be isolating. Mums between the ages of 16-24 have three times the rate of postnatal depression verses older mums!
Nothing in the media shows a positive light on young mums. It’s portrayed that we get keys to a free house and a massive benefit monthly payout in our Emma Diary going home packs which is simply not the case (nor do we all wear velvet tracksuits or wear air maxes but if you do that is totally cool as well). We need help/support/love too. We are all equals, we all struggle on no sleep, we too hate it when our child refuses meals and no matter what our age is we love our children.
So I took to social media and found a few fellow young mums to find out how they found pregnancy and motherhood!
Meet the mums:
Hayley, 21 with Matilda aged 10 months from Essex
Hannah, 20 with Taylor aged 4 and Charlie 1 from Northampton
Grace,19 with Freya-Louise aged 1 from Kent (but begrudgingly living in Manchester)
Polly, 19 with Elsie aged 1 (18 months going on 18 years Polly says) from Birmingham
Beth, 19 with Albie aged almost 2 from Kent. Her son will be marrying my Delilah, its been planned since the womb.
Sydnee, 20 with Freddie aged 3 months from Kent
Emily, 17 with Riley age 10 weeks (eckk teeny!) from Ipswich
I think my first words when I found out I was pregnant was “ohhhhh shit! My mums going to kill me”. How did you feel finding out you were pregnant?
Hayley: “My first word when I found out that I was pregnant was “HOW?!?!” I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was 15 and told pretty bluntly that I would either struggle or not be able to conceive. So yeah sitting in my work loos doing my usual routine pregnancy test that I’d done hundreds of times before… waiting for the “not pregnant” sign and there it was …. “Pregnant” … “ HOW?!?!” I was in a new relationship, things were a little rocky and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be doing it alone or doing it as a couple. I knew I wasn’t getting rid of the baby because I don’t agree with abortion (unless in extreme circumstances etc.) and this could be my only chance at bringing a baby into this world. I was a mature 20-year-old at the time so thought I could manage whatever the outcome.”
Polly: “When I first found out I was pregnant my first thoughts were “Right ok, f**k! What shall I do? Am I ready for this? What will my Mum say? I know what she will say! She’s going to kill me!” A lot of questions that could only be answered by telling everyone. However this wasn’t the case, I ignored the fact I was pregnant for 16 weeks until it became obvious and I had to tell people!”
Grace: “We were actually trying for a baby when we fell pregnant with Freya (sounds mental at 18 and 21, I know) but once I’d found out there was actually a teeny tiny human inside of me I started SHITTING MYSELF. I started doubting whether it was something I actually wanted and whether I was even capable of being someone’s mum. I could barely keep my flat clean at that point let alone be solely responsible for someone’s life.”
Sydnee: “So this is something I don’t make overly public, however when I found out I was pregnant I think every emotion runs through your head, scared, worried, happy, emotional. This for me wasn’t my first pregnancy on November 28th 2015 I found out I was pregnant, me and my partner was going through a rough stage and I ended up miscarrying on 5th January 2016. However sad I felt I knew everything happened for a reason and it wasn’t meant to be.. then in March 2016 I found out at about 4/5 week I was expecting again.. and I was even more nervous and worried after a previous miscarriage.”
As a fellow teen mum, it was scary finding out I was 18 and pregnant but more so that I had to tell my mum and dad. How did you tell your parents?
Grace: “I don’t have a relationship with my dad so that problem didn’t exist for me but I was so worried about telling my mum. I knew she was also in the process of trying for a baby (we actually ended up having babies 3 months apart!) and I didn’t want to upset her with the news that we were expecting a baby when she wasn’t, so I sent her a Facebook message. Awful, I know. But it was a safe way for me to just send the message and then leave my phone to one side until I was ready to look at her reply.”
Hannah: “I texted my mum that I was pregnant then stayed at my boyfriend’s house that night so I didn’t have to face her, completely chickened out and gave her time to calm down and tell my dad. With Charlie my boyfriend actually told her because I was too scared, I’m the worst at confrontation!”
Emily: “Me and my mum went to a cafe where I told her I was pregnant. She knew something was up because I had been telling her I didn’t feel well for the few days before that. Once I knew I was pregnant I texted her saying ‘I know what’s wrong’ and that’s when she decided to take me out and I told her. I told my dad on the way to my dentist appointment. Not the best idea when he was driving! They were both very shocked but extremely supportive.”
Did you have any mad cravings?
Hayley: “I kept saying to people that I didn’t crave anything, I just had a little pig out every so often when the hunger pangs kicked in! I love pickled onions so I used my pregnancy as a massive excuse to eat like 5 at a time! But then the acid reflux would turn up and I was taking Rennies like sweets! I had never suffered with indigestion or acid reflux before but for about 7 months of my pregnancy I had it bad!”
Beth: “I didn’t have any crazy mad cravings as such but I definitely developed a serious addiction to subway! 6 days a week minimum I’d have a subway. I couldn’t stand it before I was pregnant and I can’t stand it now.”
Grace: “I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum, AKA Kate Middleton Sickness, the whole way through my pregnancy so I didn’t have many cravings because I couldn’t keep anything down. I actually remember being in hospital waiting to be induced and STILL being sick, but the times I did manage to keep food down I was absolutely obsessed with plastic cheese. I was the Cheese String queen. I rarely left the house without one.”
I found most of the pregnancy clothes were hideous! I struggled to find something I actually liked! Where did you shop for your maternity clothes?
Sydnee: “I was pregnancy all through summer so I LIVED in leggings, black vest top and a light cardigan over the top, I hated how much they charge for maternity clothes so avoided buying anything… apart from 2 vest tops right at the end from New Look, which is pretty reasonable and actually decent, not boring old people clothes.”
Grace: “Being a plus size mum I didn’t actually have this problem and because of my HG I actually lost a lot of weight during my pregnancy (I was lighter at full term than I was at my first midwife appointment) so I managed to stay in my normal clothes right up until I delivered. The only thing that changed was I had to stop wearing my jeans at 38 weeks and make the swap over to leggings.”
Hardest experience being a mum or any struggles?
Sydnee: “Breastfeeding- I regret giving up so quickly because of how little I knew, luckily I didn’t suffer with sore boobs or bleeding nipples however had a baby that wanted feeding 24/7! I didn’t realise this was normal for a newborn and I also couldn’t get to grips with feeding in public.”
Polly: “I must admit my hardest struggle of being a mum is honestly meal times now my daughter is older. One day she likes peas, the next day her bowl is tipped all on my floor without her having one bite. Some days I feel like screaming as I’m on my knees picking up food all day but hey ho, we signed up for this shit!”
Favourite part of being a mum?
Beth: “Albert has his adorable moments where he wants cuddles and plants a thousand kisses all over my face. He’s such a loving child and when I’m struggling it lifts me out of any mood I’m in instantly. I truly feel so blessed to have him.”
Hayley: “Giving Matilda her night time bottle as she stares into my eyes.”
Emily: “Seeing my son happy, smiley and laughing. And when he wants a cuddle, it’s the best feeling. As scary at is having such a responsibility at this age, it’s also an amazing feeling.”
I hated going to baby groups after a few nasty experiences with bitchy judgemental older mum. Did you have any similar problems or any other judgement?
Beth: “Baby groups do not appeal to me because of the stigma around younger mums. I have crazy bad anxiety and the thought of judgemental mothers commenting on my parenting skills scares the living shit out of me to be quite frank!”
Grace: “I was a real chicken in Freya’s first year of life when it came to baby groups. I think we maybe went to two sessions and then never went again because I felt like we didn’t fit in. I was too old for a teenage mum group and not old enough to fit in with mums at baby group, so I just sort of floated about for 12 months. However, now that she’s older and starting to benefit from social interaction with other babies, we go to a music group once a week and so far (touch wood) we haven’t had any dodgy looks or comments.”
Polly: “Honestly I did feel very criticised about becoming a Mum at 17. However not so much by people older than me, more people my age! They would judge and I could feel them all saying stuff about me round sixth form as they all found out. It was horrible, I even left and didn’t complete my exams! Obviously you get the odd look off an OAP like how old are you, but honestly I don’t even notice them anymore. More time now everyone compliments my daughter on how smiley and happy she is and it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Sydnee: “I have only recently started taking Freddie to baby groups but am finding there are a lot of young mums at the groups! Which I find amazing to talk to them and share stories and experiences. But when I was pregnant going to antenatal EVERYONE was over 28… my partner had to work so I had to go on my own but everyone else had there partners there. I felt like they looked at me like shit.”
There’s such a stigma with young mums. Was there ever a time you felt victimised for your age by other mums, health care professions etc?
Hayley: “I’ve never really felt victimised. Often felt “oh maybe that mum that’s got it all together over there and can do my job better!” I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve never had much of a chance to socialise with other mums. I’m sure that people will have their opinions though!”
Sydnee: “The only time I’ve ever felt victimised is when Freddie had to go back into hospital about 5 days after he was born because he had jaundice. He had to be put under special lights… and the nurse was sooo horrible! Telling me how to feed, wind and clean my baby!!!! Which annoyed me so much because I knew I was doing fine!”
Grace: “I was actually incredibly lucky with my health care professionals and I never felt less than the other mums because of my age. I know it’s not like that for everyone though, and that sucks!”
Hannah: “A few times I felt victimised for my age actually, when I was pregnant with Taylor mainly. I remember getting on the bus and asking for a child ticket because I was still 15, I think I was about 22 weeks pregnant, the bus driver looked at my stomach and called me disgusting. I cried my eyes out because I couldn’t believe that someone could be so rude to my face. Again when I met my health visitor for the first time, she asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I said I didn’t know, she then proceeded to call me a ‘typical young mum’.”
Emily: “Yes. The other week I was sitting on the bus, with my son in the buggy. There were no seats near the wheelchair compartment, so I stood with the buggy. Opposite me was an older women and a man. The women started to speak about me (in a rather loud voice) which I overheard. She said ‘she can’t be a mum, look at her she’s too young. That’s so unfortunate. She’s going to have to look after him for the rest of her life’ which I found to be disgusting and it actually made me very emotional. My thoughts were ‘yes I may be young, but this does not make me any less of a good mum than what a middle aged mum is'”
Where’s your favourite place to shop for baby clothes?
Hannah: “For baby clothes my favourite places are definitely Next, River Island and H&M when it comes to the high street but I also love the online brands that you find on Instagram! Found some lovely pieces for the boys wardrobes and they’re very unique.”
Polly: “I’m a sucker for Next clothes for Elsie!”
Beth: “I love the cheaper baby clothes! Let’s be honest they grow out of them so quickly what’s the point in forking out money for clothes that get stained and grown out of so easily! Give me all the Primark, H&M, Tesco clothing you want. Girl, I live for that!”
All mums deserve a night off from time to time. What’s your ideal night with the girls?
Hayley: “Agreed! I need to take these nights off more I think. My ideal night with the girls is nice local dinner, drinks at the cocktail bar and then maybe onto somewhere else for a boogie! I feel like I haven’t danced the night away for a very long time!”
Hannah: “On a night off (if I don’t fall asleep before I get out the door) I like dinner then drinks with the girls, I do still like clubbing but I think social anxiety kind of gets in the way of that. I go home if someone asks me ‘where are the boys tonight’ because it makes me feel like a bad parent. Although it shouldn’t because we all deserve to go out and let our hair down, I just feel really judged for still going out.”
Beth: “I totally agree, I make sure I have a night out with the girls or with my fella often because it reduces my stress levels and lets me get my hair down and relax. I enjoy going for a drink at my local pub with my good friends, sometimes going into town but not so much anymore because I can’t stand the general public.”
Did you suffer from PND or any other aftercare problems?
Hayley: “I’ve suffered in the past with depression. So when I got pregnant I knew about the baby blues and my doctor warned me that if I was feeling low at any point then to go and see someone to talk about it. After having Matilda, like any mum, I feel extremely overwhelmed. Excitement, love, tiredness, resentment towards people that could sleep or snap back into shape ASAP. It’s a full cocktail of emotions post-pregnancy. I did feel low quite often but I really tried to ignore it and think of all the positives. Looking back I wish I spoke to someone about it all. And 10 months on I still feel low every so often. I feel guilt going to work and leaving my baby when I know that I have to work to be able to live in our house and buy food/nappies/ clothes etc. I’m always going to feel that way.”
Sydnee: “I never had any ‘baby blues’ I think because I had so much going on after he was born I almost didn’t get chance… I have been lucky enough not to suffer with any PND but do have the odd day when I get upset and I tend to take that out on my partner A LOT!”
Lastly what advice would you give other mums?
Emily: “The advise I would give to other mums is don’t listen to what others say. I’ve had a hard time realising this but now, I think to myself ‘My son loves me for me. Whether I’m 17 or 34, to him I am his everything’. So when someone else judges you, don’t think negatively of the situation, be proud.”
Beth: “Take each day as it comes, honestly. Motherhood isn’t a competition. If you’ve succeeded in feeding, changing and making sure your child has all its needs met then you’re doing a fabulous job. It’s okay to admit you’re struggling and never feel like you’re alone. We’re all in it together girls.”
Grace: “Don’t listen to other people’s advice/unwanted opinions. Just go with your gut. No one knows your child better than you do, and natural instinct will kick in. I promise. And also don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. I made this mistake, and ended up being burnt out with a shit tip of a house struggling to make sense of my own thoughts. Ask for help. It doesn’t mean you’re a rubbish mum.”
***I am incredibly grateful to the response I got from fellow mums and the girls who answered all my questions. Whatever your age, whether you are 15 or 50 everyone is doing their best and I would much prefer to stand shoulder to shoulder with other mums and support each other than judge!***
Love Sophie, Delilah and Indiana x
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Editor- Eleanor Jones. Contact us if you require edits on any writing