Welcome back to week #24 of the #YoungMumsProject. This week we are joined by the lovely Zoe from Bringing up Bella.
Hiya everyone! I’m Zoë, a 21 year old mum and university student. I live in Hampshire with my
fiancé Jake, our beautiful one year old daughter Bella Grace and our cat Ezra. I am currently
studying for a degree in Primary Education whilst being a SAHM.
Q1. Can you describe your personal experience of life as a young mum?
4 months after having Bella I was diagnosed with PND so life as a young mum hasn’t always been a walk in the park however I absolutely love being a mum. Bella brought a whole new sense of purpose to my life. She gives me a reason to get up, get dressed and get out which since having her has been a bit of a struggle at times.
Q2. How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?
I was really sick before taking a pregnancy test so we suspected that I might be pregnant however, as I’m sure most people will say, we were still shocked and when it came back positive (even though it was a planned pregnancy). We had unfortunately experienced a miscarriage before falling pregnant with Bella and both really wanted to be parents so we were both over the moon to see those 2 lines again.
Q3. Do you feel like life has been harder because you had children at a young age?
Life has definitely changed dramatically however it’s definitely changed for the better. Some aspects of life have of course been harder due to being a young mum – babies are expensive for starters! Silly things are harder once you become a mum, you can’t just grab a coat and leave the house anymore or ‘pop’ to the shop however all these things are trivial and being a mum outweighs all of it.
Q4. Did you ever feel judged by anyone? If so, how did you deal with it?
All the time, even if I’m not being judged I just feel like I am (anxiety is a b*tch huh). One time that stands out for me the most is when I was shopping with Bella when she was about a month old. I was bottle feeding her in the shopping centre when an elderly woman came up to me and said “you shouldn’t feed premature babies fake milk, use your own. She’s too small”. I was shocked to start with, as a new first time mum I was anxious enough about a
lone shopping trip without unwanted opinions from strangers. Fact is my baby wasn’t premature at all, she was only 2 weeks early, she was small but perfectly healthy. I also did try to breastfeed her. I did for her first ever feed and for tried for the duration of our time in hospital however she wouldn’t latch and I wasn’t given enough support to keep trying with a crying hungry baby. I didn’t know what to say to this woman, so simply put Bella back in her pram and walked away to feed her elsewhere. I’m not sure if I could ever stand up for myself against a judgemental stranger with my baby with me.
Q5. Do you think there are any advantages to being a younger mum?
I am 21 and tired. I can only imagine that if I were say 41 I’d be even more tired than I am now and I’m not sure I could deal with that! I get more time with my beautiful little girl, that’s the main advantage. I’ll still be young (not in her eyes I’m sure) when she’s in her teenage years and growing up, I’m hoping that this will mean we will still have a strong bond and be able to do fun things together.
Q6. What are the best and worst things about being a young mum?
Motherhood is just simply amazing at any age however I’ve loved having Bella whilst I’m still young. I am studying with The Open University now whilst she’s little so by the time she’s going into primary school I’ll be graduating ready to start my career. I love that it’s going to be that way round rather than already having a career, taking a year off on maternity and then having to leave Bella whilst she’s still young. Seeing her learn and develop everyday is the best. I love seeing all the new things that she can do and say, or watching her play and discover new things. I’m actually obsessed with her!
I’d say the worst thing about being a young mum is the financial side of things. It’s a struggle to make ends meet and I think that if I’d have been older I’d have had savings or a better wage for maternity leave.
Q7. How do you think we can challenge the stigma that surrounds young mums?
By being damn good mothers! Everybody thinks that if you’re a ‘young mum’ you’re going to leave your child with their grandparent every weekend to go out and get drunk which doesn’t represent the majority of us. By being amazing mums, giving our children everything they need and by loving them unconditionally, we may eventually break the stigma.
Q8. What are the main issues that young mums have to deal with, and how do you think they could be better supported?
As I said earlier I really struggled with breast feeding Bella. My first midwife was brilliant with helping me feed her however once I got up to the maternity ward none of the midwifes seemed to have time to help me with breast feeding but instead brought in bottles of formula with them, whilst the older mum in the bed next to me seemed to have midwifes helping her at every feed. I don’t know if that was an age thing or just simply a coincidence however I
think that young mums should be encouraged to breast feed just as much as older mums, why should we not get the same support?
Q9. Do you think that the support for young mums has improved over time?
I’d imagine it has, although I haven’t had the best experience. In the ‘olden days’ I’d have been disowned for having a baby out of wedlock and that’s obviously not the case anymore so it must be better than the past! I still think that support for new mums of any age in my local area needs improving big time; health visitors and GP’s all contradict each other and give very outdated advice and baby groups are still very cliquey and judgemental.
Q10. If you were approached by a young mum asking for advice, what advice would you give them and why?
Go with your intuition and politely ignore older family members who tell you your baby needs some food at 3 months old or a rusk crushed up in a bottle to help them sleep (goodness gracious how did we ever survive). I’d say ‘mummy knows best’ but I actually hate that phrase, however you know your child better than anyone else, so if you think something’s not right or you need to be doing something else, go with your gut. Keep going mumma, you’re doing great!
If you want to know more about Zoe and her family, you can find her here.
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