This week we are joined by one of my best mama friends, the lovely Gee Gardner sharing her experiences.
Q1. Can you describe your personal experience of life as a young mum?
When I fell pregnant with my first it was the summer holidays before I went back to college. Being a single teenage Mum is generally not something most people plan, it was unbelievably hard, amazing, overwhelming, wonderful and everything else in between.
With my first, Eloise, long story short, after several arguments my then boyfriend decided he didn’t want to be a father and the deal was him or the baby (like I was actually going to choose him, moron). Over the duration of my pregnancy, his friends (also morons) felt the need to threaten to “kick my head in” and to “kill my family”. I ended up being diagnosed with Agoraphobia on top of my already long term Anxiety and Panic Disorder, all with a nice hefty side of Depression. So, there was me, about 11 or 12 weeks pregnant by then, college drop out, newly single, hell, I hadn’t even held a baby before, about to do it all alone. It was terrifying and I questioned myself so much but I adored this little life forming inside of me and I was absolutely determined to prove everyone wrong, not just for myself, but for my baby.
My second baby, I was in a more stable relationship and still, no one was particularly thrilled, yet my cousin (32) who also found out she was pregnant at roughly the same time got nothing but congratulations left right and centre. How’s that fair right? As far as I’m concerned, every baby is a blessing no matter how old the mother is, she deserves to be congratulated. Teenage pregnancy is not ebola.
Q2. How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?
I was 18 when I found out with Eloise, just about to start my second year of college. I was, at the time in a long term relationship with a guy I met when I was 15. I remember feeling an absolutely overwhelming rush of emotions when The word “pregnant” appeared on the tiny little screen, that I couldn’t quite make it all out straight away. At first I felt happy, it was only after the initial shock calmed down that I really began to really worry about how on earth this was going to work. I hadn’t really thought much about having kids, and here I was holding a pee covered stick, alone in my bathroom wondering how on earth I was going to tell people.
The reception to my news wasn’t what I’d hoped. I don’t think I got one person congratulate me, it was a resounding “you wont be able to cope” or “you should get an abortion” on all sides. So much so that I really began to believe I would end up being as rubbish as people were telling me.
With Lily is was more of a mixed bag reaction wise, some people congratulated, others were “politely disappointed’. I was 24 when I found out so not even that young but it still stings when others don’t feel the same excitement you do.
Q3. Do you feel like life has been harder because you had children at a young age?
Honestly, I think parenting is hard whenever you do it. I think younger mums have it harder because of the judgements and stereotypes that get chucked about but the actual parenting I think is equally difficult at any age.
Q4. Did you ever feel judged by anyone? If so, how did you deal with it?
Oh absolutely! I was called a slag, a slut, a whore, every possible insult that liked me to a prostitute with an “open” sign hanging off my vagina (despite the fact I had only ever slept with this one guy and actually hadn’t long lost my virginity. Not that any of that even matters because I could have slept with 50 guys in one night and it still wouldn’t have been cool). I told my life was going nowhere, that I wouldn’t be able to cope and that I should get an abortion. Funny story, the girl who told me my life was going nowhere and I was a crap Mum for getting pregnant at 18 actually got pregnant at 18 the following year.
People assuming I was stupid, easy, that I was going to “f**k my child up” because I must be thick to have “got myself pregnant that young” right? Wrong. I was doing science A levels when I was 13. I left my first year of college with distinction stars all round. Yes, I left education early but there is still time for me to pick up where I left off once they’re both at school. Do you want to know how much my A* science A levels helped me in parenting anyway? A big fat 0%. We all start off clueless, you can read all of the parenting books in the world but you never truly learn until you have a baby of your own.
Even now, at 26, I get people in their 30s telling me in a nutshell that I’m stupid, just because I’m young. But you know what? I am a good Mum, what were you doing when you were my age? Getting drunk as a skunk then waking up in a puddle of your own vomit seems to be the most common answer. What was I doing? Doing one of the hardest jobs anyone can ever do; Raising a beautiful, amazing little girl who has grown up to be one of the kindest, most loving children I have ever met. Fair enough I was also covered in vomit a lot of the time too but I still win.
Q5. Do you think there are any advantages to being a younger mum?
Whack on “Stacy’s Mom by Fountains of Wayne” and let that do the talking.
Q6. What are the best and worst things about being a young mum?
Best would be just being a Mum in general. Watching that perfect little life you created blossom and grow is one of the must beautiful things anyone can experience in life.
The worst would definitely be the people who feel obliged to judge you when hey know approximately 0% of our story.
Q7. How do you think we can challenge the stigma that surrounds young mums?
By people not being judgemental d**ks. Who am I kidding? That’s never going to happen! There is a fine line between an opinion and being an a***hole and there will always be the people who cant see the line. I think if people stopped treating teenage/young pregnancy like some sort of disease that would help a huge amount.
Q8. What are the main issues that young mums have to deal with, and how do you think they could be better supported?
Support is a big one, the constant judgement can be really difficult to deal with too. I don’t think the slut rumours died down until Eloise was at least 2 or 3. I constantly had people telling me I didn’t look old enough to have a child/ is this your sister. In their defence I do look about 12 but it’s still a bit crappy at the time.
Q9. Do you think that the support for young mums has improved over time?
Honestly? Not really. I’m 26 now and I still get people older than me thinking they know better than I do and just generally being judgy. Age is not a determination of whether you’re a good parent and I wish people would stop insulting young, especially teenage Mums with the slag label presuming they walk about with their legs constantly open. Just no. What is even with that?
Q10. If you were approached by a young mum asking for advice, what advice would you give them and why?
3 words. F**k. Everyone. Else. Honestly, screw the judgements, the stares, you are doing the most amazing job in the world. Royally screw the people who look down their noses at you.The only person who’s opinion matters is that little one you gave birth to and guess what? They look at you and see nothing but love, nothing but comfort and safety. You are the absolute world to that tiny, beautiful little baby you hold in your arms. You are magnificent.
If you would like to find out more about Georgina and her family, you can find her here.
If you would like to get involved with the #YoungMumsProject and write a Guest Post for us please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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