Mamas, how old were you when you had your first child? My journey to motherhood begun at the tender age of 18. The experience of having a child when I had only just entered into the realm of adulthood but still classed as a teenager and the turn of events after changed me and my life dramatically.
It starts unsurprisingly with girl meets boy. I met my first ever serious boyfriend at age 17 through a friend. He was what many would have seen as a “bad boy” and I was an incredibly shy and naive young girl who wanted to be loved and to “fit in”. I suppose I thought he was kinda cool. He had dark brown skin, had such confidence and I felt protected but a little nervous when I was with him.
I wanted him to like me and because of that I lied to him about my age and told him I was 18 initially when actually I was 17. He seemed keen and this guy who was in his 20’s and had his own flat, wanted to spend time with me. I was flattered.
My family didn’t like him. They saw a guy who was friendly but looked kinda ‘gangsta’. I enjoyed shocking everyone, if I’m honest. He was the first guy I ever slept with and yep I fell pregnant! We used no protection because, he didn’t like it and I was too in love to care (I thought!)
Telling my mum and sister was really tough. My sister told me she’d pay for me to have an abortion after some very choice words and my mum was just plain disappointed. Being a stubborn young lady I wouldn’t be told what to do and I decided to continue with the pregnancy. I can look back now and realise many of the healthcare professionals treated me pretty shoddy at some of my hospital appointments. It seems teenage mums were generally looked down upon… maybe they were seen as easy? Lacking morals? Using the system? Stupid? Who knows? But that was a continuing theme through my pregnancy and the birth.
I muddled through my pregnancy. Although I had no clue what to expect, I loved every minute of it. My growing belly, feeling this little guy inside me kicking and the connection I felt to him. My due date eventually came and went but my little man was far to comfy to make an appearance. Eventually 12 days late, I was taken into hospital feeling tired and ready to burst,to be induced. I arrived at the hospital scared of what lay ahead. ‘My mum and boyfriend were with me and I was given a pessary to try and kickstart my labour. Once visiting hours were over they left and I was completely alone just anxiously waiting for something to happen. Another pessary later that evening and I started to have some niggles and that night contractions started with a vengeance, which I quietly made the nurses aware of as I didn’t like to make a fuss.
I paced up and down that ward all night with those contractions. I didn’t scream or shout and wasn’t monitored at all. I dealt with them by quietly shutting everything out. Around 7am I felt I just couldn’t cope anymore and I headed to the nurses station to get some help. They told me the drs come round at 9am, to take a hot bath and it should relax me but leave the door open and they will make sure I’m seen as soon as they arrive. I was in agony but I figured they knew best.
9am came around very slowly and the drs arrived. I had never been so thankful to be examined. They checked me over and told me I was 9cm dialated and there was a mad rush to get me to the delivery suite. My son was born, not too long after that with forceps as I was finally being monitored and he was clearly distressed as his heart rate kept falling. He was born, blue and struggling to breathe and I was in total shock!!! My boyfriend and mum had made it in time for the birth. He was there for my sons arrival but my mum was on edge waiting outside.
My boyfriend didn’t stay long, he was excited to go tell his family and I was left lying on bloody sheets for what felt like forever not sure what was going on,with my mum by my side. My son had been whisked off to the special care baby unit very quickly and I felt confused and helpless. Eventually my mum got me up and helped me into the shower so I could get cleaned up as there seemed no other option.
Later I was wheeled onto a ward. I had no information about my son and was in a room with 3 other mums who had their babies with them. I felt totally empty.
That night I had a visit from friends and the nurses said we could finally go up and see my son. It felt so strange to be there as his mum. I didn’t feel like a mum. He was 8lb 9ozs. The biggest baby in the room but so poorly. I couldn’t hold him and just looked at him through the glass. Everything felt very surreal.
My son stayed in hospital 2 weeks. I was sent home before and travelled to see him daily. Before I left on one of my last evenings at the hospital the midwife who was at the delivery came to see me. She sat on my bed and held my hand and said she was so sorry and prayed for me and my son. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to make of it but it later it became clear that she knew how poorly he was.
Those early days when I visited the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) I wanted to get in and out as soon as possible. I felt inadequate, like I was being judged and watched by the nurses and generally just scared for what the future would bring. Many of the staff were amazing and helped me to feed him and hold him but my insecurities and a select few staff meant that I didn’t feel able to relax and spend time with my son and it took me a while to really bond with him.
One night before I brought my son home me and his birth father were asked to attend a meeting with the drs. That night I was told that he had some brain damage but as there was swelling until that settled they would not know the extent of the damage and the full effect that would likely have on him. That’s when my world begun to crash around me. From that moment on, the next 13 years were spent caring for my son “Jermaine” fighting for the best care, education, support for him and doing the best we could.
Once we were home my bond with my boy was cemented and although life was hard at times he was worth every second. He was an amazing little man. What he went through daily with physio, epilepsy, reflux, tube feeding etc.. was relentless some days but he kept fighting and smiling when he was able but that’s another story.
Being a teenage mum can be hard but being a teenage mum with a disabled child was incredibly challenging but the support from family and many amazing health professionals that touched our lives and that to this day I will never forget really were the difference between Jermaine and I making it through the tough times or not.
What was your birth experience like with your first child and how old were you?
Do you think your age influenced how you were treated?