🟡 Mental health blogs

🔷 The importance of self care – Rose

Click here to read Rose’s blog

I think as a young mum and not having the family support you need or crave, it can be very mentally draining sometimes. In 2021 I had to drop out of my mental health nursing degree because a month before, I had shaved my entire head because of stress and breakdowns.

I try to enjoy the moments because sometimes I know I have the strength to only look after my son and notice I’m failing to look after myself. I took the time I needed, and now I’m in my second year of uni, studying for another degree, and I am happy in that aspect.

I find that a lot of us are so caught up in trying to do it right that we forget to be proud of ourselves and what we’ve achieved, so today, I want to say I’m proud of you, and I’m proud of me. I got my driving license last year, I made it into my second year for the first time, I made new friends, I became more open about my mental health, and I kept myself and a little human alive.

I do wish my son had grandpas, grandmas, aunties and uncles, but he doesn’t, and that’s okay because the people that are there love and care for us and for that, I’m grateful. My journey inspired me to write a poetry book I’m giving myself the time to release, and I hope others can enjoy it in similar circumstances.

Life and parenthood don’t come with a manual, but I’m grateful for all that share our experiences, my mentors and the productions I got the chance to be a part off and I’m grateful for having supportive neighbours and friends. I’m grateful for the days where all I knew to do was survive and rest as well as the days of bliss and happiness.

🔷 Co-parenting through anxiety – Emily

Click here to read Emily’s blog

Soon after my daughter’s first birthday, me and her dad separated as co-parenting was a better option for the benefit of the family as a whole. It was a daunting time. I moved out and my daughter stayed living with her dad as I started the process of finding a home for me and her.

I felt grief because of the loss of the long-term relationship with my ex and no longer living with my daughter 100% of the time. I was stressed adjusting to the new co-parenting arrangements and finding somewhere temporary to live whilst getting myself on the council list.

My mind felt full of questions:

  • Will I find love again?
  • Will my daughter and I stay as close as we are if I’m not living with her anymore?
  • How am I going to balance parenting life and rest, when travelling two hours to her and home a day?
  • Will I get on the council list?

As much as we feel engulfed by these anxieties and stresses, and feeling like it’ll never get better at times, you will overcome them all with time and find solutions to these trials and tribulations. I overcame them too and my daughter and I became closer than ever over this experience.

I knew at the time that I was anxious but if you don’t register this until later, that is just as valid. All the pain, stress or anxiety you felt is real and give yourself credit for surviving it. I’m proud of you for what you’ve overcome, whether it’s similar to my experiences or not.

When I began living alone, I had more time on my hands than I did before so one of the first things I did was get myself into therapy. I started DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) in November 2022 and it was the best thing I could’ve ever done for me and my daughter. DBT therapy is commonly used for those with emotional regulation difficulties (present in EUPD and Autism/ADHD, etc) but also assists in helping anxiety too. It taught me how to navigate, manage and understand my emotions, and how my trauma impacts them. It also taught me self-soothing and interpersonal effectiveness (how to maintain health relationships – not just romantic).

Self help doesn’t always have to be complex – mine ranges from writing poetry, to buying my favourite drink, to praising myself, or soothing on a bad day. The main objective is to make sure we manage these difficulties in a healthy manner that doesn’t harm ourselves or others.

To any other young parents experiencing anxiety with relationship breakdowns, adjusting to co-parenting/single-parenting arrangements, please give yourself credit for how incredible you are. What a credit you are to your child to fight, love and grow to make that life for you and their’s the best it can be. I know, for me, I never would’ve imaged ending up being in the situation I am in but, as difficult as the last nine months have been, I am confident in my decision. Remember that you’re mum or dad, and you know what’s best.

🔷 Dealing with your body changing in pregnancy – Sarah

Click here to read Sarah’s blog

Content warning: This blog talks about struggles with body image

When I first found out I was pregnant, I never really though about what might change in my life, or how my body might change. But the thought of telling people and being judged because of my age or my circumstances was a horrible feeling.

As soon as I told people, I kept getting really negative remarks made to me about how my body was going to change. I was constantly being told my body would never be the same again: I’d have stretchmarks, I’d have wobbly bits, it would take me ages to lose the baby weight, and so on…

I wasn’t bothered about the changes that might happen to my body at first but, as time went on, I did start to think about how my body may change. Naturally, I then started to worry about what my body may look like after having a bay, but also what others may think of it. I started to get my first lot of stretchmarks and started worrying about how bad they may become. I started buying lotions to put on my tummy to try and help reduce them but found they didn’t do anything at all.

After having Leo, I was worried about showing my body again as it had changed and it did look different. My tummy had stretchmarks and it was wobbly. My breasts weren’t as perky and they also had stretchmarks, making them look different. I was worried my partner wouldn’t like my body anymore and he may want some without stretchmarks; someone that was more attractive than me.

About halfway through my second pregnancy, my stretchmarks started getting bigger and appeared a reddish/purpleish colour, making them much more visible. The same was appearing on my breasts, although these didn’t seem to change colour. I started to worry about the width of the stretchmarks and I knew that they were never going to go. I worried that my belly would be more wobbly than before and I worried that the colour of the stretchmarks wouldn’t fade. But I decided to not bother using any lotions this time to try and help reduce any marks. I started to just try and think about what my body was doing.

I started telling myself that although my body is changing, it’s doing such a magical thing and bringing my daughter into the world. The stretchmarks forming on my tummy are because it’s stretching to allow her enough room to move about freely. all the changes that are happening to my body are because it’s doing a wonderful thing. I remember at one point actually saying to my partner, ‘I don’t care what you think of my body because it’s brought our children into the world.’

Of course I still had days I’d worry about every aspect of my body changing, but I just kept trying to look at all the positive things that my body was doing.

In my third pregnancy, again I started to worry about what would happen to my body as it’s the third time it’s been stretched. I had to have a C-section with Darcie and I became anxious about the scar I was going to be left with. I worried what my partner might think of it, if he would still love me the same, and if he would still find me attractive. These thoughts may have seemed a bit silly but it was how I was feeling.

I knew that he still loved me the same because he’d told me before that he loved me for me. He loves me with my stretchmarks and they aren’t an issue for him. Another thing he said was that when he looked at my body, they didn’t stand out to him like they do to me.

I find being really honest with myself helps me with my anxiety; reminding myself that my body has done an amazing thing by bringing three lives into the world, and telling myself that every mark on my body is something that I should be proud of because that’s where my baby was kept safe. I’ve learnt to know some of my triggers.

I still experience anxiety which I will be starting medication to help manage again. I will also continue to try and be positive and do things that help my mental health. I will continue to talk about how I feel and how it affects me. I’ll also share my stories with others in the hope that it helps them too.

If you’re experiencing anxiety, my advice would be to not ignore it. Seek help from a professional, whether that be a doctor, health visitor, or midwife, and explain how you’re feeling to them. These people are here to help you and not judge you. The can certainly point you in the right direction to get the correct help that you need.

Don’t be so hard on yourself and remember that there are so many other people experiencing the same as you. It’s completely normal to get anxious about things and changes happening to your body. But with the correct support, it can be managed. You are worthy of getting support.

🟡 Support network blogs

🔷 Quality time as a couple – Emily

Click here to read Emily’s blog

Making time for one another is something we’ve always found a bit tricky. Admittedly, the little quality time we get together has caused us to have hiccups in the past. However, along the way we’ve learnt that it’s still a date night even if you don’t get out of the house.

If, like us, finding someone to have your child can be a bit difficult at times then ideas of what to do at home are necessary! So I thought I’d list a few:

  • A movie (our favourite date night option at the moment. We are currently watching the Fast & Furious films each night once little man’s in bed – if he’s in bed at a reasonable time I should add😅😂)
  • Games night (Uno, board games, trivia questions or a night on the games console!)
  • Couples quiz (So yes this one may be slightly cheesy😂 but it’s fun and a laugh. You never know, you might even learn something about your partner you never knew!)
  • Drawing (Me and Reuben love drawing so sometimes we will sit up the table and give each other ideas to draw or you could set timer and every 5 minutes or so you have to swap drawings and do this back and forth for however long!)
  • At home Spa night (You can’t go wrong with a foot mask/face mask! At Halloween we purchased Halloween themed face masks which made it funny too😂)

Making time for our partners is important, even more so when you become parents! I know it’s easier said than done, but quality time together is a reminder of why you got together in the first place and I’ll be the first to admit, when you have children it’s so easy to forget that along the way (as after all, you have a lot more on your mind when you become parents😂)

🔷 Friendships / support network – Eleigha

Click here to read Eleigha’s blog

Since becoming pregnant, I’ve definitely seen a lot of people who I would have once considered my “support network” slip away – I’ve never been the most sociable and moved to a different town at 17 so the network never was very big! 😅 I’m so grateful to have a few close supportive people as it really does make all the difference.

Things definitely do change when you have a kid, especially when you have one relatively young, because you’re forced to grow up a little quicker and be in a different place than most of the people you knew your age. Sometimes it’s hard, but I try to make sure I’m connecting with people whether it be online or in person (mostly online) as often as I can, to share experiences and try to keep myself a bit sane 😂

🔷 When your child holidays with their other parent – Emily

Click here to read Emily’s blog

Poppy came back on Monday after going on holiday to turkey with her dad and extended family for 10 days. It was the longest time we have ever spent apart!

It was difficult being apart from her for so long, especially when she was so far away. It created a challenge to be by her side if she had needed me. But although it was hard, I knew she was having so much fun.

I also found comfort in the following:

1. Stay close to loved ones

When you’re away from your child, you’re going to need some people around to comfort you during this time and also create fun memories whilst your little one is making some themselves!

2. Videocall someone who is on holiday with your little one

This means you can both still communicate whilst they’re away! I facetimed Poppy everyday and, even if the signal was poor, we still got to say hello and see each other’s faces. Having the family member who is away with your child send you updates on what they’re doing and pictures at the end of the day is also super comforting.

3. Ask for the airport and flight number to track the flight

This helps resolve any anxiety with your child’s flight and ensures you know when they lift off and land if someone isn’t able to tell you straight away.

4. Take some time for you!

It’s not often we get this long away from our little ones so it’s worth taking advantage of the opportunity to get some well deserved rest, or time to do things we normally don’t have time to do.

🔷 The Lullaby Trust Young Parent Panel – Courtney

Click here to read Courtney’s blog

Me and my partner, Jamie, have both been a part of The Lullaby Trust’s young parent panel for nearly a year!

We both really enjoyed our visit to London to The Lullaby Trust to meet up with other parents in their panel and speak to the coordinators which was so lovely and really helpful for us too. We talked a lot about mental well-being and your health, how we can work on coping mechanisms, spread awareness and offer support to other young parents. There was a lot of talk about safer sleep and co-sleeping (and how to make this safer for baby and you) and our opinions on the topic.

There are online and in-person panel meet-ups over the year so it means if you can’t travel that week/aren’t able to, you can always chat online to everyone 😊

What I like about it is meeting other young parents from across the UK because in NI we don’t have many young parent resources. I think it’s really important to engage with parents your own age, whether you’re 15, 25 or 65, because there’s something about having a bubble that fits your own needs that makes it that bit better.

We’re so thankful to be a part of the Young Parent Panel as we can try our best to offer support to other parents and get to meet with parents our age.

🟡 Life as a young parent

🔷 Preparing for exams – Maria

Click here to read Maria’s blog

Good luck to any young parents sitting exams and writing coursework right now. Be proud of yourselves for getting this stage!

Here are my five tips to prepare for exams as a young parent:

1. Create a realistic plan

Create a realistic study plan that caters to you and your child(ren)’s needs. Give your family members or your support system your plan so they know what help you may need.

2. Talk to your teachers

Talk to your lecturers and course co-ordinators about your circumstances. Most teachers are understanding and will help to facilitate any of your learning needs and extenuating circumstances so you can complete your assignments.

3. Don’t be hard on yourself

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remind yourself that you are doing the work and your baby will be so proud of you!

4. Give yourself plenty of time

Studying ahead and factoring in enough time in a day to study is important because with a baby, it is so unpredictable what happen with them. They could fall sick before the exam and you won’t have enough time to study. So to avoid that, study after your classes so the information is still fresh and all you have to do is look over it.

5. Make it fun

Yes studying doesn’t have to be boring. Use coloured paper, highlighters and stickers; things that will pull your attention to the information studied. Studies have shown that using coloured paper can help you assimilate the information better.

🔷 Caring for baby when you’re poorly – Casey

Click here to read Casey’s blog

Motherhood is 24/7!

When becoming a mummy, my biggest worry was, ‘how will I cope when I’m poorly?’. Nobody really talks about how they handle feeling unwell, especially when their children are completely fine.

My biggest struggle is feeling guilty that I can’t continue like normal sometimes. That’s when I learned that it’s okay to ask for help!

I am lucky that I have an amazing partner and huge family around me who are all able to help me. It really does “take a village” to raise children and that’s okay. Today I’ve spent the majority of the day on the sofa under a duvet feeling sorry for myself. Motherhood is the only job that you can’t call in sick for. You show up. Every single day. Some days it may feel so hard but it’s so worth it in the end.

Today I’ve had help looking after my children – doing basic tasks like feeding them and changing their nappies – and that’s OKAY!

🔷 Low cost activities with a toddler – Courtney

Click here to read Courtney’s blog

I thought I’d do a blog about mental wellbeing and how I help keep myself in a positive mood over summer and in general with a toddler 😅

We try to find as many things around us that are free to go to! There’s a charity-run farm, parks, a beach and even garden centres nearby that are all free for us to go to and make a nice day out for us 😊 Sometimes (most days!) when the weather is bad, we have to try and find alternatives and end up in play studios and museums but we can always find something that doesn’t cost a lot for us to do. Even getting the bus is so exciting for my daughter, Éabha! Lol.

I find that doing things like this really helps Éabha learn and explore (and tire her out), but they also really keep me more relaxed since I’m not someone who loves sitting in the house. I can get quite overwhelmed by doing that so even just taking ourselves on a short walk can really help all of our moods!