Anais Clist lives in Christchurch New Zealand with her 4-month-old daughter, Harlow-Jordan. At 19, Anais and her partner fell pregnant but shortly after broke up, and she began her journey into motherhood as a young single mum. In this blog, Anais shares her fears and concerns and what helped her overcome them.
What’s your name and who’s in your family? My name is Anais Clist. I’m 20 years old and a single mama to my 4-month-old daughter Harlow-Jordan.
How did you feel learning you were pregnant? I was beyond excited! I had been with my partner for 4 years and we wanted to start a family more than anything. We’d just moved into our own home and begun working in our dream jobs. It felt like the perfect time!
What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up for you? When I found out I was pregnant, my partner and I broke up almost immediately, for a variety of reasons. This was my biggest challenge as I started to feel negatively towards my pregnancy – I began questioning whether I wanted to keep her because I didn’t believe I was “old enough” and “mature enough” to do it all on my own. I struggled with this throughout the entirety of my pregnancy and these concerns didn’t leave me until she was in my arms.
How old were you when you fell pregnant? Were you at school/working/studying? I was 19 when I found out I was pregnant. I’d graduated high school the year before and was into the second year of my primary teaching degree.
Did you feel supported during pregnancy by your family/partner/medical team? Because of the pandemic, I couldn’t be around many people for a big chunk of my pregnancy. I was blessed my mum moved into my flat for the lockdown period, which was very helpful since I was newly single and had been living by myself for the first month after I found out I was pregnant. I felt very alone during this time, but my mum and midwife were always there for me and looked after me so well.
How old were you when you gave birth? I was 20 years old!
What was your birth experience like? I laboured exactly as I imagined, drug-free in the water listening to worship music. I loved this time, although it hurt! It was a truly beautiful experience that I worked really hard for. However, things turned as I stopped progressing as rapidly, and as quite a lot of time had passed since my waters broke, I had to go into the hospital. After 33 hours of labour, they wheeled me into theatre because baby’s head was turned in the wrong position and they needed to get her out.
Were you able to debrief your birth experience in a way that helped you to process the experience? Yes, with my midwife! She was amazing.
What do you think could have made you feel more supported during pregnancy and childbirth? What would have helped you? Possibly not having my daughters’ father there. I’m not sure if it would have helped but I sometimes look back on photos with some regret because I could see that he wasn’t present. He was there because he loved me and wanted to help and share that experience with me, but it was hard for me to acknowledge this.
What were the first few weeks of motherhood like for you? What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up? I struggled immensely at times. I loved my daughter more than anything in the world, she was everything and more to me, but at times I felt inadequate. I felt like a failure for bringing her into a broken family and struggled with depression. It wasn’t as bad as it was during my pregnancy, but it was there and very challenging.
Do you feel that you had a healthy support network? My mum was there for me through it all. I always wished I could have had more people to rely on but that just wasn’t how it was for me.
How did you find transitioning into parenthood? It felt natural! Aside from the issues mentioned previously, it felt like a breeze because I loved her so much and she literally saved my life.
Did you have strategies in place to manage stress and anxiety? Yes, I was seeing a counsellor for my depression while pregnant. This helped a lot and still does to have someone on the outside to offload on.
What challenges did you face in the first year of motherhood? For me, it’s studying at university with a baby. It’s a whole new challenge and I’m still learning how to navigate and find enough time for everything I need to do.
What do you love most about being a mum? Waking up to my daughter. Every morning she turns over, opens her eyes and looks at me like I’m the best thing she’s ever seen – it makes my day every day.
What life lessons have you learned? I’ve learned how to make a good situation out of a hard one. I’ve always struggled with negative thinking so learning how to love my life when it’s not what I personally “wanted” or “imagined” for myself has been a challenge, but I’m getting there.
What do you wish people could understand more about being a young mother? I guess that we’re not any different. Sometimes young mums make mistakes, but sometimes older mums make mistakes too. At the end of the day, a first-time mum is a first-time mum. Being older doesn’t make you more experienced because neither person can fully prepare for what’s coming. It’s all about being able to put your child first and the majority of young mums I know do that without a second thought.
What’s helped you the most in becoming a mum? My mum. If you still have your mum, just appreciate them. If they are there for you know how lucky you are. It’s true what they say that you’ll never know how much your mum loves you until you've had a baby for yourself. I also think just realising that no matter what we want, our children deserve the best. This might mean missing out on a few things in life, but nothing else compares to a meaningful life with your child. And lastly, appreciating and honouring myself! Being a mum is hard work but being a young mum can be even harder! While all my friends (and my daughter's dad) would go out and do what they want, I’d be at home caring for my little girl.
Anything else you would like to share? Just remember that you are amazing, and your baby is so lucky to have you! Being a young and single mum can feel like an extra barrier at times, but I always remind myself that I’m not the one missing out. My daughter will always be loved enough and deeply cherished because I’m there doing it every day.
Thank you so much Anais for your vulnerability in sharing your story.
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