Updated: Apr 19
Chantelle fell pregnant with her baby girl Savannah at 16, and for a few weeks, she was in complete denial. Chantelle was living in a Youth hostel at the time and had dropped out of school. Despite an isolating journey through pregnancy and a traumatic birth experience, she and her partner went on to create a life together and a few years later welcomed their second little bub to the world.
What’s your name and who’s in your family? My name is Chantelle (25) and my family includes my Husband Jarrad (31), my daughter Savannah (8) and my son Chayse (5). We live in Grafton, New South Wales Australia.
How did you feel learning you were pregnant? What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up for you? When I found out I was pregnant I think I was in complete denial. For a few weeks, I just tried to completely ignore the fact that I was pregnant. It wasn't until my first ultrasound that it really hit home that this was happening, then everything hit at once, and I had so many questions racing around in my head – "how are we going to do this? ... can we do this!?"
How old were you when you fell pregnant? Were you at school/working/studying? I fell pregnant when I was 16. I was in no position to have a baby – I had no job, I was living in a Youth hostel due to leaving home and I had dropped out of school.
Did you feel supported during pregnancy by your family/partner/medical team? I did not feel supported by anyone except Jarrad. All my family distanced themselves from me and his family were all disappointed, as we had only been together for 3 months when we fell pregnant. My medical team seemed to brush everything off and did not want to answer even the simplest questions I had.
How old were you when you gave birth? What was your experience like? My birth experience was traumatic. I gave birth a month after I turned 17. I was induced as my blood pressure had gone through the roof and then went into active labour around 10pm. They wouldn't allow any of my support people to be with me as it was after visiting hours. All my concerns were brushed off and I was left in my room on my own for hours until I called Jarrad in tears and he came up and refused to leave. I had to beg for pain relief and I wasn't allowed to get off the bed to hop in the shower to try and ease the pain. After 14 hours I finally gave birth, and my midwife let visitors into the birthing suite while I was still on the bed. I was naked and hadn't had time to process the fact I had given birth, let alone have a shower, and I had everyone coming in to see the baby.
Were you able to debrief your birth experience in a way that helped you to process the experience? I actually didn't talk about my birth experience with anyone, until I had my second child 3 years later and realised what had happened wasn't normal. This sounds crazy but as a 17-year-old who had no idea what was happening and how things should go, I thought everyone went through the same things.
What were the first few weeks of motherhood like for you? What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up for you? The first few weeks were hard, I had never really had anything to do with babies, so it was a massive learning curve for me. To add to the difficulty, postnatal depression hit me hard.
Do you feel that you had a healthy support network? I had no support network, if people came to visit it was to see Savannah or Jarrad. I felt like I was invisible.
What challenges did you face in the first year of motherhood? In the first year, I had a lot of challenges, Savannah had reflux and got sick a lot, but once again everyone brushed it off. Breastfeeding didn't work out for us so I felt like a failure and I also got extremely sick from the birth control I was put on, so it was a hard year to say the least.
What do you love most about being a mum? What life lessons have you learned? I love watching my kids grow and learn, they are now both in school and they are both kicking goals. I have learnt that I can get through anything life throws at me, and that I know my kids best – I am their voice and I need to use my voice for them.
What do you wish people could understand more about being a young mother? We are just like any other mother. We may be young, but we still need just as much support as other new mums, and with a little bit of help, we can thrive!
Anything else you would like to share? I really thought that getting pregnant only 3 months into my relationship with Jarrad would break us but we have now been together for 10 years and this October, we will celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary. It's been a long and hard road, but I wouldn't change anything, even being a teenage mum!
Photography by Mathilde Langevin via Unsplash
Thank you so much Chantelle for your vulnerability in sharing your story.
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