Fran is a beautiful young mama at heart. I met her and her gorgeous little boy Franky in my mums and bubs yoga class and she is my inspiration for creating The Young Mothers Collective. In the same week that Fran found out she was pregnant, both herself and her partner lost their jobs and then had to navigate pregnancy and birth during a global pandemic. I have so much admiration for Fran's strength and resilience and feel blessed to share her experience.
What’s your name and who’s in your family? My name is Fran. In my family, there is myself, my partner Ben and my baby boy Franky. We also have Ben's two other children (ages 9 and 11) with us 3 days one week and 4 days the next. So I pretty much went from zero children to 3 within 2 years!
How did you feel learning you were pregnant? What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up for you? I was scared when I found out I was pregnant within the same week both Ben and I lost our jobs. At the time, we were living in northwest Queensland in the outback. The first 6 months of my pregnancy were pretty hectic, with no job and nowhere to live. We moved back to the north coast but after a month of no success finding work we then moved down to stay with my brother in Murwillumbah. Fortunately, I started working at a restaurant and Ben found some work. We got a rental but then COVID hit and I was put out of work again at 8 months pregnant. It was a period of constant financial stress and I found myself doubting my choices, but I have always been a great believer that everything happens for a reason, so I just let the universe take its path.
How old were you when you fell pregnant? I was 26 when I fell pregnant. With our financial situation and other family issues, I was confronted by my family back in the UK telling me to come home and consider terminating the pregnancy out of their concerns. So, I felt very much alone with the exception of a few people.
Did you feel supported during pregnancy by your family/partner/medical team? During my pregnancy, I felt very isolated from COVID starting and none of my family being able to fly over to help me, to then having midwife appointments over the phone, it was just not how I imagined it to be. My partner had other stuff going on and with my hormones constantly changing, we argued more than ever before. I felt the more I expected support from people the more disappointed I was, so I just didn’t really expect too much.
What was your birth experience like? I did feel supported by my midwife. It wasn’t until the very last day when I was 42 weeks that I felt I lost my voice. I went in determined that I did not want a stretch and sweep or physical examination, but I was feeling very vulnerable and isolated and gave in to the pressure of the doctor who then carried out an examination, and then my birth experience only went downhill from there. I felt I lost all control which breaks my heart to think it could have been so different.
At 42 weeks I went into the birth centre in the morning to discuss my options regarding induction. After the doctor intervened at my appointment I went home and sobbed my heart out for hours feeling I had let myself down and lost control knowing deep down this was the start. I went into labour at 5pm on a Monday, stayed at home until 5am the next day and then my partner and I drove to the birth centre where I was hooked up to a machine for an hour and then transferred to Tweed hospital.
Fast forward through 30 hours of labouring, no pain relief, only 4 centimetres dilated for 5 hours, the worst back pain and no progression at 10.30pm, the decision was made that an emergency c-section would be the best option. I feel if I had a better support network and a woman or friend by my side that I would have had a much more powerful and positive birthing experience, but I know hindsight is a great thing and I try not to punish myself, as at the end of the day, Franky was healthy and that's all that matters.
Were you able to debrief your birth experience in a way that helped you to process the experience? This is the first time I have written about my birth experience and it is helping me process it, perhaps I should have done it sooner! I am not sure talking to anyone will help because everyone has an experience unique to them, therefore no one can make me feel better about a decision only I could have made.
What do you think could have made you feel more supported during pregnancy and childbirth? I think I needed my sister or a strong female by my side to support me. I don't feel like my partner understood my needs and the support I required and I am not good at communicating that, so I think having someone who can relate would have made all the difference.
What were the first few weeks of motherhood like for you? What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up for you? Lonely. I was just doing it – going through the motions – and I felt like it was me and Franky against the world, but it was so lonely with no family or friends. I was still doing housework and making my food as my partner returned to work the day after Franky was born, so it was more a case of just learning quickly how to manage.
Do you feel that you had a healthy support network? Not at all. I started mums and bubs yoga on a Saturday at 6 weeks postpartum and this was the only form of support I had which was amazing, but also felt hard after talking to the other mums, as they returned to their nice lives with supportive partners and a network, I would return home to no family, friends and an absent partner.
How did you find transitioning into parenthood? What challenges did you face in the first year? Considering the circumstances, I feel like I adapted very well, as I think most new mothers do. I felt like it wasn’t a choice, I just had to get up and do it – motherhood just happened. My biggest challenge was not having family or friends around and feeling isolated. My partner's kids also moved to live near us and they now stay with us 50% of the time, which meant that looking after them was on me, as my partner worked. I also had all the common worries of being a new mum – worrying if I am feeding my baby enough and not getting enough alone time for myself to recharge.
What do you wish people could understand more about being a young mother? What's helped you the most? It is bloody hard work and there is much more support needed. The things that have helped me have been Instagram – seeing other mums just trying their best. The mums and bubs yoga class with Erin from 6 weeks postpartum to 6 months gave me the only support network I had and provided a sense of purpose. My sister also had a baby 9 months before me which helped in giving me a heads up on what to expect!
What do you love most about being a mum? What life lessons have you learned? I love the cuddles and the connection I have with my baby boy, knowing I am the one he needs and wants fills my heart like nothing else. I have learnt patience and it has given me a sense of purpose that I never knew I needed.
Thank you so much Fran for your vulnerability in sharing your story.
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