Lauren and her little boy Lucas live in a small village in Scotland called Old Kilpatrick. In this blog, Lauren shares her experiences of becoming a mother at 22 years old, and her struggles with breastfeeding, limited social support and postnatal depression.
What’s your name and who’s in your family? My name is Lauren Strattan and I live with my son Lucas who is almost 4 years old.
How did you feel learning you were pregnant? What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up for you? I had mixed emotions because I was so excited, but I was also extremely worried about my partner's reaction. I had been diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) and told that I'd likely need fertility treatment to get pregnant. It was unplanned and my partner had already told me he didn’t want any more children.
How old were you when you fell pregnant? Were you at school/working/studying? I was 22 years old, working full-time as a bus driver/tour guide in the Scottish Highlands.
Did you feel supported during pregnancy by your family/partner/medical team? I felt supported in the sense that I had a roof over my head and everything I needed for my son. My partner found it very difficult to bond with my son when I was pregnant – he would rarely touch my bump or speak to the baby and we argued a lot. It was a very lonely time for me, and it didn’t help that I lived an hour away from my family. I felt like the first midwife I met was very judgmental – she made very inaccurate assumptions about my situation and was very rude to me. I also had to fight my case for a c-section, which wasn’t very nice. I felt like my reasoning was completely valid, as I had done the research to back up my decision.
How old were you when you gave birth? I was still 22 when I gave birth. I turned 23 not long after.
What was your birth experience like? Due to medical reasons, I had a planned c-section. The birth was beautiful, I just wish I wasn’t as drugged up as I was. I feel like the drugs tainted my experience a little and my memory isn’t as clear as I wish it was. My son struggled to breastfeed and lost quite a lot of weight which meant we had to go into the special care unit. This was terrifying and totally ruined my breastfeeding experience. I was completely alone throughout our time in special care too. It was awful.
Were you able to debrief your birth experience in a way that helped you to process the experience? I can’t remember debriefing my birth with anyone. I spoke to the doctor once we left special care – this was because there was an investigation into why we were discharged from the hospital only 12 hours after my c-section, with no breastfeeding support. I quickly fell back into my normal routine (my partner had 2 older daughters). I think this was part of the reason I developed postnatal depression.
What do you think could have made you feel more supported during pregnancy and childbirth? What would have helped you? I think I would have benefited hugely from being around my mother and family, but we lived an hour apart. Having no women around me was very difficult.
What were the first few weeks of motherhood like for you? What concerns/thoughts/feelings came up? The first few weeks were extremely difficult. I felt like I was doing everything completely on my own and having no help during the night made me lose my mind a little. I had a mental breakdown when my son was 8 weeks old and then my partner started taking him during the day so I could sleep more.
Do you feel that you had a healthy support network? My support network was very small – I only had my partner and it put a lot of strain on our relationship.
How did you find transitioning into parenthood? Did you have strategies in place to manage stress and anxiety? I felt alone but so excited! I had nothing in place to prepare me whatsoever. I was so naive.
What challenges did you face in the first year of motherhood? My biggest challenge was my mental health. My breakdown was quite bad, and I was put on very heavy medication to manage my anxiety and depression. I was also seeing a therapist for the first year. Meanwhile, my relationship was breaking down. My son was the only positive thing during this time, and I am so grateful I had him.
What do you love most about being a mum? What life lessons have you learned? The thing I love most about being a mum is the unconditional love I feel for my son and to be on the receiving end of his love. I have never experienced a feeling like it. I have learned that giving up is not an option and you have to commit to healing your trauma, so that your child does not have to suffer the consequences.
What do you wish people could understand more about being a young mother? I wish they would understand how isolating it is. I lost so many friends when I became a mother. I found it very difficult to maintain friendships and adapt to this new life and I wish my friends would have been more supportive.
What has helped you the most in becoming a mum? Other mums have been my guardian angels; I would be lost without their support. I would also be lost without reiki healing; I became a practitioner last year and it has changed my life.
Thank you so much Lauren for your vulnerability in sharing your story.
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