Last night I had the opportunity to speak with a volunteer for a volunteering service in central London about the difficulties young parents face in trying to volunteer. We had a good chat and it brought up a lot of issues for me that I had forgotten about. One thing we did discuss was the media. How no matter how “positive” these programmes which are designed to show the positive side of teenage parents still don’t.
Since falling pregnant with J in Feb 2006 aged 16 I have watched every single documentary about young parents that has been broadcast. Why? Because I’m still waiting for the day I find a documentary that doesn’t show teenage mothers as being lazy slobs who don’t care about their babies and are more worried about getting into their jeans.
Why an earth I still watch these programs when I know they are going to infuriate me and make me angry I don’t know but I still do!
The fact of the matter is 1 in 3 under 16s are sexually active. There isn’t a cure for teenage pregnancy. There doesn’t need to be a cure but the support services need to be there. In some areas the support services are there but the lines of communication are closed meaning the information isn’t getting to those who need it. The pregnant teenagers.
Its not a case of when you go to your midwife, the only “professional” other than your GP that you definitely see during your pregnancy, that they give you a list of all the local resources and places to go for advice. In fact in 2006 they knew nothing. I remember at my booking in appointment my Mum asking what services there were in the area for young parents and the response was quite frankly a shrug of shoulders.
I know I was an exception to the rule in that being the Internet addict I always have been I researched and researched to try and find any local services. Sadly I never came up with anything through the Internet.
Connexions, the service for teenagers, in 2006 were also a fat lot of good. I walked in with Mum and asked to see someone who knew about teenage parents and what help was out there, the response? “We don’t have anyone but I’ll see if one of them can help”. That “them” sat with me for all of 10 minutes and told me the name of the Under 18s advisor at the Job centre who I was to see. Getting passed from pillar to post comes to mind.
Finally in late October 2006 I got a phone call from Connexions, a “Teenage Parent Advisor” had been employed. However this was the first post of its kind within the county and thus we both started a learning curve together. I was her first “client” and I learnt with her. She did her best to find things out for me and to open up opportunities for me.
After I had J in November 2006 she also came with me to the Young Parents Group that was in my area that being the shy unconfident post baby new mum teenager I was I was bricking it to go to. So she collected me in her car and drove me and J there, he was almost 3 months. But guess what, less than a year later that young parents group was shut down along with 4 others within the area. Why? One word. Funding.
I was also extremely lucky that whilst pregnant I was offered a place on a short course for teenage mums and dads to be. But this only came about after Mum rung up the hospital asking why there were no young parents antenatal classes available, the lady told her she would do some investigating and another lady rung us back to say she had heard of an opportunity on a small course for young parents, the first of its kind in our area. Mum immediately signed me onto it. A few weeks later it started and was great. We were given lunch whilst there and had a chance to talk with midwives and health visitors that actually wanted to be with teenage parents and to help them, not look down upon them. We all got to ask all the questions we wanted to and to learn how to change nappies, how to interact with babies, etc. I didn’t stay in contact with any of the other mums, we were all from all over the county. But what it did prepare me for was birth and the practicalities. It also gave me the support and the hope that there were a few people out there not criticizing young parents. And guess what? That course now runs every few months within our county!
OK so I know a lot of people think that young parents are no different to anyone else. In reality they aren’t. Any woman can be a mother from the time she starts her periods. Children, become pregnant at 12. Do you really think that a 12 year old is going to walk into an antenatal class full of 30 year old and their husbands? No they aren’t. Do you think that 15 year old struggling with a colicky baby is going to ask their health visitor for advice? A good chance not. Young parents need services for them. Many of these young parents are still children themselves. Without the support they do struggle, like the poor Mum on last nights Underage and Pregnant, I was gobsmacked last night to see that the teenagers own mother had to call in social services to help her daughter manage. It shouldn’t have got to that stage. The support should have been their earlier.
If you’ve read all that then thank you very much.