Education and babies: a 21 year old student gives her account of motherhood at 19.
'The strangest part of the pregnancy was the first time I felt the baby kick,' says 21 year old Sophie Mitchell, mum to 20 month old Marcus. 'I was lying in bed on my back trying to get to sleep when I felt this short sharp kick just below my rib cage, and although feeling the baby move is just as amazing as everyone says, this first time actually made me feel a little sick!'
Motherhood at any age can be a daunting experience, not least for a teenager. Sophie Mitchell, 21, was 18 when she discovered she was pregnant; and far from being another statistic within Britain's high teenage pregnancy rate, she has taken this shock change to her life all in her stride, enrolling at university last year.
Thankfully for Sophie, her pregnancy was relatively straightforward, with no major complications or problems; and it was a good job it did, as far from taking it easy, Sophie was still at college studying for her A Levels, sitting the majority of her exams at 7 months pregnant. With her physical health on an even keel, it more the emotional strain that showed for this young mum. 'Emotionally I think I generally stayed pretty stable throughout, although I do remember bursting into tears a couple of times for no apparent reason!'
Fortunately the birth also went well, and although Sophie was 10 days over due, and initially went in to hospital to be induced, by the time they got round to examining her she was already a couple of centimetres dilated, so there was no need to be. 'The nurses told me that as it was my first, chances are it would be hours before I was fully dilated,' explains Sophie. 'However the whole process from getting to hospital to Marcus being born took little less than 10 hours. The actual birth was over very quickly, and luckily I didn't need any stitches. This made the recovery a lot quicker and less uncomfortable than it is for some.'
Being a young mum is clearly a daunting experience, although for Sophie the first few months, simply rushed by. 'Thinking back it's hard to remember the first few months. They passed so quickly despite the days all being very similar for a while.' She does however, remember the total exhaustion she felt in the early weeks, 'I got to the point where I was so tired that I didn't even feel tired; I couldn't differentiate between tired and not tired because I always felt the same!'
Splitting her time between her home in Cornwall and uni in Plymouth, Sophie did find the initial start to being away from her little one naturally difficult, as she explains; 'I found it quite hard at first due to leaving Marcus for part of the week. Prior to starting I had only ever spent one night away from him. I soon settled into the pattern though and once Marcus had also got used to the change I felt a lot happier about leaving him.' Financially, Sophie feels there is a lot of help for mums who want to go back to education, but she also thinks there has to be support from people around them. 'I don't think I would have been able to manage it if I didn't have my parents to help out. In a more general way, there are groups available for young parents to meet and chat to others, which I think are a really good idea.'
Something Sophie has found difficult is other people's opinion on her parenting. 'One of the hard things about being a young mum is having to put up with other peoples prejudices and opinions on teenage mothers. They think that just because you're young you don't know what your doing and that the child is probably going to grow up a drop out drug addict or something, and so they feel sorry for it.'
Having had first hand experience as life as a young parent, Sophie feels preparation is key to making the transition from teenager to mum. 'Be prepared for some very tough times. No one expects becoming a parent to be easy but it's still a bit of a shock when it happens. Also be prepared to do some fast growing up.'
Clearly life as young parent isn't easy, but bringing a child into the world has some huge benefits, as Sophie has found, 'everyday has been memorable. Every little thing Marcus does is just amazing to watch and every moment is just so special; I wouldn't change my situation for the world!'
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