I am writing this post retrospectively, but it is something that I really wanted to write about as it affected me for many years following the birth of my boy.
When my boy was born, I had just turned 23. I’d had a horrible pregnancy and birth, but I was over the moon about becoming a mum and wanted to forget all of the bad things, move on and embrace every moment.
I was also looking forward to meeting other like-minded mums and making new friendships too. It would be a new chapter in my life and I really couldn’t wait.
But things didn’t really work out like that.
When I first started going out and about with my boy in his pram a few weeks after he was born, I still remember the looks I would get. I looked a “young” 23, quite baby-faced. (I quite often still got asked for ID for alcohol!)
I recall one occasion holding my boy whilst sitting alone in a coffee shop, and I was actually tutted at by a group of women in their 60s on the table in front of me. They were clearly speaking about me, they kept glancing over with stern looks on their faces. I was breaking the mould that society had set by having my baby that little bit younger than what would usually be deemed acceptable.
It was as if society had rejected me.
But it wasn’t just 60-year-old women in coffee shops making me feel worthless.
When my boy was about 2 months old we were invited to attend a “Mother & First Baby Group” which was set up by the health visitors in the area, aimed at babies all born in the same month, enabling us to meet other mums going through the same thing. I was really looking forward to it.
There were about 12 other mums and babies in the group. I was by far the youngest. Week by week I could see that friendships were forming between the other mums.
“Shall we do coffee afterwards?”
“Let me take your number, we can arrange a little play date!”
I could hear the conversations between all the other mums in the group. I could see them leaving the sessions together with their babies in their beautiful top of the range prams.
Me? I may as well have not been there. I tried to break the ice a good few times but nobody was interested in what I had to say. I got the odd sympathetic smile, and that was about it. All I wanted was to be accepted, to have been asked to join some of the others having a coffee, rather than being left to wander home on my own for yet another afternoon alone with a newborn.
I didn’t have the latest Bugaboo, and my boy wasn’t dressed in head to toe Boden, and he was having milk from a bottle, (expressed milk, if they had asked) he had a dummy when he needed one and regardless of anything else, I was far too young.
It was clear that these people had taken one look at me and thought “She is just some young girl who fell pregnant, doubt if she’s even got a job, probably not even got a partner. Good for her for trying, but there is no way in hell my me and my baby will be mixing with the likes of her and her son.”
If they had bothered to engage in conversation with me, they would have known that this was not the case at all. Sure, I was young, but I came from a pretty middle-class background myself, I had a full-time job, lived in a two bedroom house, with my partner of 5 years and we were about to buy our first home. We had a car and went on lovely holidays, and I had the very best intentions for our son.
Regardless of all that, (and that should be neither here nor there anyway!) I was a new mummy too. I had the same hopes and worries and fears that they had. Just because I had been on this planet maybe a decade or so less than them apparently that made me inferior.
I felt totally rejected, and that stayed with me for a long time. I am a pretty confident person, but the way I was so obviously perceived certainly knocked me down a peg or two.
I put on a brave face and decided to go to another group. I waited until after Christmas and found one. Again, the same thing happened. I could have walked out the door half an hour into the group and nobody would have noticed. Nobody was interested, I stood out from the crowd.
As soon as the group ended I walked down the road with my boy got into my car and cried. I felt so alone, I just wanted to feel as if other mums cared that I existed. They all wanted someone to talk to too, why was I not good enough?
It wasn’t until I was expecting my girl 3 years later that I actually found the confidence to interact with other mums again. By this time, my boy was in pre school and I had built up the confidence to chat to a few mums at the gates at drop off and collection, you know, just general chit-chat “nice weekend?” “I like his jumper, where is it from?” That kind of thing.
People had come to realise that I was not scum of the earth for having a baby so young, and it was evident that I was doing a pretty good job of bringing him up, my boy was sweet, chatty and friendly and others could see that too.
Suddenly society had finally accepted me.
Now, at almost 30, I always look out for that younger mum at the toddler groups, trying to fit in. I want her to know that she matters too.
I was her once, I have been there.
Age is just a number, but people do not get that.