Being a single mum when you are a teenager can be a very scary and isolating experience.
As lead response for first time mums aged 19 and younger, in and around Cambridge, Romsey Mill works with over 100 teenage mums each year.
Rachel Briant, who leads the Young Parents Programme says: “We want to equip young parents and their children for a positive future.”
“We help them to adjust to the change in their circumstances, at a time when they often lack confidence and an effective support network, by providing expert personal, educational and parenting support.”
“We do this by building lasting relationships of trust – so that they can feel confident to come to us, knowing that we will respond positively, without prejudice and in their best interests.”
One of the young mums Romsey Mill has helped is Ashleigh – who had 3 children by the time she was 20 years old – including twins.
Ashleigh first came into contact with Romsey Mill through her midwife, when she was eighteen and pregnant with the twins.
Ashleigh can still remember the first time she met Judith Cork, a Young Parents Worker with Romsey Mill, who visited her when she was in hospital with suspected preterm labour and remains embarrassed about the jar of pickled onions Judith saw on her bedside table! Judith continued to meet with Ashleigh, offering support on a 1 to 1 basis.
Ashleigh says: “Being pregnant at 18 was scary. After my twins, Isaac and Oscar, were born, Judith encouraged me to attend Romsey Mill’s Bumps and Babies group, and I went for the first time just days after I left hospital, when the twins were only 3 weeks old.”
Ashleigh recalls: “I was so nervous, but very quickly I met other young mums in the same situation. I had felt so isolated before. I lost all my friends from school, who were still going out clubbing and doing teenage things.”
Ashleigh adds: “But the friends I made at Romsey Mill were so important to me – and still are. We really support each other.”
Ashleigh had always wanted to be a midwife, and Romsey Mill helped her to take the first steps towards achieving her dream. Bekki, another member of Romsey Mill’s Young Parents Programme team at the time, helped Ashleigh with her studies, providing courses in English and Maths and Shine – a self-esteem course.
Ashleigh says: “Shine was so important to me. It gave me a real confidence that I never had. I was always quite shy and the course made me feel better about myself. Without Shine I wouldn’t even have had the confidence to have conversations with anyone on the telephone.”
The day after her 20th birthday, Ashleigh found that she was pregnant, with Jake – a third son.
She says: “It was an awful shock. I had wanted to get my career sorted and have a home before I had any more children. But I didn’t want to lose my baby, so I had to change plans. I had help from my family and lived at home - but me and the 3 boys were all in one bedroom. It was very hard.”
Ashleigh says that has Romsey Mill helped give her the confidence to fulfil her role as a parent, and also to be positive about achieving her goals for her career.
She says: “ I am currently working part time as a health care assistant at Addenbrookes and I absolutely love it! My twins are 5 now and in their first year at school and little Jake is 3 and at nursery. When Jake starts full time school I'm going to start working full time, then hopefully I can progress to be a Band 3 then train to be a nurse before doing the bolt on to become a midwife.”
“I don’t want to live on handouts and I want to teach my boys that you have to work and earn your way in life. I hope that seeing their mum work and achieving her goals will help to teach them that.”
Ashleigh said: “I owe a lot to Romsey Mill. I never would have had the confidence I do now without the help of the Young Parents Programme team and the opportunities they gave me.”
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Romsey Mill’s help and for that I am forever grateful.”