Rachel is a single mum to her one-year-old son Thomas. She tells her story of stigma, post-partum psychosis and why seeking and accepting help is so important.
I was 19 when I found out I was pregnant, and 20 when I had my son Thomas, who’s now one.
My son’s father had left the country when I found out I was pregnant and wouldn’t accept that Thomas was his. When I told people that I was pregnant, some told me that I shouldn’t keep the baby, that I should have an abortion, particularly because his father was black.
My labour was really awful, and shortly after Thomas was born I was diagnosed with post-partum psychosis. I began having delusions, hallucinations, very bad thoughts. I was very erratic and I couldn’t stay still. I knew I wasn’t well. I called my health visitor, explained what was happening and she called an ambulance. I was admitted to my local hospital, where I stayed for three days before they found me a place in a specialist unit. The unit was a two hour drive away from home and my family. Thomas and I spent two months there before I was discharged home, with ongoing support and medication.
My close family have been really supportive. I would say to any young mum to get the support you need. My health visitor has been brilliant and I have made sure that I have listened to all her advice and accessed the services she’s put me in touch with. My message to young mums is to make sure you seek advice from professionals – it’s invaluable.
The most important thing for me once I got home was to go to as many children’s and babies’ groups as possible and meet other mums. I had something to go to every day, which really helped me settle into motherhood.
Life as a mum now is different. I have lost friends, which hit me really hard at first. And I don’t get many invitations to go out. But some of my friends now help me out, looking after Thomas for me when I’m working or studying.
I also found it really difficult at first to accept that my baby’s father wasn’t going to be around and that I was going to be on my own with a baby. It was really hard but I had to move on – it’s made me a stronger person.
Now I have met and am engaged to another man, and he is great with Thomas.
Even though Thomas is only one, I’m already working and studying. I’m doing an Open University degree in health and social care and working for a care and support organisation. Thomas goes to nursery or my parents, or friends help out with childcare too.
The journey wasn’t easy, but I made it – the support I got along the way was a big help. Gingerbread helped me to work out what it was I wanted to do, and helped me with things like writing my CV and filling out application forms. They are little things but can be a big help.
See our advice for more support for young single parents.