“... I can look other young mothers in the eye and say ‘don’t panic, your life isn’t over. It can be okay. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. You are not alone'.”
Like many young women who are pregnant, Hayley listened as people offered comments about what this would mean for her future.
In Hayley’s case these were mostly expressions of concern from a loving and supportive family, who had some understanding of the challenges that being a young mother presents, and were concerned that this would bring Hayley’s schooling and career potential to a swift end.
But with a commitment and determination we often fail to credit young people with, Hayley resolved not only to become a loving and competent parent, but to continue in her education in order to become a successful independent woman, capable of supporting her new family. She was also determined to pursue her own professional dreams, and in doing so, inspire her son, in time to do the same.
Hayley’s dream: to become a midwife, and to deliver the kind of exceptional, comprehensive care that she received during her own pregnancy at the hands of an exemplary midwife.
“I never felt judged. She made me feel like a woman, a mother, and not a little girl. I want to build a career where I can give that gift to others,” Hayley said.
I love my job. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to help other young mums. I wouldn’t like to call myself a role model. That’s not the right word for what I do, but I can look other young mothers in the eye and say ‘don’t panic, your life isn’t over. It can be okay. I’ve been there. I’ve done it. You are not alone,’
Hayley’s drive towards her goal of becoming a midwife was such that in addition to juggling the challenges of parenting a young child, and completing Years 11 and 12 by distance education, she applied for and was successfully admitted into a university guest program allowing her to take university level midwifery subjects. By achieving distinction level grades Hayley was able to secure guaranteed entry to a Bachelor of Midwifery course.
Hayley also began attending monthly meetings held by the Australian College of Midwives to increase her knowledge as she studied. With limited access to babysitting Hayley would bring her young son along in a pram so she could still attend. It was at one of these events that she met Kate Fanton, Team Leader of the Young Mothers for Young Women (YMYW) program at Micah Projects, who was a guest speaker at the event.
Having learned about the YMYW program, and in particular the holistic, all encompassing model that includes peer support workers, Hayley took a chance and approached Kate after her presentation. Within weeks she had been employed by Micah Projects as a YMYW peer worker, working one day a week supporting young mothers who are pregnant and parenting.
Hayley identified the use of peer workers as a standout feature of the YMYW model, because it recognises that young mothers who are pregnant and parenting will be more likely to engage with people they can relate to.
“YMYW has an incredibly comprehensive, professional program where young mothers can access help from doctors and midwives, social workers, dieticians and family support workers who help with day to day life. But to a young mum walking in or calling for the first time it is easy to feel that these people have all the power, and to worry that they might judge you. I know that’s not going to happen, but for young mothers it can be overwhelming,” Hayley said.
“As peer workers we bridge that gap. The young mums know they can talk to us about anything. We’ve been there, and it’s a comfortable environment that is 100% judgement free.”