Episode 16

#16 Becoming a Grandma through Teen Pregnancy – Tanya Shares her story The Matrescence Podcast

This episode is an absolute spine tingler. Tanya is a 47 year old middle class professional and single parent. Mum of two boys, Tanya knows first hand how intense the experience of matrescence can be.Last year Tanya’s matrescence journey took a unique turn when she found out her son, a child himself at just 15, was expecting a baby with his girlfriend or the same age. Whilst many of the teen’s friends had known about the pregnancy for quite some time, Tanya did not receive this news until they were almost 22 weeks pregnant. She  had very little time to process this information as just two weeks later the baby was born via a true emergency c-section. Due to the baby’s gestation (just 24 weeks) what ensued was a long NICU stay with many tough conversations and setbacks. Throughout this episode, Tanya speaks to the push and pull of of attempting to parent her own child, while supporting him to step into the role of a parent himself. All the while having to work within the constraints of multiple systems, being the sole bread winner for her family, parenting her other child and entering into a new love relationship.Get comfy and make sure you have time to listen to this one uninterrupted. Tanya is an incredible story teller and has an incredible story to tell. Thanks to Tanya for her vulnerability sharing something that is intensely private but so important, and for opening up the conversation about teen pregnancy without shame or apology. What a privilege it was to share your story. Themes: Teen pregnancy, Teen mum, NICU, Emergency C-section, Foster Care, Child Services, Matrescence, Single parent 


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Kelly: The birth of a baby is a defining moment in a woman’s life.

But what about the birth of a mother? That’s right when a baby is born. So two is a mother.

This transition from woman to mother has a name it’s called Matrescence. This developmental stage is as powerful and irreversible as adolescents, and yet few women have ever heard of it.

So let’s talk about it.

Let’s talk about it. Each episode, we will bring you honest and thought provoking conversations, evidence-based research and knowledgeable guests in order to help you emerge a more powerful and aligned version of yourself. So join us, your hosts, Kelley and Bree, as we attempt to make sense of Al Matrescence journey and to help you make sense of it.

I’ve been listening for a while now. Hopefully you’ve heard us talk about Matrescence the physical, emotional, and psychological changes that accompany becoming a mother. If you want to refresh on what is Matrescence or why we started this job, check out episode one of season one while every woman’s journey is unique, some experiences are pretty universal and area where yet to explore is how does Matrescence look when your life circumstances are slightly different or even quite outside of the mainstream ideas we have about birth and mothering, for example, what does Matrescence look like when you give birth to your first child at 15, or when your first four months of motherhood I spent from a distance as your baby battles for their life in the NICU?

What does it look like when your baby is placed in foster care or child services? Get in there. Today’s conversation touches on all of these things. As we explore them through the eyes of a grandmother, today’s guest is Tanya. And at the time of recording, she’s 47 years old. She’s an Anglo-Saxon descent.

And from a traditional middle-class family in Australia, or she works as a professional in a global firm. She also mothers, two boys as a sole parent. Now, during the episode, she does refer to her partner, but it’s important to note that she’s nearly in this relationship after a significant break, following her divorce, the dating during COVID as a single mother is a whole other story.

But this gives context to the fact that she both refers to her partner and to being a single mum last year, 10 years Matrescence journey took a unique term when she found out her son, a child himself at 15 was expecting a baby with his 15 year old girlfriend. As you’ll soon here, tenure did not receive this news until she was almost 22 weeks pregnant and had very little time to process it as just two weeks later.

The baby was born by a true emergency. C-section what ensued was a push and pull as Kenya attempted to parent her own child while supporting him to step into the role of a parent himself, all the while, having to work within the constraints of multiple systems, being the sole breadwinner for her family, parenting her other child and navigating that new love relationship.

It was such a privilege to have this conversation with Tanya. I’ve been lucky enough to count myself inside her friendship circle though. I only witnessed a tiny amount of what occurred during this time, but getting the chance to sit and listen, to tell her story into it. Literally had me with goosebumps all over and tingles through my spine.

It was really quite emotional. Bree was with us during the recording. So you may hear her feeding Emmy throughout, but we just couldn’t stop recording as we were on the edge of our seats. And didn’t want to get off that journey. So get comfy and make sure you have time to listen to this one.

Uninterrupted. It’s pretty special. Thank you, Tanya, for your vulnerability, sharing something intensely private, but also so important. I know how proud you are of your children, your grandchild and your story. So here it is, tend to story this episode. We are going to talk about becoming a grandmother at an unexpected time, in an unexpected way. In season one, we actually had a discussion around talking to kids about sex consent and their bodies, and it was a really popular topic. So today I’ve invited Tanya to come and talk to us about her experience of.

Having these conversations in her family, but still ending up with a teenage pregnancy. Tanya, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself to set the scene for this conversation?

Tanya: Yeah, sure. So I’m obviously female, you can probably pick that up from my voice. I’m a professional woman, a sole parent and 47.

And I think as we get into the story from a middle-class background that age will become quite interestingly,

Kelly: fantastic. So from what we discussed, you were having conversations with your boys during the time that they were growing up and yet a pregnancy still unfolded. What did it look like in your house when they were growing up discussing topics of things like sex consent, their bodies, and inevitably what results from that.

Tanya: Yeah, look, I think in comparison with other parents that I would talk with I had a very comfortable way with my boys. So sexuality is embraced it’s part of life and it was a topic easy to talk about, or as easy as it can be with two boys and the various ages that they go through. But certainly there wasn’t any discomfort with it.

And I think one of the advantages I’ve learned with my children is to answer their questions. So they’re curious. I age appropriately to satisfy their curiosity with what’s going on with their bodies and the various stages of sexual sexuality there. And it was really common in my house as we emerged to age 16, which is the legal age for consent conversations around.

The legal age to have sexual intercourse is 16. And so therefore, what are the consequences if you don’t, I’ve got two boys. So what might the females parents’ response be if that actually occurred? So it was a really open conversation in our house to the point with you don’t have to have sexual intercourse.

There are other sexual pleasures and curiosities that you can have in the lead up to that. And we also covered the STD component why would you have safe sex and why would you understand your partner’s sexual history and all of those things? So there was a health and wellness perspective as well.

So it was covered from my perspective. Broad. I don’t know what my boys would say. Maybe they would say that’s enough. I don’t know. But certainly it was more than my friends were having with their children. Yeah. It

Kelly: certainly sounds like in, just in hearing that there’s some, my children a little bit behind yours, there’s some ideas I’ve picked up then about things we haven’t discussed yet that I’m going to put under a note to remember.

It also just occurred to me that it’d be really interesting to have a guest of a teenage on the here at some point in the future. So why don’t you give us the story of how you found out about the pregnancy and the context of the situation? Because I think that becomes a good anchor point for the rest of the discussion and where it goes, because part of this is about even when we do all the things that we believe are right, that society believes are right.

That the journey. The way it goes and it’s, we don’t have control over these things. And that’s part of that, certainly. But I think if we start with the story of how you found out and we can go from there.

Tanya: Sure. Okay. This is going to be my best attempt at my story. It still surprises me to this day that this is my story.

And with the benefit of hindsight, there’s some irony and some comedy to it, even though there were a lot of, not very funny things that happened along the way. So my son, he would have been 15, just 15. My suspicion. It would have been his sexual experiences would have occurred in his late fourteens. So clearly my sex education talk fell on deaf ears or wasn’t able to be translated.

He had a girlfriend that was still the same girlfriend. At the time he got her pregnant. But he managed to keep that quiet. I didn’t know her family, it was kept quiet right up to week 22. The only signs I saw with him is his behavior was a bit erratic and he seemed like there was nothing he could do that was going to solve this problem.

So it was, he had a problem that he couldn’t voice. And I didn’t find out literally till it, it had peaked. And we’d had a lot of initial conversations around. There’s nothing you can’t solve. There’s nothing we can’t work with. What is it that’s going on? And eventually I guess it, and I said, okay, so your girlfriend’s pregnant.

And he said, yes, which I thought was like, okay, that’s fine. I’m thinking maybe we’re 12 or 13 weeks pregnant. What I found out is she was 22 weeks pregnant. So suddenly apart from your own feelings that are going there, all of the options that you’ve got for underage pregnancies, the fact that it’s highly unsafe at that age as a woman’s body, as a 15 year old, it’s not ready to carry and give birth to it.

So suddenly all of your fans front-end options are off the table. It became a little bit more curious around her social background. So she doesn’t come from middle-class. Families doesn’t come from a background that I recognize. And so the, what I would consider a normal, okay, how are we going to solve this problem?

Let’s go to the doctor. What are our options? Literally, she was just kept at home. So she couldn’t take matters into her own hands and have an abortion if that’s what she chose. So she, she already had, from what I’m told, been in a predicament of, I’m going to have to keep this baby and and didn’t have the sort of scaffold or framework that would be normal from the world that I come from.

I think in the two weeks between me finding out yeah, And his girlfriend giving birth. So she gave birth at twenty four, four weeks. I didn’t waste any time. I’d managed to find a charity that specialized in teens birth because I hadn’t appreciated that 19 to 20% of all births are teen births.

So for me it was foreign for middle-class. It was foreign, but it’s not actually foreign if you’re in the healthcare system. So that’s actually

Kelly: just a really interesting point. So both of them were 15. Yep. And did you say between 19 and 20% of all births at teen


Tanya: Yes. And they’ve got special wards in the hospital I’m told and special care factors just for this now 15 is definitely on the younger end.

But it’s not forum in that sort of maternity system there. And from a charity perspective, there’s a lot of scaffold out there helping young mums with school, leave home care for their baby it’s it was a whole new world for me. So in that two week period, I had found Yeah, a charity and a counselor.

It’s extraordinary the support that’s out there. Who could talk me through my feelings, my response, what help might look like with me leading teenagers in this space. And and that was really helpful. So I’d already made a significant amount of traction with options and things to think about in that element there.

What I wasn’t expecting while I was on a professional work call, I think I was facilitating a virtual session there, a text bubbled up from my son saying my girlfriend she’s had the baby and she’s had an operation, or it was something to that effect. And I remember that moment. One, it’s unusual to have a son who has a child at 15.

I had no context with her parents and I’m in a professional capacity leading a group of people and I can’t afford to skip a beat. And it wasn’t a moment on a virtual call that you could go, oh, I’m really sorry. My son’s got something that needs me, or I just need to. So during COVID, when we’re working virtually it would be quite normal to do that, but I was actually stuck for words.

I’m like, I can’t very well say my son’s girlfriend’s just had a baby. Like it was just mindblowing. So I remember that moment as, quite character building to get through that Workday and do what I need to do, and literally shove my feelings to the bottom of my big toe in order to get through.

Kelly: So the birth itself. Occurred at the 24 week gestation. And that in itself has a number of implications. So not only have you just come to terms with she’s pregnant, you very quickly went to, and now there is a child and I don’t know the health, the context, but all I know is that has been extremely early and therefore there’s likely, so tell me a little bit about the NICU experience, the birth of baby, and you’ve already mentioned it, but just so that we’re clear, you are a single parent, so you don’t have a partner or there wasn’t really a father figure involved with your son in this situation.

And her parents are not involved either. So you then go to the house. And tell us about that.

Tanya: Sure. Let me tell you something funny which for those who have teenagers will relate to this, if something big happens in your life as a teenager, you pop it on Instagram or Snapchat. So effectively the teenage world found out before any anyone else.

His girlfriend or now, and it’s referred to her as mum. She’d gone to hospital in an ambulance. She’d done that because there was no adult insight taking care of her. So she was effectively in labor. Didn’t realize it turns up at an emergency to have emergency emergency surgery.

And because of her extreme pain, she’s in the ambulance on some painkillers. And so that was then put on, I think it was Instagram. So one of the first people to find out was my other son. And so for people in our age group, w we probably don’t sleep with our phones and aren’t glued to Instagram and Snapchat and all of these other platforms, but that was the medium to communicate that.

And this is a really key thread in the story is the teenagers and preteens knew what was going on before any parenting cohort. Often weeks before and they kept it quiet. So it was just a really interesting layer to how they communicate and how they can keep things quiet. So I couldn’t get any sense out of my son.

And for those that have teenage boys, that’s not a new concept. And so eventually I had to wait to get on to his girlfriend now, mum. Yeah. And work out what had gone on. And that’s when I got the stories she’d she had an emergency Caesar in the world. I come from, you talk about an emergency Caesar.

They give you a few hours notice of that. And it’s kind of precautionary thing. This was a real emergency surgery with like literally a gas and slash would be my best description of that. Baby born at 24 weeks. They don’t survive earlier than that. That’s the earliest period. They go into the NICU.

And it was probably she’d had her in there the earliest hours of the morning. And I’d been up there that day, late in the afternoon. So I had to wait to, for her to recover. My calls to the hospital were a waste of time because I wasn’t the mother of mother. So I couldn’t get any way I couldn’t or they wouldn’t give me anything.

Was she okay? Did the baby survive? I was in the dark for that period and my son, although doing a good job was overwhelmed, which what the hospital told me is most white men are overwhelmed in that scenario, age. Wasn’t a factor in this, but I can only imagine that’d be pretty scary. And so once I turned up at the hospital later in the afternoon, that’s when I actually understood the full story.

I was literally the only responsible parent standing. There was no one else. Insight there. And that was probably the moment where the medical staff are looking at me. I think they had an expectation of perhaps how do I say this nicely? So someone from a lower socioeconomic background that wasn’t going to be able to fulfill the role and the look on the doctor’s face when it was me and you’re from middle-class and you’re educated.

And from our first conversation, you seem like someone we can work with on that. And that’s when it really dawned on me is it was just me, like when you stand in a line and then you’ve just everyone else steps back and it’s you, that’s how I felt. I’m just like, okay, so I’m a grandmother with a son he’s still at school.

And then this girl. Who I imagine would have had some families or friends scaffold around her has nothing. It was, oh, I can only imagine how hard that would be to have no one to support you. And at that young age, it would just be frightening. And you’re just coming to terms with puberty and your body and what it does.

So you don’t have to and have a group of peers to group, to draw on around what’s normal from a birth perspective there they made special arrangements at the hospital, so she was moving into private. They had their own room, they broke all the policies and procedures, which is pretty big for Queensland health, I think.

So my son was able to stay there and he literally did about 10 days of full care, the business end of a Caesar and everything that possibly could go wrong, going wrong. And he did a great job and. Yeah, that was he definitely got good kudos for that from the hospital staff. They’re like, we have men that can’t do this, like Rowan men, thirties, and forties, and he’s done a superb job.

So you just go at least I got some of the parenting, right?

Kelly: Oh, look, that actually that story gives me tingles because anyone who listens along regularly knows that. Yeah. Boys in the pre-teen phase and what you are trying to create as good human beings at the end of the day, whether that is good men or however you want to distinct.

And those moments where when the chips are down, you actually saw that strength in him. I think it’s a pretty, and probably have been able to reflect on his own personal growth, which is probably a different discussion, but just to see that becoming of him,

Tanya: yes. He’s certainly got a lot of credibility in the hospital for being able to hold intelligent conversations, have a sense of maturity, take care of his girlfriend.

He really Sean in that environment, vironment there. And he. He looked tired and overwhelmed. He did have a group of friends that he would go into for support, but effectively it was like parting the red sea. And so the fact that he had some friends to lean on, I think is definitely a good credit perspective.

You could watch the doctors, the nurses, the social workers, you could, they almost went white before they’d go in around. They would, this is their business end of premi, preemie, baby and delivery. And then they’re talking to teenagers. I actually think the medical staff were more terrified than the two teenagers around how to change an air and support this.

So baby went into to NICU. They couldn’t go and see her until mum had stabilized. And so they didn’t get to go and see their child. I think. For maybe two or three days. That’s really tough. I can imagine, but it wasn’t the normal hospital experience. So I turned up as you would in the world, I come with a gift and you walk into the room and there’s nothing.

Mum’s got the clothes on her back and that’s it. There’s nothing else that she’s got. My son had the clothes on his back. It was just situation normal for him. No flowers, no gifts, no texts. Yeah, just no celebration. There’s no celebration as, as far as that goes. And there’s none of that element.

There’s look on the upside. I looked great. Turning up with a gift. What I didn’t bargain for. I then had to go back pack the maternity bag, buy maternity bras, give the education around. When she said, oh, could you bring my, some of my clothing? Cause she had some, I had found out she had a hidden stash at work of clothes.

So I’d do little things like you can’t wear an onion. I, Brian, you need a maternity bra. Oh, she says, what does that look like? So all of the things that you would learn in your journey up to having a baby was new. So I found myself in a coaching role and a provider role, there was no one else that was going to bring her clothes.

So she arrived in the clothes that she had on her back. No one else was going to bring toiletries. She had no pajamas number, Trinity bras, no pads, nothing. And no one was going to bring it. Yeah. So I think, that was when it started to become evident. This just how foreign this was for me.

Kelly: Yeah. And interesting, because you raised two boys and then all of a sudden, you now go from having two children to having four dependents, including a teenage girl and a baby. Although obviously the baby it’s story will unfold during this and just that additional weight and the impact of that. Like the second order consequences of all of that are massive that we just don’t even think about.

Tanya: No, and certainly I hadn’t thought about it until you just getting that gift of clarity of this is now you can either step into that or you can run away and hide and everyone else was running away and hiding. So that wasn’t a role that. Decided to take. And I think from a perspective, Steve, if you’re educated and comfortable enough, you do have something to offer to that world.

And not everyone gets the chance to go watch charity. Would I like to be part of, clearly I walked into the charity and that was just the role that that I took. But I think as things I’m folded in that 10 day, 10 day period, it became really evident how much the workload had expanded. How you look after one child at home, talk to the school because your other son isn’t coming to school because he’s in the maternity ward of which the school weren’t aware of the pregnancy either.

You’ve got a girl now under your care with doctors talking to you about her, and then the complexities associated with that around I was a grandmother. So their system is. I don’t get a say, it’s none of my business. It’s not their child, but my child is a dependent and not of legal age. So there was this really sort of complex area there.

And look, it was easily navigated when they needed my maturity and leadership, my credit card and my taxi service. They were happy to take all of that. But when it came to is the baby in good shape? And she wasn’t, she had two quite significant brain bleeds and there were all those very unpleasant conversations around.

There are two options, which way do you want to go? 15 year olds, according to Cambridge university, don’t have them fully functioned brain until around age, 30 minutes, age 33. So they’re not of a way to take onboard. The conversations that they’re being had by the specialists. Sure. They’re provided with a social worker, but they can’t make those decisions.

You could just see the overwhelm. And so that obviously was my place to step in and do the ha the unpleasant hard work around navigating and sense-making and understanding. All right, we’ve got option a and option B, what will that look like in six months, a year, five years, 10 years. And what’s the unintended consequences on a couple that are 15 on that, that don’t have a window to get a career, a home, all the basic things that you would do

Kelly: noting the context that at no point, did her family step in at all.

So the chances of that changing at any time in the future was slim to none as well, because if they hadn’t shown up at this point, the chances where she was looking at a future. With a child without her own family support, since exactly zero other people had shown up other than yourself.

Tanya: That’s right.

And I think, and this is the wrestle that then went on for the next couple of months until she was term 40 weeks was I was involved and then I was told it was none of my business. It’s not your child, but now what do you think? So there were these real Jostle between hang on a minute, you want me to provide clothes, do the taxi service.

Take mum now back into my care. Cause she didn’t have suitable housing and care to do her recovery, but you won’t allow me to facilitate a conversation and influence with an adult brain on that. And I think that was probably a defining moment around. Yeah, the policies and systems, not at set up for that.

And also the unintended consequences of how that might translate to a teenager growing up. And there was just this assumption of, yeah I guess 10 years you’ll be busy or it’s great that you’ve got a home and you can take this on, which was actually, I found out later, but too late, not legal, not right.

Not in any way, shape or form to say, oh, by the way, you’ve now got a special needs child in your class. But it’s not in your care, but could you do the work and pay for it effectively? What’s the raw version of that conversation. Yeah.

Kelly: It’s something that I didn’t think about until we were having these conversations, but you have mum who at some point needs to be discharged from hospital, but effectively has nowhere to go.

She is not your legal dependent. She, the baby is related to you, but not in any way you’re dependent. So the options are going to a single mother’s home, or in which case she would then not have access to her boyfriend or find alternative accommodation. And even some of the conversations we had, which were logistical.

I’ve got two single beds. Now I’ve got to add two more people. What about a cot? What about linen crockery, feeding people and all in the context of, you’re still trying to live and work as a single mum to continue to be able to pay the bills and put food on the table. And none of that is taken into account in this whole, like the mental load alone in all of those decisions for you was huge, but realizing that they didn’t actually very much offer you other options either it’s fell between the cracks.

Tanya: Yeah. And look, I don’t know why that is. I think there was definitely a high expectation to leverage everything that I had to offer and a bit more. So that was a lesson for me in boundaries, but also, I didn’t know what I could do. Stop and start and ask for. So I certainly did a fair amount of negotiating and that’s just thanks to my professional background that I’ve got those capabilities and I’m able to say, all right I’ll do this in exchange for that.

And it literally was. I will take mum home into my care for a recovery period in exchange for you arranging all the transport. Cause you’ve got to get to teenage to the hospital and back every day. Now for those who’ve got teenagers. That’s like a nightmare, just trying to get them to school and back every day.

Cause you know, they get bored of that. It becomes a challenge, but if you’ve got to then go into the hospital every day and their mum’s expressing suddenly, then that became a bit of a negotiation and. And they certainly did step up to that, but I had to negotiate. I had to access those negotiation skills.

There was definitely an expectation on me to draw on a network, even though it was obvious that there wasn’t a network there. So yeah, there were a lot of elements that were really challenging, challenging at that. And the funny part of the story when I was liaising with the allocated social worker is she had asked which she had put it to me that if I didn’t take mum home into my care, then it would be highly likely that child services would take the child in to their care because it needed to be shown that there was a suitable home environment there.

And the conversation was left with. Okay, let me think about it because I’ve got all these logistical things in my mind about how I’m going to get this work while I work and parent my other child, they just put her in a taxi. They didn’t wait for the, yes, that’s okay. She just turned up in her hospital gown on my driveway.

Wow. And yeah, so there’s some of those elements there around you just go, oh, okay. I didn’t say yes. I didn’t. I said I’ll think about it and I’ll come back to you with what we need to do to make this work. So it’s just was another interesting element of the system. Just moving from entry one to another.

All right. That case is closed. Yep. Done. Okay. We can move on to the next element there. And there were plenty of those scenarios along the way. Wow.

Kelly: So at, let’s talk a little bit about the effect on the other parts of your life. Before we talk about that, what happened? Because at this point, the baby is still in NICU.

When mum comes home, how looking back, how did this affect you personally in terms of. The reactions of other people in your life, who you told, who you chose to tell. And I guess opening up that, because there’s this whole other aspect that you’ve almost got this new area of your life, that you never expected, that’s just forced its way into your world.

Tanya: Yeah. Look, I think the summary of that would be, it’s probably the best vertical growth experience that I’ve had in my life. So for those that are into professional development and you might pop on a course or to this sort of school of life experience was really. Put me in an under pressure to access those sorts of personal development capabilities that you might go on a course to do probably would have preferred a course.

But anyway, that wasn’t my, that wasn’t my choice. It was really interesting to sit back and have a scientific view at how people responded was fascinating if you’re into people watching. First of all, I did, I found through one of the charities, a counselor and she was great at coaching.

So every time I came up again. Yeah, because you’re cognitively overloaded at this point and you haven’t shared it with that many people choice. So from work, I chose not to share it. I wasn’t ready to share it. I had some friends that I did share it with, but at some point you do have to communicate some of that there.

So I had a number of stuck points around. I need to communicate. X, but what I don’t want is Y so how do I do it? So that was just a godsend to this counselor where I could ring and say, can we just talk through the next bit? So what I want to say is X, how do I text that? How do I have that conversation?

How do I manage people that are extra curious there? How do I manage people that decide that they’re jumping on the management team for opinions, but not going to do any work with that. And that was just all to maintain my emotional state and recharge. My batteries are drained by this stage. Yeah. So that’s just a top of mind.

Up enough to parent what is now three children and one in one in NICU. So that was absolutely invaluable. And then for the close friends around me a lot, not all have children, teenage children, the response was really positive with that. Anyone that has a preteen or a teenage child, you can actually watch their facial expression of this could be me, particularly if you knew me well and knew that I was open and held firm boundaries.

And I ran, I ran a family home, not a youth hostel. So I had behaviors and standards that I expected to have. So you could actually see the horror on this face of, okay, this could be me. So there was a really kind response. There was appropriate curiosity. There, there wasn’t any judgment.

And that was really what. To deal with. I had a number of friends that offered me help. And that, that was terrific. And I think there was probably two sides of that. I had a very small group of friends who ne who knew how to offer, help and shaped it in a way of I’d like to contribute.

What does help look like for you now? Which enabled me to go, actually, I’ve just run out of cereal balls. That’s my problem today. I can’t work out my meal planner for the week. So it was, that would give you an indication of where my head space was, so that they would be able to go, all right I’ll organize this or I will support that.

It was my friends that celebrated the birth. So mum and dad would say, why are we getting cards and gift cards and flowers and gifts. Because they hadn’t experienced in the hospital and their friends haven’t. So that gave them the niceties of you have a baby and people celebrate it. There were then others who were curious, who wanted information.

And I think felt they were supporting, but you could see it bought up a lot for them. And so the interaction was more about them not being able to process what came up for them. And I wasn’t able to be a therapist. I wasn’t able to satisfy their curiosity of what was happening. And I certainly didn’t have the energy to give a blow by blow update that changed every day.

So there was a group of friends that were very supportive. There was another group of people that were close, who had the intention of being supportive, but weren’t, and that’s where I applied my skills around managing. And then there was just a hiatus because you’re just under the pump with the hospital and a baby, or wondering whether it’s, she’s gonna make it or not.

Stabilizing mum and dad, and then another son parenting. And I think that the schools definitely got traction of it early because of Instagram and other modes. And that was pretty unpleasant for my two boys going to school, like to give an indication. My youngest went to school. And so he just found out he had become an uncle and he’d gone to school and he was in the boys’ toilets.

And one boy came up and said, Hey, I heard your brother had a had a daughter, just let him know that I’m going to go and stomp on your daughter’s head in front of you. And. He was really terrified about that he’d come home and it was traumatic as it would, but effectively the bullying and the school took a whole new level and he had never been predisposed to bullying.

And the kids then using it as a, yeah, let me even out the school board, this is, and having fun with it, which I was horrified at. And you certainly don’t factor it. My plate’s full at the moment, with logistics and babies and the health system and social workers, you just you’re at capacity while working and parenting.

And then your parenting has a lens of, I didn’t have a good day at school because these kids keep saying they’re going to. Hurt my niece, they’re going to do that. And they’re going to hurt my brother so that she doesn’t have a dad and, just vicious, horrible, nasty things that you don’t even think of that hadn’t transpired before that.

So that, there’s plenty of those stories. But that would just give you an indication of people can be either really great or they can be pretty disintegrated and show up in really unhelpful ways and find a way to penetrate the bubble.

Kelly: Yeah. That’s actually a pretty shocking story.

Like your term about people who are disintegrated is really interesting. I need to marinate on that. And also he’s your other son is dealing with

sharing your time. You will love because that’s off. And again, I’m not saying that’s right, because love is infinite. But that feeling of suddenly his whole life context has changed to his home environment.

How much energy you’ve got, how much emotional cognitive ability you’ve got to help him. So this whole shift in every element of your life. And even I remember from discussions like how your immediate family, what your parents expected from you, what your siblings expected from you, everything changes

Tanya: that’s right.

And, but what becomes really evident is every individual’s frame of reference suddenly becomes front and center, and it’s such an unusual story to happen and to happen in middle-class, but it can’t be unusual. And it really brought home to me about the shame. The shame was something that was really fascinated.

I’m pretty comfortable. Own whatever comes my way. I’d say I’m certainly resilient and pretty comfortable in my own skin, but I picked up loud and clear. This was not socially acceptable. And it was an interesting concept because I thought I’m not pregnant at 15. I’m the only one there effectively performing charity work, doing what I can to make the best of a really unfortunate situation.

And I thought it was also quite curious that mum, the girlfriend she’s obviously comes from a background. That’s not going to set anyone up for success. And if you do come from a background where you’re well-educated and financially comfortable enough Why wouldn’t you help out a woman that doesn’t have the same start in life, if you could give something.

So it really gave me an insight into people’s soul, not the persona, not their car, they’d beautiful house, their private schools, their sports clubs that they go to. It’s like what such a thing. And it’s so that I actually found that really helpful. I’d rather know what my community is made of and be able to choose who I hang around based on that, but the masks that people were wearing and how they showed up in the world was again, fascinating and disappointing to me.

And then on the flip side, there were some people, particularly in the school system, like they bent over backwards to accommodate my son to accommodate and he, since left school and got a trade, but for the period he was there, it was extraordinary what they could do to manage subjects around, needing to go to the hospital, providing counseling.

It was extraordinary. And I can imagine it’s difficult to go to school because you’re effectively the center of gossip and you’re the first cab off the rank with with a baby. But to his credit, he owned it and he loves her and he’s proud of her. And same with my youngest son. He really owned it.

And he’s I’m an uncle. I just think she’s gorgeous. I just, he just is so in love with her. So I think, there’s the community with a whole bunch of shame that still exists, even though we’re in this day and age. And then in the little bubble that you create, the family unit, you can set the tone and really create a nice little bubble for, this is how we show up in the world.

This is how our family operates, and this is how we love and care for the people that are close to us. And you can’t learn that probably anywhere else from other than the actual experience that you’ve created. They’re just an uncomfortable bumpy journey to get there.

Kelly: Yeah. Quite a moving story filled with all of the challenges, but to see that bubble that you’ve created now, and as someone who was at the peripheral of your life, it was a great opportunity for me personally, to reflect, because I realized I lived in this middle-class bubble of, wow, there’s that many teenage pregnancies.

I had no idea, what is, what are we doing about this? What is society doing about this to support them? And then realizing I was one of those people who wanted to help, but didn’t really know how to, and that construct, but having had the ability to actually say to you, what is it that you need right now was at least a skill that I had.

Whereas you would have seen other people who were so consumed by their own feelings and shame and emotions that they almost couldn’t bring themselves to understand how to enter. Yeah.

Tanya:  I think one of the things that became evident with people’s intention wanting to help is the amount of offers that I got.

T talk and that they will be there to listen to. There was a lot of offers of, Tanya, if you’ve had a rough day or you just want someone to talk to or cry to, I’m always here for you in that context. That’s not what helped look like. You’ve got a social worker, I’d access to counselor who specialized in this.

You’re exhausted. You don’t want to rehash the story. And the reality was no one in my world. Apart from my partner could actually offer me anything helpful in Prague because you’re problem solving every day at the extreme. And so to talk to someone and unpack your thoughts and feelings was the last thing that you wanted to do.

So I did have one person to do this with my partner. And he had also been attained father, not quite as young as 15. But that was a great resource for me to be able to problem solve because he’d been there and he could bring a different perspective and it was pragmatic problem solving.

For anyone else who hadn’t had that experience, it was a great intention, but I didn’t want unsolicited advice. It just, you were missing too much context. And I think there was one person who really summed it up. I remember the conversation and I had told her and she said, I want to help tell me what help looks like.

Now tell me what helps looks like today. And the way she shaped it was, oh, actually the problem I’m trying to solve, because when you’re under a lot of pressure, you, that your timeframe is short. And you don’t cope with a day, so you bring it down to I’ll just get through the next three hours.

And then too much happens. I’ll just get through the next half an hour. So when someone says to you. What will help look like now I’m thinking between now and the next two hours, I’m trying to solve X. Oh, actually, could you do a run to the hospital? Could you pick up some bread? Could you move this piece of furniture for me?

Could I borrow your husband to move a piece of furniture? Like it’s literally, it’s those little things that made the difference, the people who wanted to talk or said, Hey, I’m free in a couple of weeks. Your head is too muddled for that. So I think if I was in the scenario, I probably would’ve fallen over all those trip hazards too.

But now that I’ve experienced it, like there was some specific things that were really helpful around that timeframe that made a difference. And for the person offering the help, it didn’t take a lot of time or money to do that. So help is small around that element there, which I think we miss that some of the time we do.

Kelly: I even the way we are learning how to ask for help and being really specific when you need something, because that is something that’s very hard for us in many contexts of our life. But this process has allowed you to be much clearer about if I’m going to ask for something I’m quite specific and that’s a positive thing.

Tanya: Yeah. And look, I think I definitely identify with not being good at asking for help. And I’m pretty capable find multiple gears to get the job done, but I was desperate. So when someone said, what does help look like today? Or in the next couple of days, I had a list of 10 things that I shamelessly.

Just offload and just hoped they would come back again for around to have a jobs list. So that’s that, that would give the context of know it was ready for help, but the help needed to be what it looked like for me, not someone else putting their ideals or their perspective or how I should manage things onto me.

So I wasn’t wanting instructions. Like I was in the lead of this quite complex system. And I was happy to have a few people along the way to, to prop me up, but I certainly wasn’t looking for any more management team members to come on and assess the situation and give me perspectives if we can put them corporate to it.

Kelly: I do like that. I do like that. So tell me, what does your family unit look like now? And for context, how old is the baby?

Tanya: So she is an always, so she was due in January and we’re now June. So she’s, if we work, we’ll look at her corrected age. She’s just coming up for six months, but but effectively she’s much older than that and I’m not really across all of those sort of details.

Where we are down the track for that is the baby girl. And this is probably an important element of the story. Actually I think before we jumped to the family unit, is that the bit around Baby being discharged and finding a home. There was actually a significant disconnect between the hospital system and reality.

There were a lot of promises made around. We’re going to get your housing. We’re going to get you moved in. We’re going to get charities to give you baby furniture, et cetera, to do that. And literally as the days came, nothing was there. There was no housing, there was no anything. And this was the bit where, actually, Tanya, we’re not going to deal with you.

We’re going to deal with the parents. So I had allowed that because I couldn’t get in. And then what, I didn’t know what goes on behind the scenes, as these social workers take a lot of notes and they make recommendations to child services around whether the parents can take care of the child or not.

And she’s class as a special needs child on oxygen. And therefore no 15 year old how mature they are would be okay. To have that child released. So there was this literally a weak moment where she was due for discharge. They had been promised one thing, none of it had been delivered. In fact, the social worker was missing in action for three or four weeks while she was on holidays.

And child services came in and took her into their care and fostered her out. And I think from an adult looking in, that was an obvious thing I thought would happen. And I certainly asked a lot about that, but it was in congruent with what mum and dad were promised. And you can only imagine the challenge when mum and dad had told, yeah, sorry, we’re taking your baby.

And I, it sounded very unpleasant. You’ll have to leave the hospital now security removing them from the hospital. So the foster parents could come in and have a look at the child and and have a hold and then discharged. But without any prep time. So Mike, the world, according to Tanya, is anyone would be upset by that being told and promised one story and kids, which is what they are.

They don’t see in gray, they see in black and white. So they’re like, we’re going to get to take her home to our apartment, super excited. Cause they’re thinking we get to move out of home into an apartment and it’s going to be provided. And all of those conversations had occurred to our child’s been taken off us.

We don’t know where she’s living. We don’t know what the scenario is. We have no roadmap for what that is. So that was a really difficult time for them. But also I had not been feeling. And I’m leading the family they’re living with me. So just imagine having two angry teenagers with tears and just beside themselves with another child, I’ve got no idea on not being communicated with.

So I can’t even scaffold this scenario. So it probably went on for another month or two with child services until it stabilized. And all of the things that should have happened earlier started to happen. This is where your access is. This is where your child is living. This is the plan of attack to prepare you, to take care for her.

So all the intentions were right. And just for the listeners, I’ll probably want to know why didn’t I take her? I was certainly offered to have her in my care, and that would have meant I had to give up work. So not a financial viability because you’re still running and trying to keep a family and pay the bills.

Kelly: So it was a polarizing choice to be given. When it’s not viable, you’re almost cut out of that conversation. And even just thinking about the months of investment, they’ve put into traveling up and down to the hospital and investing in their relationship with this baby. And then all of a sudden it’s like the door closes and I’m sorry, it’s AOB.

And if it’s one of the other there’s no in-between.

Tanya: Yeah. And look, it wasn’t, if you’re looking at a change management for any group of humans there was just no transparency. There was no horizon. There was no preparation for that. There wasn’t even the social workers there doing the proper scaffold.

And I don’t know why that was, and that’s not my place to judge that. But from the person leading the group to stabilize what’s happening, it was particularly unhelpful to have my job. Made harder and to try and console two teenagers and give them some context. Cause that was really, that’s what my role has become as a translating role child services say the social worker says, the terms and conditions to care for a baby safely are X, the kids.

And I call them the kids cause they are, they need someone to translate that they can’t take adult speak. They can’t take an hour. Email and make sense of it. They actually need someone to translate that. And that was the role I did, but I could only do it if I was front-end loaded with the content. And then I could scaffold that.

Now we’re in a position where it’s significantly better. And they get access. They’re provided with a youth worker who is fabulous, who does the transport of the baby to our family home mum and dad get time with them bearing in mind. They’re both now 16. So the, there they’re learning to parent, they’re learning to manage their lives, their jobs, their schooling, and all of that with access to their child.

But it is a really beautiful family unit. So we do get windows once a week, where baby mum and dad and my other son, and we come together and we’ve got that family time together. And then the pressurized component of having a special needs child is then with a foster carer who do a really great job at doing the hundreds of medical appointments.

All the things that you do with a new baby. But on steroids because there’s a risk of a number of conditions due to the brain bleeds. And so they don’t have that pressure and responsibility. And for now I think that’s working probably as best it could. Cause there’s, I don’t know what an ideal situation looks like.

It was funny. When you have a vision for your life, when I first found out that they were pregnant in my mind, that was horrific. That was the worst thing that could happen. And then when I found out she’d given birth at 24 weeks, I was really happy with the pregnancy. I just wanted a healthy baby for them.

So suddenly I was fine with what I wasn’t fine with. And now she was born earlier. That was horrific for me. And then when I found out that we’ve got a preterm baby, but mum doesn’t have a home, then suddenly I was home. I’m happy with the product. Baby. So as the story emerged and got deeper and more complex, I was happy with what I was horrified about yesterday, which was a fabulous insight to just remind you to be grateful for what you’ve got at this point, because it’s a slippery slope and there’s lots of other scenarios that could be far worse off.

So anyway, I gave myself the gift of clarity about about life visions and what an ideal state looks like because I’ve learned that you just make it work and make it your own. There is no ideal state that journey just walks to the beat of its own drum. That’s a point about just what we think our lives and what we think we have control over.

Kelly: And then you go into these situations and you learn and adapt in new ways and you see those things come out and the people close to you and your life gets filtered through a new lens. And that’s one of the reasons I asked about what your life looks like now, because some of those relationships that you had, or those people that you thought were in your life have changed, and now you’re reforming this sense.

And if this podcast is still going in a couple of years, I’d love to check in and find out a little bit more about how it’s unfolded because this timeframe is still very much in the thick of it.

Tanya: Yeah. And look, I think the other lens to add to it. This sort of started, I think July, August. No, it couldn’t have been, probably would have had to been August, September last year and.

There are people now in my world who I haven’t shared. And that’s been part of my own personal growth around how do I make a choice who to share, because I’m not ashamed of what’s happened. She’s a human being and she deserves a place in this world, like everyone else. And how do I decide where it wouldn’t be helpful to share?

Perhaps someone has good intentions, but they have judgment and criticism and it’s not going to be the right moment, or it’s not helpful. So I’m still working my way around telling the story. So if you weren’t in my bubble, when that happened, you didn’t know. And and people aren’t in your bubble at all periods and they can still be good friends or extended family or from a workplace perspective.

Yeah. So it’s deciding when is the time, right? Because you can’t just make a brief comment of I’m picking up my granddaughter this weekend, because you actually need to allow half an hour to tell enough of the story because it’s so foreign. And that’s the obstacle I’m facing now is that a lot of share, but the money moments where it’s the right time to share there isn’t enough time to satisfy their curiosity risk response, but you don’t want to leave it too long because.

I don’t want to buy into the shame story that’s in our society. I think it’s unhelpful. It, doesn’t set people up for success and it’s art cake and outdated. And I don’t want to be part of that story. The story is what it is. She’s a beautiful human being quite gorgeous, actually, if I can be a tad bias. And I want her to have the opportunities in this modern world that should allow all people opportunities.

So the world of the flash cars, private schooling, fancy jobs that couldn’t seem to cope with this change. That’s not who I am and what I want to foster. Yeah, that’s helped me become quite sort of crystal clear in I’ve actually got a role to play for this baby girl around paving the way in my world and letting her feel and shine the person that she should be, not what society reminds her, that she’s an illegitimate child.

So what I want her to have those hangups and she doesn’t have to be, if I’m in the lead of my family and paving the way for

Kelly: that isn’t beautiful place to end this conversation because it’s such a powerful story and that message vinyl message. So thank you for sharing today. And I love hearing you step into that role as a grandmother and enjoy her and your beautiful granddaughter.

Thanks for your time today, Tanya.

Tanya: Thank you, Kelly. I enjoyed telling them.

Kelly: Thanks.


joining us for today’s conversation. If you want to hear more like this, don’t forget to hit subscribe. So you don’t miss an episode. If you’d like to know more about anything we talked about, or you heard on the podcast today, check out our website, http://www.birthofamother.com.edu. You can find us on Instagram at Matrescence.podcast, or send us an email to info@birthofamother.com.au.

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Kelly and Bree


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