It is a moment described as the happiest feeling in the world, but the highest highs can also mean the lowest lows. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says more than 15 per cent of women experience mental health problems during pregnancy, and up to one in five women suffer post-natal depression.
This rollercoaster of emotion is all too familiar for young mum, Taylar Tangye. She and her partner Kodey live in Weston in the Hunter Valley. They were 16 when they fell pregnant and had their son Bryce, at 17. Despite the common misconceptions about young parents, Taylar’s pregnancy was planned. However, not everything turned out quite as she expected.
Bryce was born three weeks premature and with heart problems, leading to them spending the first few weeks of his life in hospital. Thankfully, Bryce, now 10 months, has a clear bill of health. When Taylar reflects on those early days, she openly admits there was a lot she wasn’t prepared for in her transition to motherhood, including a lack of sleep, but also the worry that would come due to concerns for her son’s wellbeing.
Taylar has since had a crash-course in dealing with the relentless demands of life with a baby and says Kodey has been a wonderful support.
“I think having ‘me time’ is important,” Taylar says, adding “mental health should be a priority for everyone.”
Despite the challenges of transitioning to motherhood, Taylar has an incredible amount of poise and wisdom well beyond her years.
Bryce is a happy and content baby, and her capacity to look after and love her son is a testament to the remarkable person she is. At the end of every day Taylar admits thinking to herself, “did I teach him something new, did I give him enough attention?”
The WHO says it is common for parents to feel overwhelmed by their new bundle of joy and self-doubt in the early months plagues many new parents, adding to feelings of anxiety and worry.
Taylar’s relationship with her own parents was disjointed, and she spent many of her formative years in foster care.
At the age of 13, Taylar met someone who changed her life – Barb, a carer. Taylar moved into Barb’s house and went on to stay with her for three years, the longest she had stayed in a foster home.
Taylar’s new role as a mother has caused her to pause and reflect on her own experiences growing up and says that while she initially thought Barb was too strict, she understands now that it was her carer’s way of imparting important life lessons.
“She taught me practical things like how to cook, but also values such as respect,” says Taylar.
The duo’s relationship has strengthened since Taylar became a mum, with Taylar aspiring to one day be like her role model.
“Barb owns her own house with pool,” she says. “I want to be just like her.”
These days, Barb calls herself Nanny B and treats Bryce and Kodey like family too.
“I wouldn’t trust my baby with anyone else but Barb. She’s like a mother to me.”
Before falling pregnant, Taylar joined CatholicCare’s Supported Independent Living program. It is designed to assist 16-to-19-year-olds who have spent time in foster care, providing them with guidance and support as they move into adulthood and find their place in the world.
Supported by caseworkers, program participants learn important skills required when living independently such as sorting out finances, finding work, looking after their health, maintaining relationships, parenting and housekeeping.
With support from CatholicCare in recent months, Taylar has joined various support groups, including a mothers’ group.
“Without CatholicCare’s assistance, I wouldn’t be the person, or mother, I am today,” she says.
Motherhood is a big responsibility, and one that Taylar feels incredibly privileged to know.
“Bryce is my biggest blessing,” she says. “I didn’t know such love existed until I had him; it’s hard to put into words how much he means to me.”
Taylar acknowledges that having Bryce has helped her work through some past mental health issues. Previously she didn’t like leaving the house, but with Bryce by her side she feels more confident in herself and calmer about being in public.
In the future, Taylar would love to give Bryce a brother or sister. But right now, like many new parents keen to grow their family, she is weighing up how to do this as well as being gainfully employed. She also has high hopes for her son.
“I want Bryce to get into a good school, finish school, and grow to be independent,” she says. “Being a parent can be challenging, but the good outweighs the hard times.”