BECOMING a parent is a scary prospect for anyone and if you are only a teenager yourself, it can be a whole lot scarier.
But for young parents in Fenland, there is an unique service to help and offer the support that so many need.
Bumps ‘n’ Beyond was set up last April by youth worker Steph High and Susan (Sue) Wellbeck, from the Wisbech South Children’s Centre, to help parents under the age of 21, although some exceptions can be made for older parents if they feel they need extra help.
The group runs antenatal courses through the year and a playgroup, which takes place at Wisbech South Children’s Centre, specifically for young parents.
There is still a lot of stigma attached to being a young parent and many of the teenagers in the group have experienced it first hand.
“I’ve taken the baby into town in her pushchair and people have stared at me,” Ben Cartwright, who regularly attends with fiancee Anna Squirrel and six-month-old Kaya-Marie Squirrel, said. “Bumps ‘n’ Beyond is absolutely awesome.”
Hollie Petch, who is the youngest member of the Bumps ‘n’ Beyond committee, previously went to a different playgroup and said the mums there stopped and stared at her because she was a lot younger than them. At the Bumps ‘n’ Beyond playgroup, there is a very informal atmosphere and everyone is treated the same.
“It’s about breaking down the barrier where they think we’re going to assess their parenting skills,” Sue explained. She has experience of being a young parent, having had her first child at the age of 16, and has worked with Steph and the other parents to produce an antenatal course that is relevant to teenagers.
The latest course starts on March 2 and will run for eight weeks. In addition to the usual information about labour, birth and feeding, there are extra topics covered, including how babies respond to speech and language, postnatal depression, baby sleep patterns, the pressures of a crying baby and baby first aid. There is also a visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital maternity unit.
A group of 15 parents, who were on previous antenatal courses, have just gained an entry level qualification in Youth Work, allowing them to become peer educators.
Their role will be to talk to other young parents, listen and offer advice in a support role, as well as helping on the antenatal course. This support is something they have experienced for themselves and they know what a difference it makes.
The parents who use the service are passionate about it and sing its praises to anyone they think could benefit from it.
“If I see young parents in town, I go up to them and say, ‘Go to Bumps ‘n’ Beyond,’” Anna said. “I’m always telling people to go because it’s so brilliant.”
• Bumps ‘n’ Beyond playgroup is on Thursdays, from 3pm to 4.30pm, at Wisbech South Children’s Centre, in Nene Infants’ and Nursery School.