Front Lounge

Bringing up Baby: Young Mums Celebrate Launch of Parenting Book

(Credit: Nadia Vidinova, The Courier – 2 October 2021)

Writing a book is not something many teenage mums get the chance to do.

Despite 2021 being a seemingly enlightened era, young parenthood can still attract a lot of negativity, with mothers often locked out of opportunities due to prejudice, lack of affordable childcare and little in the way of support.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up further challenges as people were unable to meet face to face and the nation’s mental health plummeted.

A group of young mums from Dundee have now shown what can be achieved against the odds, after publishing a book about parenthood the help of Tayside youth arts charity Front Lounge.

Kayleigh Mitchell and son Jamie, 2019

Bringing up Baby catalogues the women’s personal stories from finding out they were pregnant, to the highs and lows of motherhood, to their hopes for theirs and their children’s futures.

The book is named after the mum and baby group that the women attend in the Hilltown – a young parents’ group for those aged 13-25, run by Front Lounge.

“When lockdown happened and the world was turned upside down, we thought we needed something to do without having to meet in person while still providing a creative outlet”, said Chika Inatimi, project leader at Front Lounge.

Hannah Watson and Chelsie Bruce, who both took part in the Bringing up Baby book and who recently graduated from Front Lounge’s Kindred Clothing project

“Last year we got sent a book from the government about young parents. We had all talked about it and decided to make a book of our own. It had been sort of on the backburner, because we were all so busy. But lockdown meant that everything stopped, so we decided to go for it.

“There was a lot to do – we needed someone to write it, someone to edit, and an illustrator. I started knocking on doors.”

The young mothers themselves were involved in much of the book’s production. Volunteer and former service user Chelsie Bruce, 24, interviewed the mums and compiled the content.

An artist, Nicola Bloom, was commissioned to take care of the design and illustrations, while PR consultant Claire Grainger of Grainger Public Relations edited the book.

“People often expect young mums to say how teenage parenthood is awful and what a hard time they are having, but actually a lot of these mums were very positive about their experiences”, said Claire.

“When editing the book, I wanted to keep their stories as authentic as possible, rather than trying to polish it up into what a book ‘should’ be like. The idea was to let their voices tell the stories.

“The mums have certainly risen to the challenge. When Covid hit, they were stuck at home – they could have just sat at home and done nothing, but instead they turned it into an opportunity.”

Front Lounge was set up in 2001 to provide activities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, at first focusing on the arts.

The organisation now works with 300 young people each year, including those with mental health issues, care experienced young people and the Bringing Up Baby young parents’ group.

“The idea is to give support to young parents who maybe don’t have the support that others have”, added Claire.

“They have a programme every year where they bring in experts to teach the mums about different things, such as how to apply for child benefit, nutrition advice, anything really.”

Front Lounge project leader Chika Inatimi

In addition, young parents receive help and advice from the Family Nurse Partnership – a voluntary home visiting programme for first-time parents aged 19 or under, starting from pregnancy until a child is two.

These support services are particularly important for Tayside and Fife, as new data released by Public Health Scotland revealed they were the areas with the highest rates of pregnancy under the age of 20 in Scotland.

In 2019 NHS Fife recorded 35.1 teenage pregnancies per 1,000 women, while NHS Tayside had 31.5 per 1000 women.

While the numbers have been steadily decreasing since the 1990s, the rates in Tayside and Fife are still above the Scottish average of 27.7 per 1000 women. The figures showed that the majority of pregnancies were among those aged 18-19.

These trends are reflected in the Bringing Up Baby demographic, with the majority of mums being between 16-19 years old.

In March 2018 Front Lounge received £1,690 from the George and Grace Thomson Trust towards a summer activity programme for the Bringing up Baby group.

The fund made it possible for the mums and children to go on trips to Auchingarrich Wildlife Centre, Active Kids adventure park and Eden Garden, as well as to have a scavenger hunt in the park and a trip to a local beach.

Bringing Up Baby book is now available to buy for £12.

In their own words

They both joined Bringing Up Baby when they were young mums with newborns, to help them combat the isolation of being a young parent. Two young mums, Kayleigh Mitchell, now 22, and Chelsie Bruce, now 29, both living in Dundee, share their stories.

Kayleigh Mitchell, 22

“I had my eldest son, Jamie, when I was 19 in 2018. At the time I was working in a nursery. When I found out I was pregrant, I was happy! But when I had the baby I was home alone with him a lot.  I do have a partner, family and friends, but they were out working and I didn’t really know anybody with a baby who was my age. So I  wanted some friends who had children. At baby groups I often felt like people were judging me – when you’re a young mum they look at you like you’re still a child who shouldn’t be having a child. Then “I found out about Bringing Up Baby through some girls that I knew, so I went along.

“The group was so welcoming, the other girls were all so nice and it got me out of the house. There’s always someone offering to give you a break by taking the baby for a bit, and there’s a group chat on WhatsApp where you can ask for advice on anything, like what to do if your child bumps their head, for example. I think young mums do get judged a lot. But I don’t think you have to be older to have a child – coping with motherhood was Ok, actually.  I had looked after my nieces and nephews, so I was used to kids, and I had my mum on speed dial, she taught me what to do. The hardest part was having to be responsible for somebody. But that’s your job when you’re a parent – you just have to take responsibility.

“When I heard people say they wanted to write a book I wasn’t really sure, but I think it’s turned out great.  I never thought I’d get to do something like this. I didn’t like school and left at 15, so being involved in this has been great for my confidence. I’m not sure what I want to do in future. I know I want to move away, as I’ve never lived anywhere other than Dundee and Arboath. Maybe I’ll go to Blackpool for an adventure!”

Chelsie Bruce, 29

“My daughter Brooke was born in March 2014, and at the time I had just moved to Tayport to be with my partner after living in Dundee my whole life. I struggle a lot with anxiety and I didn’t drive, so it was hard for me to get out and about. I would just stay at home and I didn’t talk to anybody, as I didn’t know anyone locally.  Baby groups weren’t a good experience for me. I find that the older mums do often look down on younger mums, they treat you like you don’t know what you’re doing.

“But then, in the summer of 2015 I saw a post on Facebook about a Bringing Up Baby trip. When I called there was just one space left, so I went along. We went to Active Kids. I’d never done anything like this before and it was a big deal for me just to go somewhere with my daughter.

Chelsie Bruce and her daughter Brooke, 2019

“After that I signed up for all the other trips for the rest of the summer. Going to this group was a game changer for me – everybody was so nice and it boosted my confidence so much. At 24, I was the oldest one of the group.  When I reached the age where I was too old for it, I found that I didn’t want to leave, so I began volunteering. Front Lounge then offered me a job as a development worker. I also helped to write the Kindred Clothing award, which is an SQA-accredited qualification that the young mums can do, which teaches them about the fashion industry and how to make clothes.

“I did the course myself and gained the qualification, which was incredible. I’m severely dyslexic and I came away from school without any grades – I avoided the majority of my exams because I thought I was stupid. So it has blown my mind how much I’ve achieved with the help of Front Lounge.  A lot of the young mums say to me that they look up to me and are inspired by me. It’s something that warms the cockles of my heart!  These mums are so strong and resilient – being a mum is so much pressure for anyone, let alone someone who is still at school.”