IN the supermarket, at the doctor’s surgery, the antenatal class, even in her own home, Natasha Elvidge, 21, has felt the disapproving glare that goes hand-in-hand with being a young mother.
The Albury university student and mother of six-month-old twin boys remembers when they were visited by a midwife in their first week out of hospital.
“She opened the door and she basically gave me a look ... it was just the up and down sort of look,” Ms Elvidge said.
“She said ‘You’re Natasha’. And I said ‘Yes’. And she said ‘How old are you’ and I said ‘20’. And she said ‘And you have the twins?’ and I said ‘Yes’.
“It made me feel about a centimetre big.”
Ms Elvidge and her partner, training and logistics administrator Wesley Gillion, 21, also felt “looked down on” when they went to their antenatal classes and asked standard new-parent questions.
However, experts say there is no reason why young parents can’t be good parents.
Professor of Midwifery at Southern Cross University Kathleen Fahy said, while western societies frowned on young mothers, those aged 16 to 20 were more likely to have complication-free births.
She said in other cultures, and even not so long ago in Australian society, it wasn’t so strange to bear children in your teenage years.
She said the difference was most of those women had community or family support.
“Yes I think some young women are too young but I think if their mothers and fathers stood by them they would be fine,” Dr Fahy said.
“There’s no shame in having a baby ... I think when parents throw their daughters out of their home, that’s absolutely outrageous behaviour.”
Ms Elvidge and her partner have two sets of supportive parents, who live nearby, and believe age doesn’t prevent them being capable parents.
“Being younger has its advantages. You have so much energy, you’re able to cater for their every need,” she said.
“There’s one 17-year-old in my mothers’ group and she just seems so organised. Just looking at her, she is an amazing mum.
“Yes, she may be young and not have much financial support but that doesn’t mean she’s not a good mum.”
Young mothers who need assistance can call Angela Macfarlane at Gateway Community Health on (02) 6022 8888.