In the September of 2009, I had just started an adult nursing course at the Southbank University when I started to feel really unwell. I did a pregnancy test in early October and found out, to my surprise, that I was pregnant. I went to the GP straight away, and whilst there, my doctor told me about a new programme that had just started in the area to support young mums during their first pregnancy called the Family Nurse Partnership and was asked whether I’d like to join. As I wasn’t sure what to expect in the coming months, or from a baby altogether, I decided to opt-in, allowing the doctor to pass my details over to my local team.
Over the next few weeks, early in my pregnancy, I continued to feel unwell, and eventually told university that I would be taking some time away to prepare for my baby. This was a blessing as, at the time, although I knew I wanted to eventually work in adult care, I felt unsure whether continuing with the adult nursing course was going to be the right thing for me. When I came to the end of college, all of my friends were applying to university so just assumed that it was the next logical step for me too. However, despite my unease, instead of dropping out completely, I deferred my place for a year, hoping that once my baby was born, I would be able to make a more informed decision as to whether to continue and what I wanted to do with my future.
When it was time for my initial visit with my FNP nurse, I really wasn’t sure whether it was something I wanted to take part in. I was reluctant because as a young mum with limited stability, I felt like FNP was just going to be another professional on my case, telling me that I didn’t know what I was doing. Amazingly, my family nurse was persistent and I remember her telling me that although they weren’t going to force the programme on me, she’d like me to give her one chance before deciding against it. When I did meet her she was so nice, really supportive and easy to talk to, that I instantly knew I was going to continue to see her.
For me, FNP really helped to put everything in perspective and supported my partner and me through pregnancy and birth. It was nice to feel as though I had that one person there who would support me at any time, give me honest advice when I needed it and let me know how I was feeling was normal or not. In the end, all of the things I was worried about – like my housing situation, actually giving birth etc., I found I could talk about with my family nurse and I don’t know what I would have done without her.
At the half-way point during my pregnancy visits, I remember having a realisation about my career, turning to my partner to say; ‘This is what I want to do. I want to be an FNP nurse’. I’d never thought of health visiting before, as I just assumed after studying health and social care at college, I had no other option than to go on and be an adult nurse, but visits with my family nurse made me realise my true passion.
After giving birth to my son in July 2010, I returned to university the following September to finish my adult nursing course and study an extra year to become a health visitor. I was on my way to becoming a family nurse. I had always been interested in education and always wanted to do something with my life, but sometimes, when you get into a bad place, things start to become a bit clouded and you lose sight of your visions and goals. It’s thanks to FNP that I managed to find myself again, and I think without the programme (and my baby, of course), I would never have realised what it is that I really wanted to do.
For those young mums out there now, wondering about continuing education or getting a career, my main piece of advice to you is believe in yourself. Sometimes, it’s hard to have that faith in yourself, but really, the sky is the limit. You can do anything, and if you need some more motivation, think about doing it for your little ones. My son now tells everyone; ‘my mummy is a health visitor, and I’m going to be a health visitor’ and it’s so great to be that source of inspiration for your children. I know it can be a rocky road and that it can be difficult, but if you want something, go and get it. If I can, you can!