Being a new parent is 'incredibly lonely'

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Lauren Thomas has found being a parent a very lonely experienceImage source, Action for Children
Image caption,
Lauren Thomas, now aged 19, has found being a parent a very lonely experience

When Lauren Thomas, from Penlan, Swansea, discovered she was pregnant at the age of 17, her life was turned upside down. Here she tells how loneliness became her constant companion.

When I found out I was pregnant, I was in total shock.

At the time, I was doing a bridge programme in Gower College Swansea, which teaches a range of skills from carpentry to catering.

I was enjoying it and had made lots of friends.

But I had to leave the course early at Easter when I was 32-weeks pregnant.

My boy, Leon, was born on 19 April this year when I was 18, and he is the best thing that's ever happened to me.

I used to be quite depressed and was addicted to painkillers after injuring myself falling off a horse.

I didn't care about anyone or anything, or the consequences of my actions.

But he has made me come off the painkillers and start taking care of my mental health.

But while my life has benefited hugely from having him, it has also become incredibly lonely.

My college friends have fallen away - they just want to drink on a weekend and I can't do that now.

I don't live with my boy's father and get very little family support, and it has been an amazing struggle to meet new people.

When my boy was a newborn, we used to sit in all day and watch TV.

I didn't know what to do and I felt judged for having him so young and not being perfect.

Image source, Action for Children
Image caption,
Lauren had to drop out of college and lost her friends when she had Leon

I had nobody around me to give support, and felt very sad and overwhelmed.

There was just a big build-up of emotions and I felt like breaking down.

I went to a few playgroups but the adults were always occupied watching the children, so it was impossible to meet anyone properly.

I've largely been saved by Action for Children Wales, a charity which helps disadvantaged children.

I saw a leaflet for their work and contacted them.

They told me they organised trips and ran playgroups where the children are in a creche, so there is time to talk to adults.

Going to these events helped me to meet people and build a new life.

Now my boy is eight months and I feel more confident.

Recently the charity made me an ambassador, so I talk to other families in the same situation.

It is only a voluntary role but it means I am out meeting people and learning.

It is helping me understand that there are many new parents like me, finding the experience incredibly lonely and isolating.

At some stage, when Leon is a bit older, I plan to return to college to do a course in equine studies.

For now though, it is just the two of us, learning how to get by.