Naomi grew up in the care system. Things had become so hard at home that she camped outside social services with a suitcase and demanded they take her. She was 14.
In Naomi’s own words:
“It was just me and my mum in the house arguing all the time. We were at war. I became very depressed, started self-harming, and tried to take an overdose. I never spoke to anybody about it. Nobody knew what was happening.
“I was given temporary accommodation when I turned 18. That experience wasn’t good for me. For six months I was the victim of gang violence.
“It was during that time that I met Zach’s father. He protected me from the gang, stopped them pepper-spraying my house. We pretended to be in a relationship so the gang would leave me alone, and over time that developed into a real relationship.
I felt rejected, felt my son didn’t love me
“I finally got permanent social housing when I was eight months pregnant. When we moved in there with no heating, no furniture and no carpet, just concrete floors. It was October.
“The birth was very difficult, and I had to have an emergency caesarean. Zach was put on a different ward. When I finally saw him he was already being cup-fed. He didn’t take to breastfeeding. I felt rejected as a mother. I felt he didn’t love me.
“There were cracks in my relationship. I started realising my partner wasn’t very supportive. He wasn’t contributing financially but wasn’t helping with our son or the house. He was controlling, would stop me wearing make-up or certain clothes. I found out he had been cheating on me, and he became violent.
“I felt the world would be better off without me, that Zach would be better off without me. A friend found me when I overdosed a third time and called an ambulance. Zach was with his dad at the time. I was told I had to have mental health evaluations. This was the first time I’d been diagnosed with long-term depression.
“After four months Zach was returned to me, it was the happiest day of my life. The relief I felt when I could go into my room and see him in his cot… It makes me cry thinking of it.”
When Naomi started taking Zach to nursery she was introduced to Mental Health Foundation’s Young Mums Together group. There was lots of peer support from other young mums and advice for training and getting back into work. We talk a lot about staying healthy and looking after yourself as a parent. The idea is that a happy mum equals a happy child.
“I feel very optimistic about the future. I have this dream that I would work as a therapist and eventually own a house. It’s a big dream, but I’ve learnt that time can heal. Being a young mum and going through what I have doesn’t mean the future couldn’t be bright.”