Meet the Poet - Samantha Nimmo
Samantha Nimmo's poem “Most of the Weight I Gained During Pregnancy was From Carrying Around Other People’s Opinions” is featured in our anthology "Songs of Love and Strength". Here Sammantha tells us how her experiences of being pregnant at eighteen shaped the poem.
There are many challenges that come with being a young mum, while continuing university, but by far the most difficult part, for me, is dealing with others’ preconceived notions and snap judgements based purely off my age. I got pregnant halfway through my first year of my degree, at eighteen, and as soon as I started showing, I was on the receiving end of hurtful, ignorant comments, more often than not from strangers who didn’t know a thing about me. The people close to me were supportive and lovely and excited for me, and I am incredibly lucky to have the support of both mine and my partner’s families. But, for some reason, strangers on the street had a lot to say about my pregnancy. My poem “Most of the Weight I Gained During Pregnancy was From Carrying Around Other People’s Opinions” is based around this experience.
I began carrying around the weight of people’s judgements as a young teen, like many women do. We are taught to feel ashamed of our bodies, our sexuality, and the way we look. It takes years to work through the things that we’re taught to think about ourselves, and when I got pregnant, I realised just how ingrained these damaging ideas are in society. I had people ask me why I wasn’t married (uh…because we don’t want to be yet!), how angry my father was with me and my partner (not at all, by the way - he took my boyfriend out for a beer after we told him!) and had even more people tell me I should drop out of uni now that I was going to be a mum, because obviously I couldn’t do both (to which I said watch me).
Pregnancy is already so difficult. I had complications, due to being hyper mobile, that led to me needing crutches for the last three months, and occasionally even a wheelchair. Imagine a very pregnant eighteen year old waddling around the university campus on crutches and having to scoot her chair miles away from the table so her belly could fit at the desks – that’s how I spent the first semester of my second year. My son was born on the day I was supposed to have a psychology exam. Thankfully I’d already requested alternative assessment before the induction was scheduled!
My son had good timing, and was born over the Christmas break. However, this meant that I didn’t take any time off uni at all, and went back at the start of the next year, when he was five weeks old. My stitches hadn’t even dissolved yet. I sat in the bathroom stalls between classes and expressed breast milk, and my dad would drive my son around in the car until I was finished for the day, or my mum would babysit on her day off from work. My university does have a nursery, but they don’t take children under three – meaning that I won’t be able to use it (my son will be 2 when I graduate!), so I am incredibly grateful to our families for helping with childcare. No doubt I looked a mess – sleep deprived, stressed and clothes stained with milk and spit up, but I was also far too stubborn to give in. I was, and still am, determined that women should not have to choose between children and a career (unless, of course, they want to!)
Even after I gave birth, people would stop me on the street and tell me you’re a bit too young for that aren’t you? Or simply, very pointedly, ask how old I was. The stigma and judgement around young mums is suffocating. I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere without being stared at, or hearing people stage whisper about my age. It’s exhausting and really negatively affects your mental health, especially as first time mum. Thankfully, we’re surrounded by loving friends and family, but the hurtful comments and stares will always stay with me. I feel like I was robbed of being able to enjoy my pregnancy, as I was made to feel as though I should be ashamed. But I’m not, and I never will be. My age has nothing to do with my ability to be a good mum to my little boy.
He’s sixteen months old now, and I’ve just finished my third year of my English degree, during a pandemic (which threw a massive spanner in the works!) My son is sunshine incarnate. He is bubbly and cheery and always has a smile for everyone he sees. He recently learned to walk, and spends most of his time toddling around trying to reach everything he’s not supposed to have. That is, when he’s not attached to the boob! I can’t imagine myself without him, without the little family we’ve created. I look at my partner, at our son, and feel nothing but pride and happiness. If I think about it too long I’ll cry!
For me, poetry has always been the place where I am safe to unapologetically feel. Without judgement or guilt. It allows me to express the things I would otherwise keep bottled up, and helps me work through difficult aspects of life. When I’m stressed, I write. When I’m sad, I write. When I’m angry, I write. And then, after I’ve put the pen down, I feel lighter.
I think it’s important to capture all aspects of motherhood in my poems – so, as much as I want to always write about the good parts, I also think people need to hear the hard parts, too. The mum poetry community has brought me so many lovely friends, mums that I can rant to when things get tough, friendly faces to laugh with, to write with and to share stories with. Our stories, I think, need to be heard. I’m so glad they’re being told, and I hope that someone out there reads these poems and realises that they’re not alone.