YOUNG FAMILY: Joshua, 4, and his brother, nine-day-old Lucas, with parents Jacob Barrass, 21, and Rhaina Sheppard, 18.
YOUNG FAMILY: Joshua, 4, and his brother, nine-day-old Lucas, with parents Jacob Barrass, 21, and Rhaina Sheppard, 18. Rob Williams

A snapshot of life as a teenage mum and dad

TEEN parents Rhaina Sheppard and Jacob Barrass were 13 and 15 years old when they discovered they would be having a baby.

Joshua was born four years ago and on August 22 the Riverview family welcomed his nine-day old brother, Lucas.

Rhaina and Jacob have a long future to look forward to with their family - and a message to the strangers who said kids couldn't raise kids.

"We didn't find out until she was 20 weeks pregnant and by then there was not much we could do, so we were told we're pretty much having a kid and we had to deal with it," Jacob said.

"It was pretty shocking at the start. I was worried about how I was going to help care and fund for this little human. It was a really big shock to have a family and have to look after someone other than yourself at such a young age.

"The first thing I thought of is I had to get a job and look after this little human and support a family."

Jacob said he quickly became used to strangers' judgment and stares when the family went out.

"Every time we went out people were staring because of our age. Humans are judgemental by nature, that's just who we are," he said.

"The biggest challenge was breaking down the stereotypes. You get de-sensitised to it, it happens quite a lot. I have a few mates whose missus was pregnant and they say they've had odd looks when they are doing things with bub.

"There were times when we'd go to the shops to get some nappies and there would be one judgemental person. It crushes you a little bit, because it makes you second guess if you are doing a good job, am I doing what's right for my baby and should I let someone else do it." Jacob said he and Rhaina were forced to out aside the barrage of judgment and focus on raising their family.

"People told us there was no way we could raise a kid at that age and we did it," Jacob said.

"They can judge as much as they want, everyone is judgemental by nature but they need to keep it to themselves. If you want to judge a young parent, do it in silence. If no one said anything, life would have been so much easier."

Support from midwife essential

TEENAGE dad Jacob Barrass has the support of Ipswich Hospital midwifery staff to thank for helping to transition he and partner Rhaina Sheppard into parenthood.

He said the family endured a barrage of judgment from strangers but hospital staff helped them to get home with two healthy baby boys.

"The first birth was a massive shock and I was pushed aside," Jacob said.

"The second time, our midwife Caitlin Morrell, got me really involved. I got to help with bub.

"Rhaina was a trooper, it looked like she just had a tummy ache and she just pushed through it. She powered through it and it only took a couple of minutes for bub to come out and he was very healthy."

Jacob said while society was becoming more accepting of young parents, there was still room for improvement.

"If you're feeling doubts, just talk to someone," he said.

School not out for parents

YOUNG dad Jacob Barrass knew he wanted to work with children before his two sons were born.

Jacob, 21, and partner Rhaina Sheppard, 18, put their schooling on hold when their children were born but they always intended to finish their education.

Rhaina swapped from St Peter Claver College to Ipswich State High School and joined the Young Families Connect Program. Rhaina's marks were high enough for her to skip year 10 and she finished year 11 and 12 in 2016.

"If it wasn't for the parents program at Ipswich High, I would not have got through school. They are there to support young mums and dads," she said.

"My mum looked after my son the days I would go to school. Two days a week I had to look after my bub.

"I have options as to what I can do because I finished school. I wanted to become a mechanic and then a personal trainer but I'm not really sure what I want to do."

Jacob didn't finish year 10 at school due to family circumstances but said it was important to him to support Rhaina is finishing her studies.

"I was worried about her finishing school. I had already dropped out but I was adamant she would finish year 12," he said. "I told her even if she took a year off she was going to finish year 12."

Jacob is a second year apprentice carpenter but he has plans to study midwifery.

"It was a challenge to find a career I could do with my education. I wanted to work with kids and do something like teaching or midwifery but I didn't think I had the education for it. I forgot about it because I didn't think I would be able to get in," he said.

"I'm looking at doing midwifery like I wanted to originally, because there is still a way in if I do year 11 and 12 online. I knew before I had kids that I wanted to do something with kids.

"I could be a midwife by the time I am 27 and we will all be supportive of what Rhaina does."



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