Pushing her toddler son and newborn daughter down the street in their double pram, Mollie Syrigos is acutely aware of the sideways glances and rude whispers she gets as she passes.
‘I can feel people’s eyes boring into me,’ the 16-year-old tells New Idea. ‘Going to the shopping centre with one child as a young mum was bad. But with two, it’s a lot worse. Everyone stares at me and we get a lot of dirty looks.’
Mollie was labelled ‘Australia’s youngest mum’ when she fell pregnant at the tender age of 13. Her boyfriend Oscar Wilks was 14.
Despite a lot of pressure to have an abortion, the young couple refused and their much- loved son Theodore was born in March 2016.
Mollie was thrust back into the spotlight around Theodore’s first birthday when it was revealed she was expecting baby number two.
‘It was kind of planned – it wasn’t prevented,’ she says. ‘We were both really open to the prospect of having another baby, so we decided to let nature take its course. If I fell pregnant, then it was meant to be.'
Though they were ridiculed by friends, Mollie says their families were more supportive.
‘Mum just said: “Do what you feel is best, this is your life and I can’t really control it anymore, as much as I would like to. It’s your life, see where it takes you.” ’
Their second child – a daughter named Delilah Lilli Wilks – was born on December 9, 2017, weighing 3.66kg. And the whole family is clearly besotted with her.
‘Delilah is very placid and quiet,’ Mollie smiles. ‘She looks more like Oscar with her big lips. But she’s got my little bum chin, which is really cute.’
Big brother Theodore, who will be two in March, dotes on his younger sibling.
‘Theodore is very gentle and gives Delilah kisses,’ Mollie says.
‘The other day he picked a flower and put it next to her. He’s always wanting to hold her, and whenever she’s crying he says: “Lilah sad,” and wants to help with her.’
However, life with two kids under two isn’t all sunshine and roses for the teen mum.
‘I’m very, very tired,’ Mollie admits. ‘Sometimes if I hold Delilah for too long, or if I’m breastfeeding her, then Theodore hates it. He always wants my attention, but it’s hard for me to pay attention to them both at the same time.
‘And like this morning, she needed a feed at Theodore’s breakfast, so I’m trying to breastfeed and get his food at the same time. There’s a lot of running back and forth.
‘I didn’t realise how stressful having two babies was. Managing your mental and physical health, as well as two other kids’ physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Adjusting to two routines and trying to still manage the bills and a house, it’s hard.’
Mollie says though her mum sometimes looks after Theodore, and Oscar’s dad advises them on their finances, they have little outside help and support.
‘Me and Oscar are very independent people, so we don’t really like asking for help.
‘I guess because we are so young we don’t want to make it look like we need help. We don’t want people to see that we are struggling.’
The young family moved into their own rental accommodation in November and get by on Oscar’s apprentice wage, as well as assistance from Centrelink.
Despite the stereotypes surrounding teen mothers, Mollie says her little ones are thriving. ‘The nurses and midwives are always very shocked and surprised at how well they are both growing.
‘Theodore is so clever – if you say one word he will pick it up straightaway. His vocabulary is amazing for a child not yet two! He knows the whole alphabet. You say it and he’ll repeat it back. He loves counting up to 10 too.
‘Delilah’s strength is amazing, she can hold her head up very well. She’s breastfed and she’s put on 1.5kg since she was born. She is a very placid baby.’
Though Mollie one day dreams of being a teacher, for now she is content being at home with the children.
‘With some teenagers I guess having a baby makes life worse for them, or they feel like their life has stopped. But before I fell pregnant, I was just numb all the time. I’d run away from home and had no friends there for me – so it was very difficult to live feeling like I had no-one.
‘The kids have changed my life for the better. I would be completely lost without them. I probably wouldn’t be here. I’d be on a road to hell because I was so depressed beforehand and had no purpose.
‘The children have given me a meaning to life and they make me work hard each day. They teach me a lot about life, as well as me teaching them. They are my world.’