How Holly became the mother she always knew she could be

By Antony Lawes, 14 June 2024
Project Elizabeth helps new mothers through difficult times. Image: Supplied


When Western Sydney resident Holly* reflects on her life today, she sometimes can’t believe she is the same person as she was a year ago. 

Since then, the 27-year-old has been getting help through Catholic Care’s Project Elizabeth program and now feels like a confident and happy mother to her toddler, and secure in her relationship with her partner.  

“Project Elizabeth is just such an amazing service, what they’ve poured into me and how far I’ve come in the past year, it’s crazy,” she says of the program for mothers with young children. “I don’t even recognise myself anymore. 

“I’m able to identify these amazing things in myself and every woman deserves to feel those things, and love themselves and to be able to feel safe.” 

But Holly’s life was not always so rosey. 

Her previous partner was abusive, which left her with significant trauma. This was compounded when her two children from that relationship were placed into foster care. After that, she was unable to trust anyone – including herself.  

“It was the hardest, saddest time of my life,” she says of a period when she was also dealing with the death of her own father. “It was just one thing after another, all spiralling down.” 

Holly says before she started with Project Elizabeth she was unable to trust anyone, including herself. Image: Supplied

Holly’s feelings of insecurity and her inability to trust continued after meeting her current partner, who she says is loving and supportive. 

“I think there’s a lot of insecurities for me in terms of trusting my partner, trusting people in general,” Holly says. “And then [there’s] my self-doubt. I do judge myself quite a lot. And a lot of those sorts of things I guess are natural for a mum, but then it is heightened because of the things that I’ve been through.” 

Since starting with Project Elizabeth things have started to look up for Holly. When those feelings arise now she can talk with her case worker Jessica Mitchell. 

“It’s really beneficial to have Jessica there and she can just explain, ‘Hey this is the nervous system, this is what is naturally happening’,” Holly says. 

Every week, Holly gets a phone call from Jessica and they organise to meet at a venue that suits Holly: sometimes it will be at home, a café, or at a park for her toddler to run around. “There’s no structure or no set rules…generally it’s just up to me,” Holly says. 

She believes these informal catch-ups are the most beneficial for her because she can talk to someone who will just listen, as opposed to counsellors who “try and tell me what I should be doing”. 

“After I have sessions with Jess, I get a lot off my chest most of the time, so I can be much more present for [my child],” she says. “I think I’m a better partner too, because sometimes when it becomes all too overwhelming, I’m holding it all in trying to be strong for my family. You don’t realise you’re doing yourself a disservice. So I just offload it all to Jess and then I feel much better.” 

Holly’s sessions with her case worker Jessica enable her to be more present for her son. Image: Supplied

As well as providing help for new mothers, Project Elizabeth supports those who are expecting a baby or who have lost a baby. It also helps women who face economic hardship, domestic violence, addiction, involvement in the justice system, trauma and mental health issues. 

The way they provide this help varies depending on individuals’ needs, but can include counselling, therapeutic support, referral to other services, and family and group sessions. 

As well as their informal catch-ups, Jessica also helps Holly with legal issues, financial support or going with her to appointments. 

As a result, Holly believes she has the tools to cope emotionally and practically with the demands of being a mother. 

“I knew deep down that I was always a good mum, and I knew that I had it in me,” Holly says. “I just struggled to implement all the things I wanted to, in the environment I was in. 

“I’m actually now the mum that I wanted to be with my other two. I’ve achieved that.” 

 You can support Catholic Care’s Project Elizabeth and empower women to navigate the challenges of being a mother in difficult circumstances. 

To make your donation please call (02) 8838 3482, or visit 

* Holly’s image has been changed to protect her privacy. 


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