I went to secondary school in Aylesbury, rumoured to have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the country at the time. Seeing young women pushing prams, was something I didn’t think much of. It’s only now that I’m a parent that I reflect on how challenging becoming a Mother so young must be; not only do you face the shocking adjustment that all new parents face, but you are doing so whilst still a child yourself and with the judgement rather than support of society at large. Horrendous.
Thank you Erin AKA @noandroblog for this brilliant piece:
• I had my first son Noah a month before my 17th birthday. I found out at 19 weeks pregnant and from then on I was that ‘16 and pregnant’ cliché that is thrown around so much.
• One of the first things that differ (usually) from teen pregnancy to being pregnant when society actually expects you to be, is that nobody is happy for you. You can’t excitedly tell your parents or do a big reveal. Your parents are devastated and your friends concerned. Your GP says sorry, rather than congratulations.
• The second thing is, I don’t think pregnant 30-something year olds are subjected to people’s opinions of what they should do with their foetus. A ‘friend’ of mine believed I should have him adopted, to a lovely couple who could offer him ‘everything’.
• People will probably assume you’re stupid. You’re stupid if you fell pregnant accidentally, and you’re stupid if you planned it. They’ll probably ask. I used to say ‘unintentional’ a couple of years in saying ‘is it any of your business?’ became easier.
• Unless you’re from an unusually well off family the likelihood is that you are going to have to claim benefits, at least if you want to spend some time at home with your baby and/or return to school
• And don’t people know it. You will be asked about what benefits you get. And how much. It’s not out of kindness either, it’s just being nosy.
• I avoided the bus when I began to show (which was actually at about 30 weeks) because I didn’t ever get offered a seat anyway. So I just used to walk for miles. On the way to being induced at 42 weeks, I wasn’t offered a seat (but my grandma was) when my grandma suggested someone should move for me, a teenage boy said ‘should’ve fucked a man with a car then’
• I was very lucky that I had a brilliant midwife during pregnancy and my delivery, but not all medical professionals were that good. When I popped to the nurse at the GP for my whooping cough vaccine, she scoffed and said ‘it’s only offered for people who are pregnant’, when I told her I was 7 months, she was horrified.
• You might be asked to leave sixth form because you are a distraction to other pupils. I was, and I know others were too (the following year the laws changed and you have to be in Education until your 18 – not sure they’d be allowed to get away with this now)
• The likelihood is your parents are still pretty young too. Mine were just turning 40 when I had Noah, this means they are not in a place to be as much as a grandparent as some can. They can’t offer childcare. My dad’s youngest is not a year old yet, and I have other younger siblings, so they’re still doing a lot of parenting themselves. But my grandma is a pretty hands on, kick ass great-grandma, and my parents do what they can.
• You will miss out. Teenage house parties don’t tend to cater for the heavily pregnant 16 year old. I tried to go to a Reggae festival in south France at six months (I’d booked it before finding out) that was hell. The highlight of the week was eating a cucumber from Aldi and leaving early.
• You will find out who the good friends are. I am very lucky that my friends are amazing, although they are all now at finishing Uni/working/travelling, they are a big fixture in my children’s lives.
• Some of my friends parents treated me as if pregnancy was catching, and they worried for their daughters. I get that. But others also because a support network I didn’t know I had.
• People always say bizarre things to pregnant people. But you get a fair share as a ‘teen mum’ being ‘too young to breastfeed’ was a good one. I mean, you are aware that he was in my uterus for 9+ months and came out of my fanjita right? I think him suckling on a mammary gland is part of the deal really.
• You are going to be the youngest at the breastfeeding group. You might have some small talk, but don’t expect invites to coffee, because the chances of that happening are slim.
• Breastfeeding in front of your peers. Awks. Pulling out a lactating tit in front of my 16 year old male friends who were having a red stripe and a roll up was never going to be comfortable.
• You will most likely have to move out sooner than your friends do. My mum did not physically have enough room for Noah and I, I was very lucky that my dad kicked out his lodger and I got the spare room. It was a good deal, I paid only bills no rent.
Others aren’t so lucky. If there is no one to ‘take them in’ it’s living in a hostel. I’ve seen some, and conditions can be appalling. Some people I have met have lived in these sometimes unsanitary, unsafe hostels for 4+ years. It is only then that you ‘get a free house’ (hope I’ve kinda dispelled the ‘people get pregnant for a house’ rumour) when it came time to leave my dads house when he had begun a new family, I moved to Leeds with Noah to live with his dad/my partner whilst he studied up here. We couldn’t afford London.
• There will be people who make you feel guilty. I felt guilty for ages. On days that I hated myself and my decision to keep my baby, I thought of all the women who probably despised me. Those who had multiple attempts of IVF, those whose children had died, so on. I was made to feel like I didn’t deserve my baby. After all, what could I offer him.
• This all said, and some of this being some of my feelings from the darkest days, we survived. And thrived. It’s still hard at times, emotionally, financially. But Noah (and his brother Roman) are fantastic. We can’t afford to take them on skiing holidays, or for them to do every after school club, I can’t be at home all the time as I’m studying and their Papa works full time, but we’re doing okay. They’re good little eggs. We can offer them a heap of love and energy.
• Another pro to being 16 and pregnant is that when I’m rich and famous, and appear on Pierce Morgan’s life stories, it’s going to be so much more interesting. Who doesn’t love a teen mum success story, eh?