I think it is important when reading my account of my first pregnancy to remember that my friends and peers were also 16. We hadn’t yet had to make a decision with such impact on our lives. I say ‘we’ because it really was a team effort. Noah’s first years were him being raised by a gang of girls.
My closest girls had a scan photo of him and we took it in turns for them to come along (I had a lot of growth scans). His name was decided amongst us as we all sat under a tree in a little park in Camberwell, which was also the first time I had stroked my very little, but definitely there bump.
Once I had accepted that this baby was going to arrive at the very end of the year/new year, the daunting feeling of judgement swiftly followed.
I didn’t know any teen mums. I was most definitely the first of our social circle. The whispers spread quickly and although I have never been an introvert, the sheer shame of every body knowing you have done it and been caught out was monumental.
I tried to explain to people that this was not just a funny story, this was my life but it’s not that simple is it? No one could really understand how it felt for your unborn baby to be hot gossip. I found myself justifying my decision to keep my baby in Facebook messages, and blocking people on BBM as a group of boys from my secondary school had statuses mocking my pregnancy.
I started sixth form on a hot September day in an Arran knit jumper, that just about disguised the bump. I didn’t tell any of my new classmates about what was hiding under my jumper and I continued as ‘normal’.
When I did finally tell the sixth form that I was seven months pregnant, they were pretty shocked. I hadn’t attended the school in previous years so I had no relationship or rapport with any of the teachers.
I can’t remember her position now, but some sort of pastoral care support was very nice but she doubted my strength. She felt it was kinder to myself to have the year out, as I shouldn’t subject myself to peoples comments. It was as if she didn’t think I was aware what people would say about me, but I didn’t really care. I had my little unit outside of education and they were all I felt I needed really. There was a comment made about my pregnancy becoming a distraction for other students too.
I did make one friend at sixth form, she was really nice and would ask what I was doing at the weekends and I would make up some bullshit, trying to throw her off the scent as much as possible. When I left the sixth form on the promise that although I couldn’t continue my education there now, they would accept me the following year, I felt let down but also a sense of relief. I was nearing eight months pregnant and I was tired. I knew at this point I would be moving into my dads house once the baby had been born, but I was in between my mum and grandmas house and the dust and disappointment had still not settled with my parents. The unknown in front of me was nerve racking but I felt confident I could learn to be a mum alongside my baby.
I was appointed a teenage pregnancy midwife who was wonderful. She never made me feel like I was incapable of giving the best to Noah. Her years of experience shone through, I looked forward to my appointments with her. She had been a teen mum too and was now a nurse, that gave me hope.
Once I left school, I became a nanny for a family. I had their daughter three afternoons a week for £30, I still used the arran knit to hide the pregnancy, in the hope I could conceal it for as long as possible. I worked on a food stall too on weekends and when I reached 28 weeks my midwife helped me apply for income support. I was determined to be able to afford ‘nice things’ as well as the basics. The first thing I bought Noah was a faux sheepskin coat from Zara.
Despite the anxieties for what the future held, the overriding excitement to finally look at the little life I was growing inside me kept me going, and I am forever grateful for the support I received during such a turbulent time.