Happy families

It’s surprising to hear a teenage mum say that getting
pregnant made her work harder at school, but that’s what
happened to Stephanie, aged 15. She was 14 when she found out she
was pregnant with baby Liam, now four months.

She says she had always mucked around in lessons, not taking
them seriously. “I’m doing loads better at school now,” she
says. “I used to skive and misbehave and not do any work. When I
found out I was carrying Liam I realised I had to look after
another person. If I don’t do well in life he’ll miss

Stephanie attends school part-time, with help from her mum. She
hopes to do her GCSEs next year and to go to college. She’s
lucky to have the support of her parents and her boyfriend Lee, 19,
but getting pregnant was still a huge shock. “It was scary. I just
couldn’t believe it. My parents were both stunned when I told
them. They said if they were in my shoes they wouldn’t have
the baby, but that they would support me whatever I decided to

Stephanie didn’t consider termination for very long,
despite the fact that Lee’s initial reaction was to ask her
to choose between the baby and him. “He was shocked. He
didn’t want me ruining my life,” says Stephanie. “But after a
few days he got used to the idea and he was quite excited. Getting
pregnant was my fault – I didn’t think a baby should be
killed for that, and I knew I’d have lots of help.”

But the birth was hard. One of the midwives was dismissive when
Stephanie told her – correctly – that she was well into labour.
When the baby was finally born, Stephanie was tired and confused,
and couldn’t accept that he was actually hers. Her mum,
however, cried tears of joy. The whole family now loves Liam very
much and Lee comes over to stay several times a week. “Sometimes
you feel low because you can’t do much apart from care for
the baby, but I think people should stay positive about life,” she
says. “I love Liam and I’ve grown up a lot since I had

Billie, 17, was in the middle of her GCSEs when she found out
she was six weeks pregnant with baby Corey, who is now four months.
But despite falling out with a friend who said she only got
pregnant to trap her partner, Andrew, Billie is positive about the
whole experience. “It was Andrew’s idea. We were trying to
have a baby because we felt we loved each other enough and were
ready for the commitment,” she says. “My mum was a childminder so
there were always babies and children around me. When I felt the
baby’s first kick it was one of the best feelings I have ever
had, knowing there was a little life inside me that depended on

Billie did well in her GCSEs, but despite having to put her
career on hold for now, she believes there are advantages to having
children young. “With a smaller age gap you can bond better with a
child and relate to it more as it grows up. We make good parents.
Every new parent is new to it and hasn’t done it before, so
they will all make mistakes, however old they are.”

Billie has no regrets. “I love the fact that if Corey’s a
bit grumpy I can sit him on my lap and he quietens down. I love his
hugs and smiles and giggles and everything about him.”

On her own and without regular help from family or friends,
Charlie, 19, finds being a parent more difficult. She has two
children, Simon, two and a half, and Corey, seven months, who have
different fathers. The first relationship broke up when she was two
months pregnant, while the second father left after only two weeks.
She has a new boyfriend, Ben, who is fond of the children, but he
doesn’t live with her.

“I was with Simon’s father for nine months and we both
wanted children, but my family did not see it from my point of
view. He was 26 and I was only 16 so they were on my back all the
time,” says Charlie. When she fell pregnant by accident a second
time after a brief relationship, she didn’t want to keep the
baby at first, but couldn’t go through with a termination.
But despite finding it hard to cope with two young children on her
own, she says being a mum is fulfilling. “The good thing is that
you have someone else to look after besides yourself. I wanted the
extra responsibility. No one else was happy about it, but I was,”
she says. Charlie feels unsupported by some of the professionals.
“People put me down but no one tells you what makes a good parent.
I am a good parent because I cope with all this on my own. My
children come to me and no one else. It’s nice to know they
count on you.”

With the help of childminders and her Connexions adviser,
Charlie plans to go to college, and would like to try nursing.
“I’m determined to do it. I need to stop talking baby
language,” she says.

Suzanne, 16, and Dave, 19, new parents to baby Kyle, four
months, also struggle with the financial cost of a baby. Dave had
to give up his college course in computers and is looking for work,
while Suzanne left school and plans to do an entry 2 employment
course in September. She belongs to a support group of other young
mothers. “It’s good to be in the same boat with other young
mums. We meet once a week and share our problems. Some of my
friends didn’t want to know me because I was having a

Dave enjoys being a dad. “I love being able to watch him grow up
and take him for walks in the park. Some people don’t think
it’s right to have children so young, but it doesn’t
bother me. I don’t care what other people think.”

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