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I was between jobs when I got my ex-partner pregnant by accident, but the birth of my son became a guiding force to get my backside in gear. My mates laughed about it and thought it was a big joke that I would have to deal with all this responsibility. My mother was cool about it but my ex-partner’s parents were not. When I realised she would keep the baby, we got back together and she moved in with me. I was working nights a lot which didn’t please her, especially after my son, Adam, was born.
When he was born it really hit me: He is going to be my priority for the rest of my life. I had to make sure I had enough money to sort everything out for him and it made me think about what it means to be a father.After he was born, my partner didn't want my mother to get involved in the child care. My partner looked after Adam in the day and I took care of the nights. I knew my partner didn’t have any interest in being a family with me and Adam. As soon as she got a council flat, she said ‘see you later’ to me. I knew it was coming. At first, we just had silly arguments but then she stopped answering my calls and I have been fighting for access to Adam ever since. The courts don’t favour fathers and something should be done about that. I have been doing things the right way but she doesn’t turn up in court for hearings. One day, Adam will come looking for me and he will hear the truth about why I haven’t been in his life. The hardest thing about having a child when you’re young is not the physical stuff, it’s the mental things. You worry about how you will cope with money. I think every young man, faced with their partner having a baby, has to make a decision: You either turn the other cheek and ignore the situation, or you man-up and look after your child.
When he was born it really hit me, he is going to be my priority for the rest of my life.
My childhood started out really good and normal. I was brought up in a traveller family although we had settled. My problems started when I was 13 years old and I was expelled from school around the same time that my mother had a mental breakdown and was sectioned under the mental health act. My Mum was absent from home for months on end and my dad could not cope with looking after my mother, myself and my younger brother all on his own.
I joined a gang at the age of 14 and ended up getting into lots of trouble with the police and authorities. I ended up having to attend probation and had many suspended sentences from prison. When I joined the gang my friends within the gang became like my family, we stuck together and looked after each other, I felt secure. By the age of 15 I was very well known for my gang affiliation and my mother was released from hospital, for the sake of her health I was asked to leave the family home. I was moved into temporary accommodation and this was a very hard time for me. I was very young and didn’t really know how to take the emotional difficulties I was facing, I started to drink and stay up all night, sleeping during the day, I couldn’t really see a way out.
Gemma had left school and rather than go directly to college, she decided to work for a year as a sales assistant in a shop. Gemma had been with her boyfriend for more than three years but had not planned on getting pregnant with him.
“I was loving my life at the time and I wasn’t expecting to be a mother but it just happened,” she said. “When they found out, I lost a lot of my friends because they were always going out and I couldn’t anymore. “My parents were very disappointed in me but over a few months they came to accept it and decided to support me. “It was never an option to have an abortion because I just don’t believe in them, although not for religious reasons.”
Gemma lost her job as a sales assistant and began to face the realities of being pregnant at the age of 17, although she remained at her parent’s house. “I was very nervous and I didn’t know how I was going to cope,” she said. When her son, was six months old Gemma made the decision to split up with her boyfriend, who had moved into the family home and was causing friction. “We still get on brilliantly and he is still around for our son and supports him financially,” she said.
Sam is a former peer educator for Straight Talking and now works as a family support worker for a local authority. She became pregnant at the age of 19, with her son, now eight.
“I had been to college to study child care and I was working at a pub over the summer before my university course started when it happened. I was in a low place because of some problems with my family at the time and I got into a relationship with a customer who was 35. The relationship was not serious and I went off to university in Bath as planned, in September to study social work. But, at the end of ‘Fresher’s Week’ I discovered I was pregnant. It was completely accidental. We had taken precautions.
I was upset and worried about the impact it would have on university. Two school friends came to Bath to talk things through with me. They played devil’s advocate but I was not comfortable with the idea of an abortion. I couldn’t live knowing I wouldn’t have the child I was meant to have. I spoke to my partner to tell him the news and he told me very strongly to have an abortion and that he would deny all knowledge of me or the child if I went ahead with the pregnancy. He was surprised that I was not going to have an abortion. There was no further discussion about it but he blamed me completely for what had happened.
My partner and I were at college at the time, Penny was 18. I was training to be a plasterer and she was studying animal care. The pregnancy was not planned however we both knew we wanted kids one day. For that reason, we were not entirely unhappy about it when it happened. At first my parents were shocked. They thought we were too young. At the time we were both living with my mother and dad because Penny did not have a good relationship with her parents. My parents committed to support us if I took responsibility for the baby.
My friends were quite indifferent and some said I had thrown my life away. It was suggested that we consider an abortion; however this was never entertained as a serious option. Luckily, Penny got through her college course as she had already completed enough coursework to pass. Penny did not have the easiest pregnancy and we both had to attend hospital a lot. My commitments began to impact my training. In the end, the college gave my place to someone else and I had to drop out.
Jane was pregnant with her son at the age of 16 when she was in the fifth year of her secondary school. “I was studying for NVQs in IT and health at the time. It was a complete accident. My boyfriend and I had been seeing each other for a while but we weren’t planning on having a baby. I was really shocked when I found out. I was scared and I didn’t want to tell my parents. The moment I told my boyfriend I was pregnant, he didn’t want to know. He wanted me to have an abortion. He didn’t want a baby. I wasn’t sure how far gone I was, but when you see the scan it makes you change your mind about that.
He was supposed to pay child support but he ended up stopping the payments. In the end, I told my closest friends and then my mother found out. She was very upset and shocked. I waited another two months before telling my dad and he didn’t talk to me for another six months before he came round to the idea. He was very disappointed. I had to drop my IT course because I was not going to be able to complete it because of the workload and check-ups. I gave birth just after the exams. The school was not very happy about keeping me there either but they had to. It was not very nice walking round with a big bump with everyone staring at you and only a couple of friends actually stuck by me when I had the baby.
Genny was 10 when her parents separated. At 15, she was put into foster care by her parents and at the age of 17, she was convicted of shop lifting and other petty crimes.
Genny worked for some time in retail but prioritised her relationship with an abusive man and lost her job. They parted but she fell into another relationship with a more abusive, partner and fell pregnant at the age of 19.
The abuser was imprisoned and Genny was left as a single teenage mother with social workers doubting her parenting abilities. She had almost no qualifications and no visible means of escape from poverty. Genny joined Straight Talking and says that the support of other young mothers was invaluable.