Hannah, now 26, was 17 when she gave birth

I was attending a dance school – training full time, getting a degree. I was going to be a performer. I was going to go on tour; that’s how you ‘make it’ as a dancer. And then I was pregnant. Seventeen and pregnant. I did want children but later – way later. It wasn’t supposed to happen when it happened.

I told my partner (at the time) straight away and his reaction was, “well, you know what to do”. For him there was no choice; I needed to have an abortion. If I had thought about abortion before I was pregnant I’d have said a categorical no but when faced with having to tell people and my whole life changing, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider it. But I couldn’t do it. It wouldn’t have been for me, it would have been for him. It didn’t feel right and it wasn’t what I wanted. So I told my parents. Telling them was huge! They were leaders in a church and I was really well-known in the church. It was huge! But my parents were incredible. I remember ringing my mum and telling her and she just said “I love you, I love you”.

A lot of people were disappointed in me and that word – disappointment – was used a lot

People were shocked when they found out that I was going to be a mum; they didn’t even know I had a boyfriend – we’d only been ‘official’ for a couple of months. News spread fast but I don’t think those who knew were intentionally gossiping; I think it was more about the shock. A lot of people were disappointed in me and that word – disappointment – was used a lot. Seeing how people were reacting, my friends and family rallied around me. The people who I thought would be really disappointed in me were just so supportive.

When you’re a teen mum, you’re placed under the care of a special group of midwives. I remember walking into an antenatal unit and I was surrounded thirteen-year-old girls and, being 17, I was not at that point anymore but I also couldn’t relate to the average 30-year-old mum-to-be. It was an awkward space. I was young but I was working and could afford to buy things for my child; I felt like I was prepared but looking back, I think “Wow! You were such a little girl.” It’s something you only realise in retrospect.

I didn’t attend any mum-type groups because I just couldn’t fit in and even now with my son being at school, I’ve had to work hard to earn the respect of the other parents

And I get sad sometimes because I think, although my son is incredible and such a blessing, I wish I could have enjoyed my first child more, without the constant feeling of being judged and having to defend my parenting. People feel that because you’re young that they have the right to some sort of say in what you’re doing. Even health professionals made incorrect assumptions. When my son was born, the midwives would offer to make me bottles and were surprised to find out that I was breastfeeding. At every doctor’s appointment they’d say “OK, so he’s bottle-fed,” and I’d have to correct them. In fact, I breastfed for over a year – because formula is expensive but for the most part, to avoid judgement; to challenge stereotype.

I didn’t attend any mum-type groups because I just couldn’t fit in and even now with my son being at school, I’ve had to work hard to earn the respect of the other parents. I remember him being in nursery and having to do birthday parties and be all creative and crafty; it was only then, when parents saw how I was doing it that they felt more comfortable with me. Now I have this fear; if I ever move my son to a different school, I’m going to have to do all of the hard work all over again.

Parenting is difficult. But it’s difficult for everyone. And life has worked out pretty well for me. After having my son, I went back to finish my degree (my mum took two years off work). I have a great job and a wonderful fiancé. My son’s dad has been on his own amazing journey – he loves his boy and sees him every other weekend. And now that I ’m getting married, the likelihood is that we’re going to want to have another child but the thought of going back there is terrifying – doing it all over again. Being young, I have a pretty good memory.”

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