The moment I found out I was pregnant with my daughter I knew instantly that I was going to keep her. I was 16 and in a relationship with someone I knew wasn’t right for me. But his positive words at the time, combined with my determination to ensure the child growing inside me would have a better childhood than I did and would be loved beyond belief I started doing all I could to make sure I had what I needed for this baby.
I left 6th form and got a full-time job at an agency. I worked anywhere and everywhere they sent me keeping it quiet that I was pregnant so I could work for as long as possible. I saved money, bought nappies, wipes, clothes and other baby bits each week so I would have a year’s supply of everything. I took out books from the library and read them at night via torchlight so my parents wouldn’t find out. I made it my mission to know everything there was to know about babies, pregnancy and being a good parent. I remember telling my mum that I was pregnant. I think she found my very well-hidden library books under my pillow. She was shocked but excited to be a grandma, my dad, less so, he thought I was lying.
Being a teenage mum was very hard and in the process, I became a single teenage mum because I didn’t like the way my future was looking with that boyfriend. During my pregnancy, he had been convicted of burglary and sent to prison, I stuck by him and would take the baby to see him. It was in those moments watching children being searched by guards and playing in the waiting room before going into the prison, that I realised it wasn’t what I wanted for us and split up with him. I still took my daughter to visit for a little while after we split and wrote letters and spoke on the phone but I just wanted more for her.
Life was difficult, stressful and a real struggle at times, the looks and judgement thrown my way were so intense. I experienced post-natal depression which was never addressed. Those around me told me that I had made my bed and I had to lie in it. Strangers would walk up to me and tell me what a disgrace I was, how I was the problem with society and how I’d ruined my life by having a baby so young. Now that I think back, relatives would say the same thing.
Once I had my daughter who is mixed race, and of a much lighter complexion to myself, I then had people telling me that I was a traitor to my race, that my daughter couldn’t possibly be mine as she has white skin and light hair. Yes, people took time out of their day to walk up to me and make these comments. My presence was so offensive to people they couldn’t help themselves. They didn’t know I was working my arse off and trying my hardest not to be a stereotype; they had no idea how I was ensuring that my child had the best of what I could get even if it meant I went without.
I remember a week living off water and a loaf of white label economy bread just so my daughter could have clothes on her back. I remember times not eating at all so I could put money towards the electric or so my daughter could go on a school trip. Those of you with kids know they grow out of everything all the time at a rapid pace. When she got to school age, I tried to ensure she got into the best school I could, but I couldn’t afford £30,000 a term.
That’s when becoming a stripper crosses your mind, you start to rationalise it. I can dance, sometimes I dance naked at home! Surely, there is no difference? Just random strangers watching. It would be for a good cause, it would mean that my daughter would be getting the best education and hopefully surrounded by lovely affluent people giving her a great start in life. I didn’t do it. Instead, I found the best regular schools I could even if it meant we had to walk for an hour each morning; and we did, well she scooted I walked. Now I’m not trying to paint myself as a saint of a mother because I definitely had my moments where I lost my patience, broke down, cried, wondered what I had done to produce such a screaming, crying child the tantrums were unreal.
Where did it all go wrong? Was it something I did?
Since becoming a teenager, she really has been unbearable at times. Literally, the past three years have been completely exhausting mentally, physically and emotionally. My heart has been broken so many times by her. She does things she knows is wrong and lies to my face. Sometimes I know she’s done something, so I give her the chance to come clean, and she chooses to lie every time. This is not the child I raised, the child that would help people out without thinking. The polite cheeky girl I was proud of. The things she has done are so at odds with the way we live and the values I’ve attempted to instil into her. She repeatedly makes the worst choices that have detrimental effects to those around her. I want so hard for her to do well but she doesn’t seem to have it in her she’s more bothered about spending time with her boyfriend.
The way she talks about me and her life, you’d think something sinister happened to her, but that is so far from the case. The bout of carnage she threw our way before Christmas did feel like it finished me. When is enough, enough? I honestly believed that she wanted to achieve all we’d been talking about, but at the time I think she was telling me stuff that she thought I’d like to hear to keep me sweet. All I wanted was to have my family together for meals, holidays, days out etc. to have that strong family core I never had growing up.
I grew up with both parents together married but trust me that means nothing when it isn’t a loving, respectful marriage where the children are valued and time is set aside for you all to be a family. Sometimes I feel like such a failure. I’m so exhausted, confused, angry, ashamed and embarrassed. I don’t understand how I can spend my time ensuring she doesn’t turn out like her absent father for her to do exactly that.
Maybe I tried too hard. Being 16 is a confusing time and friends are life and you rebel against your parents. I have tried to give her the space to make mistakes and learn from them because telling her what to do doesn’t work. When I found out she had a boyfriend we went to the sexual health clinic together to make sure she was clean, safe and knew where to go in the future for her sexual health needs. If she is going to do anything I want her to be clued up and protected while doing it.
Recently there has been a glimmer of hope with my daughter spending time at home and helping while she is here. She looks a bit better than she has and appears more like the daughter I used to know. I’m able to converse with her and even have a few laughs here and there. She has loved spending time with her baby brother and vice versa. We are moving from Suffolk to Hertfordshire, and she is coming with us. Fingers crossed this is the beginning of a new hopeful chapter as a family all together.
Cleo is a mother of two with a love for doughnuts, travel and creating lasting memories with loved ones, adjusting to life as a stay at home mum in a new town after quitting her job in April to move closer to her partner’s family. She spends her days juggle domestic life, motherhood and reskilling herself with an aim to work from home. Currently raising money for charity with profits from the sale of her Milk Lady enamel pin that can be purchased via her Etsy store.