I was totally shocked when I found out I was pregnant at just 14, especially as I had no symptoms at all and was just three months away from giving birth.
I’d been playing football at school and got really bad stomach cramps. I went to the doctor, who felt my stomach and asked if I could be pregnant.
I’d been on the mini pill and I still can’t remember a time when I might not have taken it properly, so the question came as a complete shock.
My periods had continued normally and I was as slim as ever, so I couldn’t take it in that I might be pregnant.
I was referred straight away for an ultrasound, where they found a heartbeat and there was the unmistakeable outline of a baby on the screen. It was as if everything was happening in slow motion.
She asked again what was wrong and this time I just said ‘I’m pregnant’
In total disbelief, I made my way home and lay on my bed for a couple of hours, waiting for my mum to finish work.
When she came in and said ‘What’s wrong?’ I started crying and saying “I’m really sorry”. That clearly scared her.
She asked again what was wrong. This time I just said “I’m pregnant”, and she put her arms around me.
I wasn’t the only one in my crowd of friends having sex. We were a big group, and there were quite a lot of serious relationships going on.
Fourteen is young, but it was what everyone did in my crowd. I was using contraception so I thought I was being mature. Now, as I considered my options, I didn’t feel mature at all.
I had only two choices – have the baby and either keep it or give it up for adoption
I don’t know how I’d have felt if I’d known as soon as I was pregnant. Now I had only two choices – have the baby and either keep it or give it up for adoption. My main worry was that I simply wouldn’t be able to give my baby the life she deserved.
I kept thinking I wasn’t good enough and that she’d be better off being adopted because she deserved the world. I’m not sure if it was just because I was so young or if I’d always have felt like that, but I couldn’t escape that thought.
Our family are very close and my mum and older brothers, Rory and Callum, played a huge part in helping me decide to keep my baby, though I didn’t actually make that decision until a few months later.
My dad left when I was small and it was always us four against the world. We all knew how hard it could be as a single parent but it wasn’t the challenges that worried me; it was my own capabilities.
I was too busy thinking I’d ruined my baby’s life to consider what other people were thinking of me
I didn’t think I’d ruined my life when I got pregnant so young.
I was too busy thinking I’d ruined my baby’s life to consider what other people were thinking of me.
It was actually much later when I realised what the general perception is of teenage mums and unplanned pregnancy and, ten years on, I don’t think that has changed.
Mum and my brothers were so patient and ready to listen as I went over the choices I had. They reassured me I could still do everything I’d planned and be a good mother, but I wasn’t convinced.
I went back to school, carried on studying, saw my boyfriend and friends – and all the time I was trying to get my head around the fact I would be a mum in three months.
Would I be able to care for my child or would it be better for the baby if it was adopted? It was never about what would be good for me, and my constant worry was I wouldn’t be able to give my child the best.
The birth was hard, but Mum was with me throughout and helped and encouraged me. I knew for sure how much I loved May when I saw her for the first time.
There were horrible rumours I didn’t know who May’s father was
There was never a moment’s doubt about that but the way I felt for her made me even more convinced she only deserved the best.
Going back to school was also difficult, and not just because I was too young to qualify for any help or benefits. My family and my boyfriend’s family helped with looking after May to allow me to continue my education.
There were horrible rumours I didn’t know who May’s father was and I was so upset at that because I’d only ever had one partner.
Some teachers were supportive – I’d been a really bright spark with lots of ambition, and they realised I was now even more focused – but others clearly thought I was a dead loss, that I’d thrown my life away and was now destined to be a total disaster.
At 15 you don’t have a lot of confidence and it was really hard to rise above people making assumptions about me. I’ve always had a lot of time and empathy for other people but I wasn’t getting enough of that back.
Mum loved May so much she couldn’t bear the thought of her being given away
It would almost have been easier for me to give up, have my daughter adopted and try to pick up my life as a young teenager, but the strength my family gave me proved the turning point.
Mum loved May so much she couldn’t bear the thought of her being given away, and my brothers just gave me a quiet confidence.
Maybe I couldn’t give her everything adoptive parents could, but I could give her the best I could manage.
Something like this can make you very resilient. When my relationship with May’s dad ended – when she was 18 months old – I decided on a fresh start and moved to Edinburgh.
That was hard for Mum, and about six months later she moved her whole life to be closer to me. I was doing a ‘preparation for nursing’ course and had started working in a hospital, and I’d met my partner, Phillip.
He and May, now aged nine, are really close. When I became pregnant with our son, Freddie – now two years old – she was absolutely thrilled and came to all my appointments with me.
The day he was born I took her to school, Phillip took me to hospital, and we were back home by the time she rushed in again.
It was all very different from that first scared time, but the love is the same and I now know being such a young mum wasn’t the end of the world.
Now Phillip and I are planning our wedding. I’m working full time as a dental nurse, and I couldn’t be prouder of my family.
Chelsie Pryer was talking to Joan McFadden