I had just turned 16 when I fell pregnant. I spent weeks in complete shock. I was in my last year of high school about to sit my GCSEs and with plans to go to college. My boyfriend and I hadn't been together very long. When I broke the news to him, he said if I decided to keep the baby, he would support me all he could. I had no reason to doubt this as he was 24 and I knew he had another son whom he saw regularly and supported financially.
After many sleepless nights I decided to keep my baby. I mistakenly thought that it would have a mother and a father as best as they could. My boyfriend left me when I was four-and-a-half months pregnant. I had a lot of support from my mum, after the initial shock. Although my dad accepted my decision to keep the baby, he wouldn't discuss it. If anyone mentioned my pregnancy or the approaching birth, he would go very quiet and pretend to be watching TV or something. I also received an awful lot of support from my high school - from my head of year and deputy head in particular - both with the pregnancy and my GCSE exams, which I sat (and passed) when I was five months pregnant.
I spent the summer getting everything I needed for my baby. I was still living at home with my mum and dad and older sister. Towards the end of my pregnancy I attended antenatal classes. I found this really relaxing because I wasn't in a room full of thirty-something couples, all married for years with fantastic careers.
My son Joe was born on 25 November at 7.30am after a short three-hour labour, weighing nine pounds and 11 ounces. My mum was with me at the birth. I've only seen his father once since; he came to visit when Joe was 18 months old. He doesn't pay any child support.
Since having Joe, my life has changed a lot. I still do things that my friends do, such as go clubbing and to the cinema occasionally. My parents are brilliant when it comes to babysitting. They both love Joe very much. I have had a lot of support from my friends and family. When Joe was nine months old, I started my A-levels. Two years later I passed and last year I decided to move and start a degree at university. It was incredibly hard work and unfortunately I lasted only one term. Maybe I should have waited until Joe started school.
Being a single teenage mum wasn't something I ever thought would happen to me. We are stereotyped as coming from a working-class background with few, if any academic qualifications - not bright, middle-class girls like myself. But it just goes to show that anyone who isn't 100 per cent safe when it comes to sex can end up like me.
HELEN TOMLINSON'S STORY
I conceived on the night of my 15th birthday. My pal and I got more drunk than usual and we met up with two boys we knew. I had a one-night stand with one of the lads.
About two months later I started to have an idea that I was pregnant. I was getting pains in my chest and acid in the back of my throat. My mum told me it was heartburn. A month later I knew I was pregnant. I was at least four months gone. I didn't want an abortion so I didn't tell my mum or anyone else in case they told her - not even a doctor. I guess everyone just thought I was putting on weight.
I finally went to see a doctor. She was really good with me and told me I'd need to tell my mum, because she'd have to send a midwife to my house to see that my baby and I were okay. I discussed with my pal how I was going to tell my mum and decided to write her a letter. I left it on her bed so that she would read it just before going to sleep and have time for it to sink in. I had a maths exam in the morning and my doctor's appointment in the afternoon. Unfortunately mum didn't read the letter until the next morning. When I woke up the whole house was in uproar, which didn't give me a good start to my exam. When I got home my mum and I went to the doctor's. My mum said I should give the baby up for adoption and we ended up arguing and both left in tears. The only person whose advice I appreciated was my dad's. He told me to do what I felt was best. I told them I was keeping my baby.
I finally gave birth to a baby girl. I found motherhood hard work. There were bottles to wash and make up, clothes to wash, nappies to change, housework, plus looking after my baby. It was tiring.
I'm now engaged to my boyfriend. We've been together for two years and my wee girl has known him since she was six months old, so she can't really remember him not being there. They get on brilliantly together; he's more of a dad to her than her real dad.
I've now got a five-month-old baby with my boyfriend. I'm in a steady relationship and now I've been offered a house with a garden, so it means my kids can get out in the summer. The good thing about being a young mum is that I'll be able to relate to my kids more easily when they're teenagers. I'm going to start studying and hope to get a job in a nursery or in social work. My boyfriend will look after the children when I'm at college.
'Tough Choices' is published by The Women's Press, pounds 4.99.Reuse content