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Planning a baby at 16: 'I might be a young mum but I'm a good mum'

Eden and Parker Image copyright Eden
Image caption Eden decided to have a baby in 2016 when she was 16

It was in the toilet at a local restaurant that Eden found out she was pregnant.

She and her boyfriend had gone out for dinner when she told him she thought their plan to have a baby was working.

Excited, she did six pregnancy tests in the restaurant chain's bathroom. It took so long that her boyfriend had to ask the waiter to go in and check she was ok.

She was better than ok. Eight months after she stopped taking the pill, she was pregnant just like they had planned.

"I did the tests and they all came back positive."

She and her boyfriend were both 16 and had been together for over a year when they decided to have a baby together, back in 2016. At the time, Eden had finished her GCSEs and started college in her hometown of Middlesbrough.

Image copyright Eden
Image caption Her son Parker was born in August 2016

"I'm from a big family and I've always loved babies," says Eden.

"We'd been together over a year, we thought we loved each other. I was so in love with him that I wanted to take our relationship to the next level."

"At 16, you know you're not gonna get married so it's not like 'oh let's plan a wedding. It's like 'let's plan a baby'."

"It wasn't a specific conversation, it was more like 'yeah, let's do it'. It was a rational decision, though we were a bit naive."

When she told her boyfriend she was pregnant, he was thrilled.

Middlesbrough, where Eden lives, currently has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in England and Wales. In June 2017, there were 41.9 teen pregnancies per 1,000 girls in the town, compared to an average of 18.4 per 1,000.

The next highest rate was Hartlepool in County Durham with 35.9 pregnancies per 1,000 girls.

Nearly 20 years ago, the government launched its Teenage Pregnancy Strategy in response to England having one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Western Europe.

Since then, the under-18 conception rate has dropped by 60% and the proportion of teenage mothers in education and training has doubled.

But in Middlesbrough over the two years from 2015 to 2017 it jumped from 36.5 to 43.8 - a rise of 20%.

'My mum wanted a perfect life for me'

Eden and her boyfriend didn't tell many people they were trying for a baby.

"I was so young and I was worried people would be judgmental," she says. "People definitely gave me dirty looks all the time because of my age. But I'm quite a strong minded person so I didn't care."

But overall the responses from friends and family were better than she had expected.

"At first, my family had mixed emotions," Eden says. "But once it sunk in they accepted my decision to keep the baby and were happy for me.

"I told my tutors at college and a couple of people on my course - they weren't judgemental or anything. The tutors asked if I needed any support, and they supported my decision to leave college."

Eden still hasn't explicitly told her mum it was planned, but is sure she knows: "I still say 'no it wasn't' but she looks at me and says 'yeah it was, I'm not stupid'.

"I kind of turned Mum's world upside down because she had recently had a baby herself.

"I'm her first daughter and she wanted this perfect life for me - but I still have this perfect life just with Parker in it now."

Image copyright Eden
Image caption Eden has split up with the dad of her baby but the two remain friends

'I was screaming in McDonald's'

At 27 weeks, her waters broke far earlier than expected, months before her due date. "I went to the toilet in McDonalds and I thought 'that actually didn't feel like I was weeing'.

"Then I went out of the cubicle and straight away started bending over in pain.

"I was screaming in the restaurant."

She was taken to Middlesbrough's James Cook Hospital in an ambulance, and had to stay there for a while on steroids as her waters had broken so early.

Doctors were able to stop her labour from continuing and she was allowed home two days later, but was in and out of hospital for the remainder of her pregnancy.

"It wasn't the worst pregnancy but it could have been better," she says. "I had him at 37 weeks: so still early, but classed as full term."

The labour itself was something of a learning curve, if only for losing inhibitions about personal privacy.

"Trust me, when you're in labour, anyone and everyone can look down there to help get the baby out," Eden recalls.

'His needs come first'

Parker was born on 21 August 2016 and weighed 7lb 3oz.

Eden's mum ended up being one of her biggest supporters in the early days of parenting. "My mum helped so much and was the best person to have by my side."

But when Parker was three months old, a then 17-year-old Eden moved out of her mum's house and lived in a privately rented home close by, which she paid for with housing benefit.

"It's about independence and showing that you can be independent," she says.

"It was scary but I knew it was the best thing to do, having my own space."

"I had one of my friends sleep over for the first week or two. The first night alone with Parker was ok, he was a really chilled baby so I could just potter about while he was in his bouncer or watching the telly or asleep."

"But I missed home. When I was ill I just wanted to be with my mum."

The reality of living on her own with a baby soon hit.

"You can't just get up and go - who's going to look after the baby for me?" she says. "If I was in the middle of doing my hair and the baby started screaming, I had to stop doing what I was doing and go and see to him.

"It's not frustrating because you get more time with the baby but sometimes you do wish you could do what your friends were doing.

"That was the biggest shock - realising that I couldn't just do what I wanted anymore. Parker would always come first."

Image copyright Eden
Image caption Eden wanted to move out and be independent but found it 'scary' at times

Now Eden is 20 and lives in Middlesbrough with three-year-old Parker.

Her relationship with Parker's dad didn't last but he and his family see Parker every weekend.

"I think being young parents put a lot of pressure on us," Eden says.

"We were just trying too hard to make it work when we knew it wasn't. In the end we split up and now we get on a lot better as friends. Everyone likes the image of mum, dad and baby but it doesn't always have to be like that."

"It's a lot better to make sure your child can see you get along rather than be together."

'A good mum'

Eden is also pushing on with her education and career now.

"When I got pregnant I was at college but I wasn't enjoying my course because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do," she says.

"I decided I'd go back after I had Parker, when I was ready, and that's what I'm doing now."

She's been back at college since September doing a health access course, and plans to go to university next year.

"All I know is I will always do the best for my baby. I want to give him the life he deserves and I'll work hard to make sure that happens.

"I might be a young mum but I know I'm a good mum."

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