‘I got pregnant at 14 and had my daughter when I was 15 but still did my exams and went to uni’

Talia Stimpson was just 14 when she got pregnant and 15 when she had her daughter Lily.

Now 23 and with an eight-year-old daughter Talia wants to share her story to tackle stigma against teenage parents and help others going through the same “scary” time.

The young mother admits she was lucky because her family, boyfriend, and school were supportive but she said she was still too frightened to tell her mum and dad when she first realised she was pregnant.

Read more: Parents in Wales won’t be able to take their kids out of classes about sex education and religion anymore

Although she had their support, finished school, and went onto university there were hard times when Talia said she felt isolated and scared.

She agreed it was not ideal to get pregnant and have a baby so young but said: “Lily has enriched me and my family’s life with more love than they could have possibly imagined.”

Talia, aged 15, with newborn Lily. The teenager was studying for GCSEs at the time and took her first exam six weeks after the birth

In 2019 she graduated from Cardiff University with Lily by her side. Talia admitted it hadn’t been easy and she was so naive as a young teenager that she didn’t even know how to get a pregnancy test.

Talia was in the second term of year 10 when she realised she had missed several periods. She had been going out with her boyfriend, also 14, since the first year of secondary school and they were best friends.

“I knew I was pregnant but did not take an official test at that point. I told my boyfriend and he was very supportive. We knew that the moment we told people our lives would change.”

But they knew they must tell their families.

Talia is very close with her mum, Hannah Stimpson, and dad Martin Knell but had not told them about her relationship with her baby to-be’s father.

Talia went home from school at lunchtimes to see Lily and breastfeed her in the early months

Talia went home from school at lunchtimes to see Lily and breastfeed her in the early months

“They thought we were just best friends and so it came as a massive shock to my whole family. Not only did they need to come to terms with the fact that I was pregnant but I was also already four months pregnant before it was discovered.

“My parents were silent for an hour and then came and hugged me. They fully supported my decision to keep the baby and despite the circumstances not being ideal or expected they were able to see past that and celebrate the fact that a new life was coming into the world and joining our family

“They supported me emotionally, physically, and financially through my pregnancy and the first three years of my daughter’s life until we moved away. My mum would take care of Lily in the mornings and afternoon while I was at school.”

Talia and Lily

A few days after telling her parents Talia had her first scan with her 14 year-old boyfriend and mum at her side.

“Seeing her moving and kicking I was shocked but so happy. It seemed real then. Doctors told me that because of my age I had until I was 24 weeks pregnant to decide whether to have a vacuum abortion. I’d just seen this baby kicking and I already knew I wanted her. My boyfriend supported me. We both wanted to keep her.”

Talia had recently become a Christian and said her faith gave her a sense of hope.

Her parents swung into action and got her all the support she needed. Talia’s mother talked to her school which promised she could stay with their blessing. The schoolgirl was still in classes on the Friday three days before she gave birth in April 2014.

The birth itself went smoothly until the very end when Lily, who was eight pounds and five ounces, stopped breathing.

“They took her away and I didn’t see her for nearly eight hours. She was fine but they did brain scans to check and she was in the special care baby unit.”

Six weeks later Talia took her first GCSE exams early, as planned, in IT and food technology while her mum gave up her job as a cafe manager temporarily to care for her new granddaughter.

With help from her family and Lily’s dad’s family Talia was able to carry on with school and went home at lunchtimes to breastfeed and see her baby. The teenager was then home-schooled for the rest of the summer before returning full-time to school at the start of year 11.

Getting 11 GCSEs as Lily turned one the following summer, Talia went on to achieve three A-levels and one AS-level before going to Cardiff University aged 18 to read religious education and philosophy.

Talia with Lily at her Cardiff University graduation in 2019

Talia with Lily at her Cardiff University graduation in 2019

For the first time in her life the young mum lived alone with Lily. She moved away from the family home in Somerset into a little rented flat in Roath. “It was a big step but I felt like the time was right and I was finally ready to go and start a new adventure,” she said.

Lily, by then aged three, went to nursery three days a week while Talia studied.

“My university course only consisted of five contact hours a week and so I was able to work flexibly around Lily as well as have a present part of those crucial young years of her life. Those years of plenty of quality time together laid the foundation of our relationship and have created the special bond that we have today.”

Although the teenage mum didn’t have the usual social student experience she said Cardiff University was very supportive throughout.

“They helped me with all the forms and paperwork to make sure I got the right money and help. They were really good. I was excited but it took me longer to settle than I thought. I missed freshers’ events but mum came up to babysit sometimes and I did socialise a bit. It was quite isolating but I was busy learning. I had to grow up quickly.”

After graduating in 2019 Talia got a job with Single Parents Wellbeing, a Cardiff charity offering help and support for single parents.

Talia's boyfriend was always supportive and was at the birth of their daughter when he was also 15. Pictured is Talia with baby Lily

Talia’s boyfriend was always supportive and was at the birth of their daughter when he was also 15. Pictured is Talia with baby Lily

Lily, now eight, attends Marlborough Primary in Cardiff and spends every other weekend with her dad back in Somerset.

Talia said she and Lily’s dad could not be more proud of their daughter.

“Lily is doing really well. She’s such an extrovert. She has so much confidence. She’s outgoing, loving, and a very happy child.

“I have joined Cardiff Vineyard church and made friendships that feel like family. I have a new boyfriend who is incredibly loving and supportive of Lily and I as are his family. He tells me how proud he is of me all the time. I have made friends with neighbours who have become treasured friends to Lily and I. “

While everything has worked out for the best Talia admitted it hadn’t been easy. Isolated from the usual student experience there were also times when she wanted to make friends with other parents from nursery and baby groups but found it hard because of the age gap.

And while teenage parents are less in the spotlight now and there are fewer babies born to teenagers than in previous decades Talia said there was still stigma and fear.

“My advice to a teenage parent who may feel unsure what the future holds is your life may look different but there is a whole lot of love and support out there ready to support you and your child. I know how daunting and scary it can be but you are not alone.

“My advice to parents, the wider community, and teachers of teen parents is that the most important thing you could do is love and accept them and their situation. Believe in their ability to be a good parent and support them through their parenthood and education.

“Instead of focusing on the negatives and all the doors that have now closed focus on the courageous new ways this teenager is adapting and growing to be the parent her/his child deserves and think about ways you can help this journey. “

Friend Jo Hill recorded a song about Talia’s experiences for her:

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Talia still works for the Cardiff charity Single Parents Wellbeing and says her faith has also helped her.

“In light of the loneliness I have at times felt, as have many other single parents, Single Parents Wellbeing aims to prevent loneliness through our strong support network, events, and online,” she said.

“My faith was and is a huge part of my story. It was a journey of coming to believe that God is love – a love that is faithful and good. Choosing to daily trust in God’s love was the best decision I ever made – it helped me through all the changes and made me into the person I am today.”

Anyone wanting help or advice on being a single parent can contact Single Parents Wellbeing here or email Talia on talia@singleparentswellbeing.com or rachel@singleparentswellbeing.com.

To get the latest email updates from WalesOnline click here.

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