Meet the mum who fell pregnant at 14 but went on to university

Talia Stimpson felt isolated and scared when she gave birth to daughter Lily when she was just 15 years old. Now she wants to share her story to help young mothers who might be going through the same experience.

The charity worker is also hoping to tackle the stigma that still exists towards teenage parents, having juggled motherhood with passing 11 GCSEs, three A levels and an AS level before studying at Cardiff University and becoming a religious education and philosophy graduate. All of that was made possible with the support of Lily’s father, their families, teachers and friends although, at first, she admits she found it difficult to tell her parents she was pregnant at 14, as reported by WalesOnline.

Lily, now eight, was at her mum’s graduation in 2019, though, and Talia does not regret a single moment of her journey to and through parenthood, declaring: “Lily has enriched mine and my family’s life with more love than we could have possibly imagined.” That’s not to say the demands of pregnancy and parenthood at such a young age have been easy.

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Having started missing her periods during the second term of Year 10, she and her then boyfriend – Lily’s father who was also 14 – did not even know how to get a pregnancy test. They had been going out since the first year of secondary school, but her parents did not know about their relationship either.

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

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

“They (her parents) 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 attended her first scan with both her mother and Lily’s father and knew then that she wanted to go through with the pregnancy. “Seeing her moving and kicking I was shocked but so happy,” she explained.

“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 continued to go to school right up to three days before Lily’s birth in April 2014. She then endured a frightening experience during labour when Lily stopped breathing.

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

Talia with Lily at her Cardiff University graduation in 2019

Talia with Lily at her Cardiff University graduation in 2019

Six weeks after having Lily, who weighed eight pounds and five ounces when she was born, Talia was sitting her IT and food technology GCSE exams a year early as was always intended. She then returned to school full-time in Year 11, with her mum Hannah giving up her job as a cafe manager to look after Lily.

Talia would leave school at lunchtime to breastfeed her daughter and, after another two years of studying A levels, she decided to move out of the family home in Somerset and take Lily with her to live in a rented flat in Wales, while she completed her studies in further education. Now aged three, Lily would go to nursery three days a week to allow Talia to fulfil her university commitments.

It was not the typical student life but Talia reasoned: “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. 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.

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“Those years of plenty of quality time together laid the foundation of our relationship and have created the special bond that we have today. The university also 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 landed a job with Cardiff-based charity Single Parents Wellbeing, where she offers help and support for single parents. Lily is also settled in school and spends every other weekend with her dad in Somerset.

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

“Lily is doing really well,” Talia enthused. “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.”

But Talia admitted that support network from new acquaintances around her did not always feel like it existed, especially when the age gap between her and other mothers was evident at nursery and baby groups. “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,” she recommended.

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“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. 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. 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.”

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.

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