Teenage mums are often negatively stereotyped as unambitious school dropouts with no ambition who are living off benefits.
AASMA DAY talks to young mum Danae Glover who became a mum while a teenager about why this is a myth and how many teen mums aryoung mothers are ambitious and determined individuals who juggling childcare with studying or working to achieve their dreams.
Staring at the two red lines on the pregnancy test in disbelief, Danae Glover felt she was having an out of body experience.
So great was her incredulity, Danae did another five pregnancy tests – but each one had the same positive result.
Danae was just 17 at the time and felt like her life was over.
Danae, now 20, who lives in Chorley, recalls: “The reckless, inconsiderate 17-year-old I once was vanished as soon as I saw those two lines which instantly sent my future into a completely different direction.
“At first, I was in complete denial and just couldn’t believe it, which is why I did so many tests.
“I was only 17 and it was very frightening.
“It was hard to get my head around the fact I was going to become a mum.
“I didn’t think I would be able to cope. I could barely look after myself let alone another human being.
“I honestly felt at that point that my life was done and that this was it now.
“I felt anything I wanted to do with my life and any ambitions had turned to dust.
“I thought once I became a mum, it would mean devoting my life to someone else and not having one of my own.”
Looking at Danae now with her boyfriend Steven Coppenhall, 22, and their 22-month-old toddler Sapphire, they look a loving and close family unit.
Despite their young years, the couple seem to have taken to parenthood naturally and, seeing the fierce love and pride in Danae’s face as she looks adoringly at her boisterous daughter, it is hard to imagine she ever doubted her ability to be a great mother.
Shattering the stereo-types surrounding teenage mums, Danae is juggling motherhood with studying for her A-levels at Preston’s College and has ambitions of a career in journalism, media or anything related to writing.
Danae’s partner Stephen has also embraced fatherhood and Danae says he was supportive from the start.
Stephen wasn’t working when Danae discovered she was pregnant, but within a month, he secured a job and is a retail manager at Cash Generators in Preston while studying a diploma in retail management.
Instead of viewing motherhood at a young age as a barrier to pursuing her dreams, Danae actually sees Sapphire as the motivator and confesses before she had her she lacked motivation and routine.
Smiling, Danae admits having Sapphire gave her “the kick up the backside I needed to get motivated about life.”
Danae grew up on a Chorley council estate with her mum and two half-brothers.
Her mum was a single mum who had Danae at 17 and she constantly drummed the importance of not getting pregnant too young into her daughter.
Danae says: “My mum was never together with my dad. I just saw him sometimes while I was growing up and I see him now, too.”
Danae was a pupil at Sacred Heart Primary School, followed by Holy Cross High School.
At the age of around 10, Danae discovered the Harry Potter books and they ignited her passion for creative writing.
She explains: “I found them amazing and thought: ‘Wow! I want to write stuff like that.’”
Danae loved English at school and performed well. However, when she got to Year 11, she admits she got bored and lost interest in studying.
“I became bored of being at school and started hanging around with different people and, suddenly, my studies weren’t a priority anymore.
“I was more interested in socialising and going out with my friends.”
Danae completed her GCSEs and achieved an A* in English Language, a C in Maths and the rest were As and Bs.
Danae says: “I didn’t do badly, but I just wasn’t as bothered as I should have been.”
After high school, Danae went to Cardinal Newman College in Preston to do A-levels in English, Sociology, Law and Psychology.
However, by this point, she had become disillusioned with studying and felt there was little point.
She explains: “University tuition fees had just tripled and I felt there was no point doing A-levels as I would never be able to afford to go to university anyway.
“So I ended up dropping out of college after just two months.”
Danae drifted for a year and, apart from a few months of voluntary work at a charity shop, she didn’t really do anything and says she had completely lost her motivation.
She met Steve through friends in August 2012 and, in the September, she decided to give A-levels another shot and this time she went to Preston College.
Danae says: “I was a lot more motivated this time around and felt I fitted in more.”
However, just three months later, Danae discovered she was pregnant.
Despite her initial shock, Danae says she never considered not going through with the pregnancy.
She explains: “My personal view is that I was silly enough to get myself pregnant and it wasn’t the baby’s fault it had happened.
“I always knew I would have my baby and there were no doubts in my mind.
“My mum was 17 when she had me and I felt like history was repeating itself.
“My mum was very shaken when I told her I was pregnant. She was very quiet at first as she was in shock. However, she tried to tell me everything would be OK.”
Danae describes her 12-week scan as the momentous turning point when the thought of becoming a mum filled her with excitement.
She recalls: “The day I saw my little 12-week-old space invader on the screen of the ultrasound was the day I wholeheartedly became a mother.
“I had tears in my eyes as I saw Sapphire waving at me and I came out of hospital with a big smile on my face thinking: ‘I’m going to be a mum!’
“I became very excited from that point on and couldn’t wait until I saw her again.
“The 12-week scan made everything real in a good way.
“Before that, it all seemed a bit nightmarish.
“But when I saw this little person growing inside me, it turned into a dream.
“I was filled with love and just wanted to protect her.”
During the pregnancy, Danae and Steven were living at a friends and only moved into their own place four days after Sapphire was born.
Danae had turned 18 when she gave birth to Sapphire, weighing 8lb 13oz, on June 27 2013 at the Royal Preston Hospital.
Danae recalls: “I cried as soon as I saw Sapphire.
“I remember saying: ‘I don’t think I can look after something so beautiful.’
“I felt overwhelmed. It was as though all the emotions in my pregnancy came gushing out.
“But it also felt completely natural that I was a mum.
“I kept staring at Sapphire thinking: ‘Wow!’ Something just clicked straight away.
“The rest of the women in the bay were a lot older than me but they were all nice and I didn’t feel anyone was staring at me or judging me.”
Danae and Steven experienced the sleepless nights of new parents and Sapphire also suffered from reflex, which made things harder.
However, apart from that, the couple adjusted well to parenthood.
Danae stayed at home with Sapphire while Steven went to work. After six months, Danae began thinking about going back to college.
She explains: “I wanted to go back to college as I wanted to build a future for Sapphire.
“But I also wanted to do it for myself as it can be all consuming being a mum and it is important to keep your own identity.
“I thought going back to college as a young mum would be impossible.
“However, I went to Preston’s College open day and they were very welcoming and understanding.”
Danae returned to college last September and is studying A-levels in English, Media, History and Sociology and is in college three days a week.
She says: “My days in college are very full but it means I get to spend the rest of my week with Sapphire.
“Sapphire goes to nursery on the days I am in college and loves it.
“It is a nice balance as I don’t feel like I have completely abandoned Sapphire.
“Life is hectic, but it isn’t difficult if you compare it to a mother with a nine to five job working five days a week. Compared to that, my three-day week seems relatively relaxing.
“Having Sapphire has given me motivation and routine. I have to grasp those two hours when my child takes a nap with both hands and make the most of them. If I didn’t, nothing would get done.
“I view college as a pleasure rather than work. Before college, for a year, I was a mother and a partner. I loved both of those but it is easy to lose yourself.
“It is easy to forget who you are as a person.
“College, for three days a week, offers me a way to become me again.”
Danae says concentrating on college work is easier because having a toddler restricts your social life.
She says: “Before I had Sapphire, I had a big social life but that dwindled immediately.
“You certainly find out who your friends are after having a baby.
“As soon as I wasn’t drinking and doing the same things as many of my friends and going out with them any more, I drifted apart from a lot of people.
“They had turned 18 and were into partying and my life had taken a very different path.”
Whenever Danae is asked if she would have chosen to have Sapphire later in life, her answer is a resolute ‘No’.
She explains: “My baby girl Sapphire Lily was the beautiful, bouncing shock I needed to get me on the path that contained a future of success.
“I now rent a house with the father of my child and have a beautiful, boisterous toddler who surprises me every day with new words and a knack for getting into places she shouldn’t!
“She is the reason why I am currently doing my A-levels. She gives my life the worth I once found hard to see.
“My days are hectic and long, but are full of love, laughter and fun.”
Danae wants to tackle the stigma surrounding teenage mums and wants people to know they are not the “spongers” some people make them out to be.
She explains: “Teenage mums are not all sat at home living off the dole.
“Just because you gave birth young does not make you a bad mother.
“A lot of the national media stigmatises teenage mums, but you can be 40 and a terrible mum or a great one. In the same way, you can be 16 and a bad mum or a great one.
“Some people say teenage mums only get pregnant to get benefits.
“However, people of any age or class can abuse the benefits system.
“It is a myth that people become teenage mums to get money from the Government.
“I spent far more on Sapphire before I got a penny. Kids cost a lot!
“Becoming a mum is certainly not a money-making thing.
“I want people to recognise the teenage mums who are fierce young women who are hard working with ambition, courage and determination.
“There are young mothers looking after their children while working, studying or even both.
“Their hard work should be recognised and applauded.
“I also want to give other teenage mums hope and inspire them to follow their dreams.
“You might have to work that bit harder, but you can still achieve all you want.”
• Read Danae’s blog at: www.babymamasaga.wordpress.com