We used to get in touch with one another via the CBs and go to the Eyeball Disco in the ninety-nines, the nines as it is now. At the weekend we’d walk through town, go to Kelly’s music shop and sit in a booth and listen to records through the headphones. Below the Nines, where Bar Five is now, used to be just like a café area with slot machines and games machines. Space Invaders were a big thing, so people would be there trying to beat the highest score.
On a Sunday you’d have thousands and thousands of people, moving like drones, heading to the rugby. The treat was, on the way home, going to Bruciannis at the bottom of Dalton Road and having a ham roll and malted coffee.
You knew the people to stay away from. Your parents would warn you off them, but you knew who they were. But some people were labelled really unjustly, especially the young girls who just wanted to be liked, wanted to have boyfriends. Just as the glue sniffers had their label, the girls were labelled – they might have had a boyfriend for a long time, or they might have had a few boyfriends – people assumed things. I think that’s quite a sad thing, but that still happens today.
I think younger people today are a lot more sexually aware, for right or for wrong. I was never aware of anything and the peer pressure was there: ‘ooh you’ve got a boyfriend, have you tried anything yet, have you done anything yet?’ or ‘so and so’s done this, oh right, have you not done it yet? Ha ha.’ And micky taking, things like that.
I had a boyfriend when I was 13. I can remember being told that if you do it, you won’t get pregnant after only once. If you go and have a shower afterwards, you won’t get pregnant, you know, things like that. The stories that go round, the untruths, you tend to believe them as a youngster.
I don’t know whether it was down to the peer pressure, or whether it was a young person experimentally naturally, but I had sex once. And I ended up being pregnant at a very early age.
I can remember, in the early stages, going to the doctor and saying, ‘I think I’m pregnant.’ He gave me pregnancy tests and they all came back negative, and everything appeared normal, I was having normal periods, I was putting weight on, I didn’t go overly fat or anything, I just looked like I’d put a little bit of weight on. I couldn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling and instead of listening to my own body I was swayed by what the GP was saying.
So the first I actually knew I was pregnant was when I was in labour – I’d been in labour 18 hours. The doctor came to me and I’d been in agony all night. They thought I had a cyst that was busting. I was actually in the ambulance and they checked me out. The ambulance driver said, ‘this cyst has got a heartbeat!’ So they diverted me to Risedale Maternity Hospital, as it was then. Oh, it was scary because I didn’t really know what was going on.
In at the deep end
I was thrown into motherhood. Social workers were coming to see me, telling me that I should have him adopted – I said, ‘No, he’s my son and it’s my problem, my mistake, I need to deal with this.’
It was very difficult. I gave up what should have been nine O levels. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love my son to bits and my life would be so different without him. But it was very difficult then.
There’s also the stigma, you know you’re only 15, 16 and you’ve got a baby: you must be a ‘right one’, and you have to live with it.
It was very difficult, not just for me but I’m sure my family got a lot of flack about it, because I was the most unlikely of persons to have ever got pregnant or gone through that. And being so young as well – I was always the level headed one.
I think young people now think it’s easy being a single parent, even though they say it’s hard. Yes, the loneliness is there, but I think financially it is easier for them now and more socially accepted being a single parent. Back then at 16 I lived off was my child benefit and my single parent allowance, which was something like £20 a week, £10 of which I gave to me mum for board, and the rest of it went on milk and nappies for my son. It was very very hard.
I tried to go back to school but it was very difficult. You want to be with your baby, you worry when you’re not with that baby. I had a very strong maternal instinct, in fact the social workers were quite shocked how much of a maternal instinct I had.
One thing that did surprise me was how kind people were, and how much people pulled together. I don’t see much of it now. Close friends I see it with. But people who we didn’t even know gave us blankets, baby clothes, a cot, a pram. When my son was born, that night he had nothing, absolutely nothing. But overnight, people had been so kind and I was quite shocked. That’s always stuck with me and I’ve always given back myself because of people’s kindness.
The long term
I was with the same boyfriend, the father of my son, from when I was 13. We had a fall out before I actually had my son so we weren’t together when he was born, but during those years before my son was born we were inseparable, we went everywhere together. We actually met at the rugby. We were just typical kids, taking the micky out of each other.
I never had many boyfriends but my one young love was the father of my son. Even years later we’re still the best of friends. It’s really strange – he carries a photograph of me back then in his wallet. We were the Mods of the time –me with me feather coat, a blonde fringe and monkey boots!
My advice to young women?
Don’t rush to grow up, enjoy it.
Talk to people, don’t listen to rumours.
Don’t give in to peer pressure.
If somebody says that they’re doing something, usually they’re not – they just want to get you to do it. I think that’s a big thing, especially in young girls, and if you get pregnant, it’s not easy, despite what people tell you. You have to give up a lot – yes I’ve been very lucky, it’s been very worth it, I wouldn’t be without my son, but I think girls should get advice from the right sources, not the wrong ones; and don’t be led to thinking it’s the right thing to do.
Go on your gut feeling. If your gut feeling’s telling you you’re unsure, or it’s wrong, go with that gut feeling, and talk to somebody.
Thanks to Gill Canipa for sharing this story.