Life as a mum be­fore you’re 20

Why I didn’t quit my course

Llanelli Star - - FRONT PAGE - Es­tel Farell-Roig es­tel.farell­[email protected]­line.co.uk

ON the day of her end-ofyear per­for­mance, Maddy Matthews-Wil­liams was giv­ing birth to her daugh­ter.

It was April 10, 2014, and she was 19.

She felt fine through­out the preg­nancy, and was able to stay at univer­sity. How­ever, when she was three weeks short of be­ing full-term, Maddy, who lives in Llanelli started to feel un­well and had to be in­duced.

The preg­nancy wasn’t ex­pected and, in fact, Maddy wasn’t plan­ning on hav­ing chil­dren un­til much later, around the age of 30. She didn’t know what to do.

“When I found out I was preg­nant it was a mas­sive shock – we were not ex­pect­ing it at all,” said the 24-year-old.

“I had just turned 19 and was about to start my sec­ond year at univer­sity. I didn’t think I was go­ing to be able to carry on with univer­sity.

“My first thought was that I’d have to drop out or end the preg­nancy – I will not be able to do both.”

It also came as a big sur­prise to her par­ents, said Maddy, who felt ini­tially that they were a bit dis­ap­pointed, es­pe­cially as she was the first one in the fam­ily to go to univer­sity.

“I went back to univer­sity in de­nial, pre­tend­ing it was not hap­pen­ing,” she con­tin­ued. “I told my lec­tur­ers and they said that what­ever I chose to do they would sup­port me. I felt I couldn’t go through with an abor­tion and for a while we con­sid­ered adoption.

“When I had the first scan at 12 weeks that was when it started to feel very real. See­ing the pic­tures felt very good - that was the mo­ment I thought I want to have this baby.”

A the­atre, tele­vi­sion and per­for­mance stu­dent at Glyn­dwr Univer­sity, her orig­i­nal plan was to con­tinue at univer­sity un­til Christ­mas, but she ended up stay­ing un­til the end of the year – Ce­lyn was due to be born at the end of April and the course fin­ished mid-April.

When Ce­lyn was born, Maddy still had a cou­ple of es­says to fin­ish so she found her­self feed­ing the baby while writ­ing es­says in the mid­dle of the night.

“Up un­til that point, I had kept the two things sep­a­rate – it was at 4am that the two things came to­gether,” she said.

Re­turn­ing to univer­sity that same year, when Ce­lyn was five months old, was hard at first, said Maddy, who had met her now-hus­band at 17.

Stigma is still one of the big­gest chal­lenges young moth­ers face, she said. On

There was an ex­pec­ta­tion I was go­ing to drop out – they didn’t think it would be pos­si­ble to do univer­sity and have a baby. That just made me more de­ter­mined to prove them that I could. I grad­u­ated with a first-class de­gree

Maddy MatthewsWi­l­liams

one oc­ca­sion, she was in Aldi do­ing her shop­ping when a woman stared and tut­ted at her.

“You could see all the judg­ing in her face but she knew noth­ing about my life,” she con­tin­ued.

“From peo­ple not on my course there was an ex­pec­ta­tion I was go­ing to drop out – they didn’t think it would be pos­si­ble to do univer­sity and have a baby.

“That just made me more de­ter­mined to prove them that I could. I grad­u­ated with a first-class de­gree.”

Two years ago, the fam­ily moved to Llanelli af­ter she got of­fered a job work­ing as a call han­dler for the Welsh Am­bu­lance Ser­vice.

“It has got a lot bet­ter since we moved here,” she said.

“I feel more ac­cepted. I go to the school gates and I do not feel ev­ery­one is 10 years older than me and, if they are, they are not look­ing at me.

“Peo­ple say I am the ex­cep­tion to the rule but there is no rule book you are given when you get preg­nant un­der the age of 20.

“I do not feel like I am an ex­cep­tion to a rule and that sen­tence an­noys me the most.”

She added: “We are just par­ents, we just started younger and we are all try­ing to do the same thing: raise our chil­dren.

“I am ex­hausted all the time, but I am glad I be­came a mum at a young age. There is noth­ing that I re­gret.”

Hav­ing her daugh­ter and fin­ish­ing her de­gree were her proud­est achieve­ments, she con­tin­ued, and she hoped to set an ex­am­ple for her daugh­ter, who makes the world a more colour­ful, brighter place.

She said: “Ce­lyn is funny and quirky. She just turned five and is very in­de­pen­dent, lov­ing and gen­er­ous. I love talk­ing to her – she is so imag­i­na­tive. I am re­ally proud to be a young mum.”

Pic­ture: Jonathan My­ers

Maddy Matthews-Wil­liams had her daugh­ter, Ce­lyn, at the age of 19.

Maddy Matthews-Wil­liams grad­u­ated from with a first-class de­gree de­spite be­com­ing preg­nant while at univer­sity.

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