Life as a mum before you’re 20
Why I didn’t quit my course
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
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.”
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.