“It was all so lush…” – how it really feels to give birth at 17 years old

I was just 17 when my first daughter, Bee, was born. Her dad, Jonathan, was a year younger than me and was still at school until about three weeks before she was born. At the time I didn’t think too much about my circumstances, and obviously felt incredibly grown up and mature, as you do when you’re a teenager. Now Bee is a teen herself and I am beginning to realise just how much of a child I really was!

A little while ago, sorting through some photos, I came across a short birth report I had written at the time, fourteen years ago now. I read it and can imagine myself there, but it sounds like another person. A child. In some ways it makes me sad to think about how much growing up I must have done in such a short space of time, but at the same time it has an enviable casualness to it, a laid back, take-it-in-your-stride attitude that we often lose as adults.

So in the name of self reflection I have reproduced it here. Unedited. Even though parts of it did make me cringe a bit. I started having contractions at about 3am on the Saturday morning but the report starts when I went into hospital at around 7.30pm, when I was having contractions every 4-5 minutes….

7.30pm – Went to Musgrove hospital. Used TENS machine – lot of use that was. Jonathan sang me lots of nursery rhymes especially Baa Baa Black sheep. Had Columbo on TV. Waters broke at about 2.10am, which was a good job as they were on the verge of transferring me to a ward and sending everyone home. Was monitored lots but the bed was extremely uncomfortable and a nasty black-haired woman left me on it for ages. Had to keep moving the sensor thing on my tummy because Zippy kept dodging it. [Zippy was our name for my bump. We thought she was a boy so I refer to her as ‘he’ as well]. Contractions only peaking at 6/12 max on the printer.

Jenny was the name of the midwife who delivered Zippy. She was the nice one. The nasty midwife broke the rest of my waters with this big crochet hook. Jonathan suggested a big pin but I don’t think she thought that was very funny. When my waters broke it was a bit gross. I was on my way to the toilet and got loads of gunk on the floor. It got quite unbearable and nothing much seemed to be happening. I had a dose of pethedine at ten to four. I didn’t much like Jenny at this point as she said I would have to stay on the bed all the time, as it would make me drowsy – like I wasn’t completely exhausted already. I didn’t though. I sat in the chair. Jonathan had to practically carry me to the toilet and I kept falling asleep. I don’t remember the next few hours because I was so drowsy, but things definitely seemed to be happening. My contractions were coming every two minutes or so and it was horrid.

At quarter to six I had an internal exam and they said Zippy was ready to pop out. Lots of people seemed to be running around putting on plastic pinnies. Jenny said she would give me until 6.30am and then she wanted him born. We had Jenny and a fatish midwife there. Jenny made me lie on my side – she said it would make it much easier. To start with I had to not push which was practically impossible. I had some gas and air, which helped me not to push, but made my mouth feel really numb and dry. I kept falling asleep and Jonathan had to keep waking me up and giving me drinks. He was really brilliant and I couldn’t possibly have done it without him. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that towards the end my contractions were so bad I had to be sick into a kind of bedpan thing.

Finally I was allowed to push which was much more satisfying. I think it hurt a lot but all I can remember is the relief of being able to push and do something productive. Jonathan got really excited when he could see the top of the head. I felt it, but I didn’t fancy the mirror thing. I did one massive push and Zippy kind of catapulted out all at once. The cord was really long but it was all so lush. She was a bit cold but apart from that, perfect, loads of hair.

I was really shaking and I couldn’t push out the placenta very well. She was born at 6.23am but that whole last bit seemed to take about 5 minutes. It was a bit undignified with my leg up over a midwife’s neck but it was worth it when Jonathan saw we had a little girl and cried so much he made all the midwives cry. I was so proud when I saw him holding our little girl. I wanted to cry with happiness, but I was too exhausted and shaky. She put her hand in her mouth to suck it and I tried feeding straight away.

Eventually everyone went home and I had a bath. Then me and Zippy went back to the ward. We went back to the Mary Stanley at about 4pm and I stayed until Thursday morning.

46 Comments

  1. 10 February, 2010 / 8:01 pm

    I think it’s great that you’ve got a record of it and how you felt. It sounds like you handled it all in your stride. It’s quite matter of fact – but maybe that’s a good thing. The use of the word ‘lush’ made me laugh as that is what my sister used to say all the time (in the 80s, in Bristol). I take it you’re not with the father any more?

    When I think back to how I was at 17 – intense, obsessional, interested in clothes and make-up, there is no way I would have been mature enough to handle having a baby. But your daughter looks like she has grown into a lovely young woman so hats off to you!

  2. 10 February, 2010 / 8:25 pm

    Obviously it’s hard for me to imagine what giving birth is like, so I’ll take your word for it on these points :) Personally I can’t begin to imagine it, the sheer “physical” aspect of it gives me the idea it must be incredibly painful; but I would imagine it is a very emotional time for a woman. I’ve never had children myself, I guess at 45 it is unlikely I will now either !

  3. 10 February, 2010 / 8:48 pm

    Having given birth at 16 myself that was a fascinating read, I’m only 20 now and have looked back on my birth diaries and stuff and cringe myself! :D

  4. 10 February, 2010 / 9:38 pm

    I was 21 when I gave birth to my son who is now 22 and last year I became a grandma when my daughter gave birth at 19.
    How I worried for her, that she was sooo young and how I wished she’d waited just a little longer. How I wished she wouldn’t hurt, knowing that it does and there’s very little you can do about it. How I panicked after the phone call telling me they were going into hospital!
    Funny but I can remember their births as clear as day now you’ve nudged that memory.
    Mari :)

  5. 10 February, 2010 / 10:56 pm

    Jo, I can’t think of what to say at this late hour in response to your brilliant post but I wanted to let you know I had read it and it made me think about all sorts of things, not least what an amazing achievement to bring up both beautiful daughters. x

  6. teachermum
    10 February, 2010 / 11:13 pm

    That is brilliant. I cannot imagine giving birth at that age – nor imagine my 17 year old students doing so. I had a home birth that year but the year before had exactly been in Musgrove then Mary Stanley and overwhelmed at 32! It is good to see someone giving a more positive view of teenage parenthood than the media although I am currently very aware of a stereotype destroying case.

  7. 10 February, 2010 / 11:15 pm

    Love it.
    I gave birth aged 17 (just) too and I don’t even remember being scared. For most of it I thought it was a false alarm so sat at home watching MTV! Afterwards I told everyone it was quite enjoyable! I’m sure if I had to do it now I would be freaking out for the full 9 months prior!

  8. 10 February, 2010 / 11:20 pm

    Loved that post… fantastic!
    “fatish midwife”… LOL!!!
    x

  9. 11 February, 2010 / 9:34 am

    Thanks so much for all the lovely comments!

    It’s so weird to read it back. I can imagine myself there, but somehow it’s not me, my language is different, so I’m sure my thoughts would have been different too. Memory is a funny thing isn’t it? I’m sure I don’t remember things as they really were, just how I would feel about them if they were happening to me now.

    I do look at my children sometimes, and look at me, feeling about 18 still, and think ‘bloody hell, did I MAKE those people?’!

    • G gran
      19 June, 2017 / 5:00 pm

      Thankyou Jo I loved reading you’re story and what a lovely 21 year old daughter you have

  10. 11 February, 2010 / 9:36 am

    @Manda – ‘fatish midwife’ – that was the bit that made me cringe the most!! I love how easily I categorised people – the nice one, the nasty one, the black-haired one and the fatish one…

  11. 11 February, 2010 / 1:58 pm

    It’s nearly ten years since I gave birth to my first child at the age of 27. I look back at the emails I sent then and I too am a completely different person. I sound so childish and self-absorbed; despite being ten years older when I was giving birth than you were when you wrote that, I sound pretty much the same. Perhaps it’s becoming a parent that forces you to grow up? It’s an interesting thought.

  12. 12 February, 2010 / 8:07 pm

    Jo, I have tagged you in a Shiny Happy Things meme.
    Forgive me, I know not what I do but hey, I’m up for learning about blogging and hope you enjoy the challenge presented http://marisworld.wordpress.com/
    Ciao Mari :)

  13. hannah
    18 March, 2010 / 12:10 am

    Hiya, I Was looking on the internet for people who have been through the experience i might have ..
    I went through a bad time and started to take St john’s wort (anti depressant) which my friend had suggested. I thought “yeah why not” and started taking it, not realising it can affect the contraceptive pill. I found out 2 days ago that i’m 4 weeks gone. I know anything can happen at this stage but i really cant face the idea of an abortion. I Suppose im just looking for positive stories about being a 17 year old mum. Do you have any opinions on it? My mum is mad, but she said she’s here for me and so has my boyfriend (of 16 months) and his family so it’s not like I’d be on my own, but i know it won’t be easy. I know you dont know me or my situation but from what ive said and your experience, would i be making a big mistake if i keep it?
    Thankyouu if you do reply! xxx

    • 18 March, 2010 / 5:56 am

      Hi Hannah, thanks for your message – I am going to email you x

    • 8 November, 2011 / 7:36 pm

      Hannah nobody but you can decide to keep your baby, I wont lie its hard work but at the same time very rewarding and almost 12 years later I am here with the most amazing children yes I don’t get to go out much or go on flash holidays every year but I just have to look into my childrens eyes and I know this is what I want meant to do, 17 year old mums are just as good as 30 year old mums xx good luck and all the best with whatever you decide

  14. 21 May, 2010 / 10:07 am

    Wow – great post – I think one think you say is very true, we do lose the whole take it in the stride thing as older mothers, and possibly lose something valuable by that

    • 21 May, 2010 / 2:56 pm

      Definitely – I am much more up tight now than I was as a parent at 17!

  15. 8 November, 2011 / 7:24 pm

    great post I too had my 1st at a little over 18 and now I am 30 I think back to when she was 1st born and I have matured and learnt so much since

    • 9 November, 2011 / 4:58 pm

      It’s weird isn’t it Joanne, because at the time you feel so grown up!

      • 9 November, 2011 / 5:34 pm

        I felt like I knew everything at the time and it did not phase me 1 bit but to think back to then I was still so young then I had my son in 2001 when I was 20 and he is disabled, I dealt with it quite well I think but I think if it was to be at the age I am now that it happened I would worry and fret a lot more than I did then, the older I get the more I seem to worry

        • 11 November, 2011 / 12:15 pm

          I think you’re right – I seemed to take a lot more things in my stride when I was that age!

  16. love
    14 June, 2012 / 4:25 pm

    Hi, am just 17 and just found out that am about a month gone. Am not ready to have a baby right now but am just so confused. Another thing is that the father was a mistake who just took advantage of me and right now I have so much hatred for him I can’t imagine myself having his child! Am afraid of the pains of abortion, pls help me!

    • 14 June, 2012 / 4:55 pm

      Oh no, what a terrible position to find yourself in, it must be very frightening for you, especially feeling the way you do about the father. Do you have anyone you can talk to who can support you? A parent, relative, teacher? If you want to talk to someone you don’t know, Marie Stopes are really great for information and adive about unplanned pregnancies – http://www.mariestopes.org.uk – they have lots of information on their website and you can talk to someone on the phone or online.

      Don’t panic. You still have plenty of time to think about it and make the decision that is best for you. Don’t rush into anything if you feel confused – consider your options and remember it is always your choice, no one elses.

  17. 4 December, 2012 / 11:20 pm

    This is amazing. I can’t believe I’ve only just seen this post. I love how matter of fact your whole report was. We definitely worry more the older we get.

  18. 5 December, 2012 / 6:35 pm

    Heya, I’m pretty new here and have been scouting around for something like this. I too am a teenage mummy, had my son when I had just turned 18, that’s what my whole blog is about in fact. I wrote it all down as I was going through it, from pretty much the moment I found out i was pregnant, how i made my decision to keep him, first midwife appointment, the experience of pregnancy, labour, and afterwards, all from the perspective of what its really like as teen, I truly believe that it is a very different experience as a single teenager, and I’m now turning it into a blog. I desperately want to get the message out to other teenage parents that there are others out there who have been through it and survived, and with a gorgeous tiny human to boot. Lovely to know it hasn’t held you back as people seem to assume it will. I am determined to prove that stereotype wrong. Many thanks for your honesty. If there is any help you can give me, from your experience as a blogger, to help me get my message out there it would be ridiculously appreciated xoxox

    • 15 November, 2013 / 4:19 pm

      Being a teen mum does not have to hold you back one bit and well done you for documenting that fact.

  19. 13 November, 2013 / 12:00 pm

    Oh wow! I loved reading that, thanks for sharing. x

  20. 15 November, 2013 / 4:16 pm

    Really interesting read and your girl looks very well turned out.

    I fell pregnant at 16 and 18 and now have 8 and 6 (in two weeks) -year-old boys. Everyone around us was freaking out about how young we were at the time but I feel like I handled it as any “grown-up” would. Everyone said we’d end up on benefits and separated but their dad got a full-time job, I worked from home, we got a mortgage on our own house and we are now married. I think it really depends on the “girl” having the baby and also how supportive the dad-to-be is. (Also, not disrespecting single mums – just pointing out how stereotypical people are when it comes to teen mums.)

    But I can totally relate to one of the comments on this post: “I do look at my children sometimes, and look at me, feeling about 18 still, and think ‘bloody hell, did I MAKE those people?’!”

  21. 22 March, 2014 / 11:54 am

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  22. 20 November, 2014 / 6:42 pm

    Jo! This IS so lush! It was all so lush! That’s actually how I would describe Joni’s birth last year…despite being in hella-pain. The end bit is amaaaaze. And it was BEEEEEE!!!!!! Wow! Love it! Mwah to you both! XXxxx

  23. SOMERSETIAN
    20 September, 2015 / 11:23 pm

    Hiya! My best friend is unexpectedly 2 months pregnant at 16. She’s currently torn about keeping it or not (me and her boyfriend both really want her to keep it but of course it’s her choice 100%). Anyway, I’m going into our story to much – I just wanted to say that I’ve been googling about young mums and I love this post and your blog! If she decides to have the baby, I think I’ll be looking back on this in 7 months as preparation in the birth room!

    • Jo Middleton
      Author
      21 September, 2015 / 6:57 pm

      Thanks so much, I’m glad you found it useful! I hope it all works out well, no matter what she decides. It definitely doesn’t have to mean the end of anything hopes and dreams wise!

  24. G gran ,
    19 June, 2017 / 5:06 pm

    Thank you for sharing you’re story, It was lovely to Read,

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