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They tried to talk me out of it but having a baby at 18 has been fantastic; She split from her boyfriend, her family and was made homeless... but teen mum Laura has no regrets.


LIKE many 18-year-olds Laura has an ambitious idea of her future. She wants to do her A-levels, go to university and then become a social worker or teacher.

None of this, she insists, has been jeopardised by becoming a single, teenage mum who was made homeless after rowing with her parents over her decision to have her baby.

She had to share a hostel with drug addicts and alcoholics after falling pregnant, but says her experience has made her more determined to give herself and her son a future.

Dylan, the blue-eyed bundle of joy that sits beside her playing with his toys as she talks, is nine months old and was conceived just days before Laura's 18th birthday.

Although she has fallen out with her family, separated from her boyfriend and has had to put her exams and career on hold, she still sees her lifeplan as being achievable.

Ask her where she wants to be in 10 years time and she says thoughtfully: "In a stable profession and able to support him."

Wales has the highest percentage of teenage mothers in Europe, and, in a recent survey, almost half thought young women got pregnant simply to get a council house.

But Laura isn't your stereotypical teen mum. Vicky Pollard she is not. She is intelligent and focused and just wants to get on with her life.

"It was a shock when I found out I was pregnant just before my 18th birthday. But I didn't think twice about what I wanted to do," says Laura, who tells her story in BBC Wales' documentary Teenage Mams tonight. "A lot of people tried to talk me out of it and told me it would ruin my life if I had this baby."

At that time Laura, who grew up in Dolgellau before moving to St Athan, was planning to return to college, having left early after her GCSEs.

She told her parents the news after her first scan and says they were shocked. Their relationship deteriorated.

Soon she had split up with her boyfriend, who was also unhappy with her decision to have the baby, she says.

Young, pregnant and homeless, she slept on friends' sofas until her youth worker secured a place in a hostel.

"It was full of drug addicts and alcoholics," she shudders. "Not a nice place to be when you're pregnant."

Fortunately, a place became available in a mother-and-baby hostel, where Laura was given all the help, advice and support she needed.

Dylan was born in March. Holding Laura's hand were two friends, one an alternative health practitioner who gave her massage and aromatherapy.

But there was no delighted dad and no proud grandparents to visit Laura in the maternity unit afterwards.

"It was very hard anyway, but even more so with being on my own. My family did come to see us but not until about two weeks later. They weren't ecstatic like other people, but Dylan has grown on them and my dad is now a proud granddad."

Laura's now in college redoing her GCSEs and has plans to take an access course later this year to get her into university.

She moved out of the hostel in June and into a "I don't think I jeopardised my chances at all," she says. "I don't have any regrets. I wouldn't change anything. If I could I would have had him a bit later - but within a couple of years of when I did."

In common with most new mums she sees motherhood as a journey of discovery, including self-awareness.

"I feel I have discovered a lot about myself through having a baby. I'm more patient with people and generally don't take things for granted. I look out for people who I care about and I think you realise, because of how much you love your child, how much your mum and dad once loved you."

This last remark is especially poignant given that Dylan's father has so far been reluctant to be involved with his son.

"Contact's not going very well at the moment," she says with a touch of social-worker speak.

But Laura knows this is not the end of the world. Her own birth father left the family when Laura was small and she was brought up by her stepfather, the man she calls dad. And Dylan's grandmother on his father's side is "fab" she adds.

Nevertheless, motherhood has been tough for Laura. For all the friends and youth workers nobody can replace a partner in the wee small hours when the baby's cried all night.

"We all get baby blues and go up and down. It's been hard," she says - but it's an observation, not a complaint. "It would be nice to have a break sometimes. But I have friends who help."

So what does Dylan, who has just started to crawl - backwards - brought to her life?

"Strength and happiness. He's been very challenging but he's given me more something to do and something to look forward to. Just waking up in the morning it's lovely to see him. The first thing he does is smile at me with his blue eyes and chubby cheeks."

Does she have plans for another? "No, she says, without hesitation. "I've got one child and that's all I need."

Blue-eyed boy Dylan, aged nine months, might be a handful but teenage mum Laura (pictured left) says he gives her a wonderful reason to get out of bed every morning

Wales has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe, with 4.6% of women aged 15-17 falling pregnant in 2003

Around 29% of teen mums under the age of 18 in the UK are in education or employment, compared to almost 90% of other 16 to 19-year-olds

In a National Opinion Poll survey, 49% of people asked believed young women get pregnant to get a council house

Around 70% of 15 to 16-year-olds who are pregnant or have a baby still live with their parents or carers, as do around 50% of 17 and 18-year-olds


Teenage Mams, BBC1 Wales, 10.35 pm tonight
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 17, 2006
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