SIOBHAN Brophy is a 23-year-old mum with a seven-year-old child; struggling to balance school, college, university and jobs with the title of ‘mother’, she has brought up her son, Antony, in success aligned with her career. Amy Williams speaks to her about the hardship of living as a young mum in the 21st century, and discusses whether society is ignoring a prevention to prejudice.
With her heart in her mouth and attempting a startled murmur, Siobhan remained silent as her mum passed over her phone and admitted to reading her text. As a child, your mum teaches you about tradition and expectancies: go to school, get a job, move in with your partner, get married and have children. At 15, you look ahead to the future with your head focused on GCSEs and the next party that will come along – Not for Siobhan; she went looking for a solution to her problem: pregnancy.
“My mum found out in April while my boyfriend and I were on holiday with my family. I left my phone on the side while I went on a walk with my boyfriend and when I came back I thought my mum was already in bed. I went straight to sleep, with my boyfriend doing the same in the room opposite, but I was awoken by my mum at about 2am. She told me she’d seen my phone while I was out, and she knew my secret.”
As if she’d committed some fatal harm, caused disgust and inflicted terror, Siobhan’s dad stopped talking to her for six weeks after her secret was exposed and her desperation for support continued.
“I went on the contraceptive pill when I was 14 and in a relationship with Antony’s dad. I got it through The Brook (a sexual health clinic for under 18s) – I didn’t do it through the doctors – so when I had Laryngitis, they couldn’t see that I was taking the pill on the medical records. At the time I didn’t know that Amoxicillin affects the pill. Apparently it did, and BAM.”
Teen Help say that 80 per cent of pregnancies of under 18s are unintentional. Yet, the prejudice seems to be pushed towards the young people themselves.
Alexandra Campbell, a secondary school P.E teacher, gave her thoughts on the matter.
“There should be more sex education in schools, taught by experienced people that the kids would respond to, like a younger adult. I believe that it should be taught from a younger age -maybe about 11- making it specific to the audience; then it should be taught each year from that point on. Students and children are far too sexual nowadays without really, I believe, knowing enough about it.”
Siobhan attended a Catholic high school, where she did not receive any sex education. In our society today, it can be argued that there is a certain ignorance and taboo in regards to young people and their sexual relations. Young parents receive prejudice, but no prevention has been attempted to be pursued. Siobhan explained: “We had a nurse that we could go to on our lunch, and she promoted protected sex, but it wasn’t promoted widely throughout the school.”
Whilst speaking to Siobhan, her stare seemed empty and face remained blank; restraining her emotion regarding the pain that she’d suffered eight years ago when she was first taunted with the plus on the pregnancy test at the sexual health clinic.
“I found out I was pregnant on the first day of high school in year 11: September 5, 2007. I was upset and worried because I didn’t know what was going to happen or what I had to do.”
With eyes of compassion, she leaked out her distress that she experienced on that day when she thought her life had changed forever.
“The nurse wouldn’t let me discuss my options there and then so I had to go away and let it sink in, which I didn’t want to do. I realised I wanted an abortion, so I went home and rang up another Brook which was based in Eccles, and spoke to them about an abortion. I got a date, for the November 10, 2007.”
At 15 years of age, Siobhan felt that there was no time to stop for thought and that she couldn’t even bare a second to seek advice. The usual conversation at school between her and a classmate had morphed into one of panic and desperation, as Siobhan confided in her best friend.
“At one point, when I had to go for this meeting about the abortion, so I faked a note to get out of school. My friend, Marie, was going to come with me, but the deputy head pulled her out and said he knew why she wanted to get out of class: because she was pregnant. She took the fall for me, saying that I was actually going with her to the appointment.”
According to the ONS, there were 2,399 abortions to women under 16 last year, yet there have been no improvements for this issue to be solidly addressed.
She said: “I told my brother’s girlfriend, and she came with me to the abortion clinic. When I arrived, they said that they had lost all of my notes and had no recollection of me ever being there, so they couldn’t go ahead with the abortion.”
Siobhan left the abortion clinic despairingly and in total dismay; she was more concerned about the effect on her parent’s pride and sorting her ‘problem’ herself.
“When I was told that I couldn’t abort the baby, my main thought was: how am I going to tell my mum? At this age, I was scared of her and we never used to get on. I was too worried of how she would react to it. I kept it a secret for so long because I was trying to find a reason and other ways of trying to get rid of him- which, I know, sounds really nasty now he’s here.”
Siobhan gave birth 10 days after her 16th birthday, in the middle of her GCSE exams. Now, the Brophy family are closer than ever; after coming to terms with her daughter’s situation, Siobhan’s mum took care of Antony whenever Siobhan needed to concentrate on her studies, and gave him the extra care that he needed.
Siobhan said: “My mum helped a hell of a lot. It was quite a hard time actually because my mums mum (my nana) died two days before I had Antony, so she was going through such a hard time herself it came round slowly. We had massive arguments and there was times where Antony and I moved out to live with his dad – when I was still with him – for about two months. Then I saw sense and came home.”
After achieving the results she needed for college and working alongside her studies, she felt that the relationship with Antony’s dad wasn’t working.
“I was with Antony’s father until December that year. When I broke it off, he called me every name under the sun and decided he didn’t want anything to do with me or the Antony. And at this point, Antony’s name was Callum Ringham, so we went through depol and got his name changed to Anthony Brophy.”
Seven-year-old Antony has grown up to be a fulfilled child even despite not seeing his dad since his parents break up.
“His dad wants no contact with us. Antony asks about him, so I just tell him he loves him but he’s just not here. He tells all of his friend’s different stories: that he’s in the army, he’s dead… all sorts.”
Being head girl and predicted highly in her GCSE exams, the shock reached her high school near to the end of her pregnancy, where her efforts to complete the practical in GCSE caused a cause of concern for the school teachers.
“I was in P.E and I thought my waters had broken, but I’d just p****d myself! I had a water infection and I didn’t know that at the time, so that’s how school found out. They wanted to suspend me, but my mum refused it.”
In secondary schools around the UK, are options really open to students? Do they know the long term effect of choosing a quick decision? Siobhan’s decision to go ahead with the termination would have changed her life drastically, as she said she would have never met the friends, boyfriend or qualifications that she has received today if it wasn’t for her baby boy.
“After school, I studied three A-Levels at Eccles College. After a while, my tutor rang up the nursery and said that I apparently wasn’t coming into his lessons, so he cancelled the nursery so that Antony couldn’t go in. I began taking Antony into college with me, but it didn’t feel right and I thought ‘no, I’m not doing this’, so I went to do a Media BTEC at Manchester City College.”
Siobhan now lives with her partner of four years, Dean Cox, and recently graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a 2:1 in Journalism. Balancing her work as a freelance journalist and mum to a young son, Siobhan continues giving Antony unconditional love.
There is no doubt that the young pregnancies in Britain are a problem, but the stigma around this area is not being resolved. Hilary Pannack, the chief executer of Straight Talking Peer Education, claims that one teenage mother costs the taxpayer a minimum of £100,000 in five years; we have the research, acknowledge the issue, but there is just no strategy. Something needs to be done before young mums, like Siobhan, are left to fight alone.
By: Amy Williams