Stevie Turner, Author
I am grateful to Lucy V. Hay for her candid answers to my questions. Lucy found herself pregnant as a teenager, and her replies below show just how she coped with her life-changing event. Later, in 2014, she recalled some of her thoughts and feelings at the time when starting to write her novel 'Lizzie's Story: The Decision'
Lucy is a novelist, a script editor, blogger, and a mother of three. She also helps to organise the London Screenwriter's Festival, and can be contacted via her website at www.bang2write.com
1. At what age did you find yourself pregnant for the first time?
I was the same age as Lizzie, 17-18. It wasn't planned consciously, but I'd been acting up for a while and had a lot of issues when I was a teen, so I'm unsurprised it happened, looking back now.
2. What was your first thought on discovering that you were pregnant?
I was very scared, but I took it a lot better than I could have guessed in advance. I think, deep down, I wanted it to happen. I was quite philosophical: I knew I'd always wanted kids, so I figured I might as well have one now!! I didn't see why my life had to be any different, just because I had a baby. I *knew* I would do exactly what I was going to do ... which was be a professional writer (and I did!). I couldn't have guessed how hard it would be, though ... Kind of glad though, really!!
3. How did your parents take the news?
Ultimately, they were supportive and really good to me. But My mother was quite upset with me because she said my youth was over; that I had responsibilities before I was ready. I didn't know what she meant at the time, but with hindsight I can see she had a point. That said, having a baby young was the making of me, so I don't actually regret it or wish I could have had my son later.
4. Was your boyfriend supportive?
No, he was not. He was not a bad person, but he was very confused and just didn't want to have a child at the time. It would have been better if he'd left, but instead he tried to get ME to break up with HIM. I didn't want to do that and deprive the baby of his father, so we ended up in this vicious circle for a long time. We were both very unhappy. That's my biggest regret, to be honest: I wish we'd been mature enough to say, "Okay, let's call it quits and concentrate on being good parents separately instead." We get on better now.
5. Did you base your novel ‘Lizzie’s Decision’ on your own thoughts and feelings at the time?
Yes. The book is not an autobiography, but lots of the smaller details in particular are real. I was a big diary keeper at the time, so I'd written everything down in MINUTE detail! It's funny what sticks out in your mind and what you forget and need to re-read. I also met friends who were teenage mothers too, so we compared notes a lot and chatted about the problems and good things about being a young parent, too. In addition, I am very active on social media, so in preparation for Lizzie's Story I spoke to probably hundreds of young Mums online about their experiences.
6. How long did it take you to come to your own decision of what to do about the pregnancy?
Ironically, about ten seconds. I always knew I would keep the baby. I am not against abortion - I am ardently prochoice - but personally, I would never have one. But I wrote LIZZIE'S STORY because I was sick of the usual teen pregnancy stories about having the baby and one's life being "over" or having an abortion and being "tainted".
7. How would you advise your own daughter if she found herself in a similar situation?
I have two daughters and I would tell them they should go with their gut instinct. It's okay to be scared, being pregnant is a big thing. But it's important to remember that ultimately everything can be sorted what needs to be sorted - WHATEVER choice they make. I wouldn't push them either way, it's THEIR bodies, not mine.
8. Despite being a young mother, did you still manage to attend college and study?
Yes I did, but this was probably the most difficult aspect of it all. Financially I was extremely insecure and life was very difficult for us for a long time. I didn't get the help I needed, even from places that were supposed to help me, like The Job Centre and DSS. I think this is very short-sighted of the government because if we support young and lone parents to study, they will get off benefits! Happily, I was helped by individuals, by charities set up to help young parents and even churches.
9. After your first pregnancy, did you go on to have any more children?
Yes, I have two girls as well as my son. It's funny because my youngest girl is really similar to my son. He's very laid back and a little bit cheeky; so is she. They both love superheroes, particularly Spiderman. It's like having him all over again, just a girl version! My middle child is very hot headed and loud, more like me, though she's sporty like her Dad.
10. What do you think are the advantages of being a teenage mother?
I genuinely think being a teenage mother HELPED me focus on what I need and want from my life. Although it was difficult financially, plus I had other challenges to deal with, it meant I went for my dream of being a professional writer ... My thought was, "If I want my child to go for his dreams, then I must lead by example." Far from meaning my life was OVER, being a teen Mum kickstarted mine.
11. What are your eldest child’s talents and personality traits?
My son is very bright and chatty, even as a very young toddler, which was great, because he was like a little friend. LIZZIE got a lukewarm review recently that said I should have done more research into being a teen Mum and what kids are *really* like, so that was amusing. I'm not sure what else I could have done other than actually BE one, to be fair! haha!
12. If a teenager finds herself pregnant, should she make a decision which is best for herself, or should it be best for the unborn baby?
She should make the decision that's right for herself. I don't like abortion and would never have one, but I have made that choice, no one else. That is a privilege. Women should have the right to choose whether they continue a pregnancy; they are not simply wombs on legs. We hear a lot about women and girls having abortions "as a form of contraception" but this is right wing antichoice nonsense. We need to trust women and girls to make the right decision for themselves. If we help them do that, rather than lie to them or harrass them, then that's better for everyone in the long term.
13. Using two words only, what advice would you give to teenagers just starting out on life’s rocky road?
14. Do you think a teenage mother has a higher or a lower chance of having a daughter who also becomes a teenage mother?
I think it's statistically higher, but that may be because of other factors as well - it's well known that more deprived areas have higher instances of young Mums. Poverty causes teenage pregnancy, not the other way around. This is why we should support young parents as much as we can, especially getting them into education: this stops the endless cycle and gives young women more options in the long term.
15. Do you think there is more Government help and support these days for teenage mothers?
No, there's even less help for young parents these days. Our governments have never done a great job of supporting teenage mothers, but nowadays they actively penalise them - a young woman under 25 who has a child can receive less in benefits than a Mum 26 years or above. How is that possibly fair?? It also stretches the notion of "young Mum" far too far ... 21+ should be considered a "normal" age to have a baby as far as I'm concerned. As for teen Mums, the birth rate is going DOWN in the UK, from 2.4 children to 1.8 in the last ten years ... Apparently it will be 1.4 in the next five years! On this basis, we NEED young women, including teenagers, to have babies!!!
16. Will you be writing a sequel to ‘Lizzie’s Decision’?
I've already written a companion novel to LIZZIE'S STORY, called THE DECISION: JASMINE'S STORY. It's not about teenage pregnancy this time, but best friends and betrayal: it's very "Mean Girls"! JASMINE'S STORY is set in the same storyworld of Winby and Exmorton and Lizzie even has a "walk on" cameo in it. See if you can spot her! >> http://myBook.to/jasminesstory