From Young Mum to Young Grandparent in 17 years

Finding out I was pregnant at 18 years old was a shock!! It wasn’t planned and it certainly scuppered my plans for my much-desired career in the RAF. However, sometimes in life you just have to get on with it. I was lucky that I had a steady boyfriend and my parents gave me as much support as they could. I’d already left home and the disappointment was clear. They’d wanted so much more for me but supported all my decisions.

I had a stressful, complicated pregnancy with many hospital visits because baby was considered “small”. My daughter was born the day before my 19th birthday on 2nd May 1991 weighing 5lb 10oz.

I wanted so much for my beautiful daughter. I strove to give her the best I could afford and all the love that came for free but there are some things that love and money just can’t protect you from.

I found out that she had cancer when she was just 14 months old. I was only 20 years old myself. The following days became a blur of tests, long words, nursing staff, car journeys to and from the hospital and not a lot of time for any thing else. All I wanted was for our baby girl to get better and not to suffer in the process.

The staff on the cancer ward became our second family for the next six months as we endured beside vigils after two operations, six months of chemotherapy, endless blood transfusions and many a mercy-dash to the hospital in the middle of the night with a raised temperature. My daughter was given the all-clear and officially went into remission on Christmas Eve 1992.

Over the years that followed, we tried to lead as normal a life as possible, interspersed with hospital visits but no relapse. I went on to have another two children and battled with whatever life threw at us.

I was always unsure what the future held for our daughter because there was no completed research or statistics about what the chemotherapy had done to her body. I was unsure if she could ever have children herself.

The relationship between my daughter and I has always been emotionally volatile. She reminds me so much of me and I wanted her to have all the opportunities that I was provided with… and more! She moved out at the age of 16; an angry teenager who knew what was best for her. I was devastated. I felt as though I had failed as a parent. How would she survive? Where would she live? My main purpose in life had been taken away from me and I didn’t know where I fitted in any more.

We spent nine months repairing our relationship but she never made moves to come back home. She’d had a taste of independence, learnt about having to budget and was, in many respects, surviving.

I always knew that I was destined to be a “young” grandparent but I never expected the announcement to come quite so soon. In July 2008 she hit us with the bombshell that she was going to have a baby and she was already 15 weeks pregnant. I don’t know whether she didn’t actually find out until she was so far into her term or whether she’d purposefully left it too late to consider any options that could have been offered to her. Whichever way, I was determined to support her decision, no matter how difficult or heartbreaking it would be because I wanted to ensure that history didn’t repeat itself. I showed no emotion other than total support.

She had already decided to keep the baby and, after a few months, asked if she could move back home. Whilst I was elated by her request, we, as a family, had adjusted to her not being there so there were other factors to consider. A family meeting was called, views were listened to, and rules were made and agreed. She moved back to the family home a couple of weeks before Christmas 2008 and the baby was due on New Years Day 2009. She would be 17 years old and I would be 36 years old.

So much for not wanting history to repeat itself; my daughter was closely monitored throughout her pregnancy and her baby was also considered to be “small”. The decision was made to induce her pregnancy two-and-a-half weeks prior to her due date.

She was excited and worried all at the same time. Preparations for her trip to the hospital were made quickly and she went off with the usual, “Oh, I’ll be fine. STOP worrying, Mum!” But, as a mother, I knew what she was feeling inside.

No-one could prepare me for the rush of emotions I felt. I wanted to cradle my baby, prevent her from worrying and hurting again, soothe her brow and make everything alright again, just like I used to be able to with a kiss and a cuddle. She was 17 years old – far too young to be going through something like this and everything that would follow.

She had a long build-up to the actual labour – three-and-a-half days of monitoring and induction processes. By the time she was actually ready to give birth she was worn out, spaced out and ready to throw in the towel. Oh, if only!

I needn’t have worried at all. She sailed through labour with the support of her boyfriend and gave birth to her own daughter on 17th December 2008, weighing 5lb 2oz. She is the most natural young parent I have ever seen. She is never angry or upset with the baby and she is muddling along nicely. I am so proud of her. Yes, people tell me the support network she has makes her strong but I’m inclined to disagree. She is a headstrong teenager who is out to prove to the world that she CAN do this. Just like her mother did.

© Nicola O’Hara