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Pregnant at 13, mum at 14, GCSEs at 15

Kaylib and Kizzy

By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine

As calls are made for sex education to be compulsory in all schools Kizzy Neal, 15, is one teenager with a lot on her plate - exams, boyfriends and looking after her seven-month-old son.

She was in her best friend's bedroom when she found out she was pregnant, in the summer of 2006. She was 13.

"I didn't stop crying for three weeks and I was really, really scared," says Kizzy, who is now 15. "I knew I'd done something wrong. Thirteen is not the ideal age to have a baby."

She had been fearful after having sex for the first time, unprotected, with Louie.

"Since I got pregnant, I've learnt so much about contraception, abortions and sex but at school I think I had so few sex education lessons."

While the father of her child rejected being a dad and moved away from Torbay in Devon, Kizzy never considered having her pregnancy terminated.

Kizzy Neal

As it went on, she became the target of abuse from people. She was spat at and her brothers were attacked because, her father Kevin believes, she chose not to have an abortion.

She lost friends because of her pregnancy, but the girls who had abused her changed their behaviour after she had baby Kaylib in May.

"When I was pregnant it was like 'You little so-and-so' but when I had the baby they were round the pram saying: 'Isn't he beautiful?'

"It was a bit two-faced. Without a baby I didn't want to go out of the house and I was scared, but as soon as I had the baby, the people I was scared of were coming up, being really nice to me."

The birth itself, in May, was the best moment of her life, she says.

"When they put him on my chest, I was so overwhelmed, you don't know whether to smile or cry or laugh or scream, you don't know what to do. It gives you a warm feeling in your tummy."

Sacrifices

From that moment on, says Kizzy's mother Kerry, who is in her 40s, the atmosphere changed. "There was so much negativity about Kizzy having the baby in the first place, then when he was born there was so much joy and excitement and everyone loves him."

Kizzy returned to college in September, leaving her mother to look after Kaylib while she studies for six GCSEs. She wants to be a member of Parliament but if that doesn't happen, to be an occupational therapist.

But although Kizzy may look like any other student in the classroom, she is constantly reminded of her responsibilities as a parent because of the sacrifices she has to make and what she describes as her lost childhood.

"I miss being able to get up and go out when I want to and doing teenage things. I can't do these things as much anymore but I do get help from mum and dad so I get the chance to be a child as well as a mum."

It's hard to let go of your childhood
Kizzy Neal

She has made a programme with BBC Three about her experience to show other teenage girls that motherhood is "not all about cute babies, it's hard work.

"It's hard to let go of your childhood, you have to break away from that, you have grow up really fast, you have to mature quickly. It's hard getting to grips with being a mum and how to look after your child the best you can."

It's even harder without a father, and earlier this year Kizzy took Kaylib to Southend to meet his dad. On her way home, it struck Kizzy that the two probably wouldn't meet again.

"I was thinking about the baby growing up without a dad and thought I'd let him down. It's ideal to have a mum and a dad and to have a proper environment but it's very different for me. He's got as much love as he needs, even without a dad."

Giving out condoms

Kizzy's story is not uncommon in the UK, which has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in western Europe.

There were 46,215 girls under 18 who became pregnant in 2005, according to the Family Planning Association.

On average four out of 10 pregnant girls have the baby. But the teen conception rate is falling and sexual education is working, says Brook sexual health charity's chief executive Simon Blake.

Kizzy and mum Kerry
Kizzy's parents help look after Kaylib
"It is reducing. We've got a teenage pregnancy strategy that is working. Good quality sexual education and access to services is a real part of the solution."

Last week, campaigners called for sex and relationships education to be made compulsory in all schools. The Terrence Higgins Trust, the NSPCC and the National Union of Teachers said no schools should be able to "opt out of delivering good sex and relationships education to their pupils".

Kizzy believes her school takes the wrong approach by too readily giving out condoms and "promoting sex".

Bar chart showing teenage conception rates
It is claimed 11 other girls at the school also became pregnant, which the school strongly denies.

The school says it devotes considerable resources to sex education and says part of its message is to teach youngsters to delay having sex until in a stable, loving relationship. It also has a confidential drop-in centre called Tic Tac that offers advice on sexual health, abortion and contraception.

Tic Tac has been held up by the government as a model of good practice but Kizzy's father Kevin believes its work undermines a parent's efforts to instil abstinence in a child. His daughter accepts it was her mistake but her fears that having Kaylib meant the "end of fun" have not been realised.

"Every day that goes by," she says, "there's something he does that makes me laugh."

Kizzy: Mum at 14 will be broadcast on BBC Three on Tuesday, 11 December at 2230 GMT.


Below is a selection of your comments.

I too became pregnant in my early teens but it was in a time when young girls were given no choices. My mother decided for me and the result of clinical intervention meant a life without children. Good for you Kizzy. Kaylib is blessed to have you as him Mother.
Sharon, Surrey

I was pregnant at 17, during the final year of my A Levels. There was no way I wanted a termination- I did not see my age or situation as a reason to do this. The baby's dad did not want to know. I faced a lot of criticism for my decisions; "you've ruined your life", "what a waste" and "I had high hopes for you" are a few commonly used phrases that spring to mind! I'm 25 now. My son is seven. He was also diagnosed with autism aged two and is in an autistic unit at school. I've brought him up on my own and, yes, it's hard work, but it doesn't mean your life is over. I went to university, got a first degree in film and media and am now managing media relations and PR for a political campaigning organisation in London. I bought my first house at 22 and have just completed a part-time Masters degree. I resent being classed as another statistic. What is "right" for some people may not be right for others. I've lived my life the unconventional way, but don't regret a second. Teenage, single mums have so much on their plate and have to work a lot harder to achieve their dreams. They should be given the credit they're due. It's hard doing it on your own, but in no way does it mean your life is over.
Jess, Bucks

At 15 I found myself in a similar situation to Kizzy but I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks. I'm now 21 and about to graduate from university with a first-class degree. I don't regret my actions at 15 and I would have had that baby. Yes it would have changed my life, but there is no reason why I couldn't go on to finish a degree. Not all girls who get pregnant young are the type of girls people seem to think they are. I wish Kizzy all the best with her exams and I hope she gets a job she loves.
Laura, UK

Finally, a child learning from her mistakes, saying that schools promote sex. All teenagers hear about in the media and at school is sex. Of course they will experiment. We need to get back to teaching morality, and abstinence until marriage and stop advertising sex everywhere. You can't even go to the shopping centre without seeing posters of women in underwear. Of course this nation has a problem!
Jenni, Basingstoke,

What an interesting story! However, BBC, as a teacher, I know full well the people who should be watching it won't be at 10.30 pm on BBC3. I hope you offer schools an opportunity to buy this in some way, as I am sure it would be useful to PHSE or Child Development Classes.
Claire, Windsor

This is not a new problem. Growing up in a small town, there were many girls who became pregnant in our regional high school, some younger than Kizzy. What they did do is integrate them into the high school, paying attention to their special needs, rather than sending them away as they would have in my parents' day. They got the support they needed to finish school with a trade or prepared for college. There were various reasons they were pregnant, but seeing someone my age heavily pregnant in the cafeteria line was a sobering experience for me and spoke more for contraception than the dry lectures in sex education classes given by the gym teachers.
Candace, New Jersey, US

I'm not impressed with the dad. He should live up to his responsibilities, by marrying the girl and taking care for his family. It'll be worth it to take part in a child's upbringing.
Simon, London

I don't think it is fair to put the blame to a school because they are not giving enough "sex education" talks. The foundation of one's education should always start at home and not some place else. Kids can sometimes be a reflection of the parents.
Alex, Southampton

Though I do congratulate Kizzy on her inner strength in having the baby and raising it alone, I had to question the admiration I am meant to feel. Are we supposed to ignore the fact that she had unprotected sex at 13, which (correct me if I'm wrong) is the average age for girls to just be starting their periods and developing? I am 13 myself (14 in February) so I know exactly how bizarre it would be to be pregnant right now, and although I am going to try and stay a virgin until my wedding night, some of my friends (who are not) are sensible enough to wait until they are at least 16. At my previous school, in our sex education that feeling was: go off and have sex, just don't get pregnant. While this is a good idea, it's still sending out the message that it doesn't matter if you have sex when you're underage, surely the law saying that you have to be 16 makes this ILLEGAL, and yet I see no punishment or at least 'ticking off' towards those who ignore this law.
Prue, Winchester

Without a doubt, Kizzy is a good mum.
Sunny, London

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