Be Still, My Heart is a documentary project about teenage mothers in South Wales, UK. Britain has one of Europe's highest rates of teenage pregnancies and in the eyes of society this is still looked down upon.
I was interested to meet young girls and help them tell their stories through photos and interviews. From as early as 16 they are brave mothers who fight to defend their dignity with a humbling maturity. Meeting them has given me a positive insight into a situation that is often regarded as a ‘mistake’ as the perception of young motherhood is usually generalized into negativity and statistics are used to form the overview of a failing society. This never corresponds with the experiences and feelings of the young mothers, very proud women who have sometimes experienced domestic hardships but nonetheless decided to go through with their pregnancies, even though nearly always advised not to, and who now consider their children their saving grace.
N.B. All quotes are excerpts from anonymous interviews.
"Motherhood is scary, but it happens one day, just some people are younger than others. When I found out I was pregnant I was 15 and I honestly had no clue about anything, I was really blasé about it. My boyfriend tried to force me into getting rid of the baby but I spoke to my mum about it and she said however I felt, so I ended up feeling like keeping her and I wouldn’t change it. I broke up with him, he was cheating on me while I was pregnant, and then after certain things happened I had to go to the police and now he is not allowed direct or indirect contact with me or the baby. I don’t know if he wants to see her, all he’s posting on Facebook is about him and his new girlfriend saying it’s the happiest moment of his life. I just wanna pop his bubble and comment, “And what about your daughter?” "
"My boyfriend and I had agreed that I wasn’t to have the baby because I was only 17, so we were in duration of an abortion. We had been together for eight months then and we were living together. I had had a massive argument with my mother and she kicked me out, his mum wasn’t too impressed about taking me in so we took it upon ourselves to get a property, not that we wanted to do that, but at the time we didn’t really have a choice. Then, literally after a fortnight, he died in a motorbike crash. The police said it was his fault even though it wasn’t. He was an only child so that’s why I decided to keep the baby in the end, and I called him after my boyfriend.
I don’t deny it, up until the actual day that he was born I questioned whether I was doing the right thing all the time but then I saw him and it was just completely different. He looked the spit of his father to me so I was just in love with him. I was so glad I’d stuck through with him, he’s worth every bit. There are days that I feel like I shouldn’t have done it, times when I’d like to go out and get drunk like I used to, but it passes. I do not regret it at all. I don’t know where I’d be without my son right now, I think I’d be an alcoholic, drug abusive or whatever. I used to be able to hide my emotions rather than deal with them so obviously if I hadn’t had him I think I would have hid them by staying unsober. He is a saving grace in many ways.
My father was a very violent man. When I turned 10 I realised he was actually quite a nasty person, that is the legal age when you can decide, so I haven’t seen him since. He’s never tried reaching me. When he found out what had happened his only words were: “If you need money, you know where I am.” I’d rather live in a box than turn to him."
"My boyfriend and I were 16 when we left our own mother and father. We both wanted to have a baby but I said, “Let’s wait till I’m 17”, but the next thing we got caught. At first I was like, “Oh my God”, but he said, “Don’t worry, don’t worry, we’ll be okay, we’ve got enough money”, cause I was working at the time, I was a supervisor in a store so I worked so much, so much, till I had to stop. Next year the twins will go to nursery and I’ll go back to work. But no more babies."
"I was 17 when I first got pregnant. My ex boyfriend and I had been together for 10 months. We had spoken about having children, he was the one who said he wanted to start a family but as soon as I told him I was pregnant he left, he didn’t wanna know. Actually I thought about having an abortion because I wasn't really ready for a child, I wanted to live my life. I spent a weekend away with a friend, who had had an abortion because she was only 15 at the time, and with her mum, who was 15 when she had her, and after that I decided to keep the baby. I told my ex boyfriend and he said, “Okay, I’ll tell my mum”, and I didn’t hear off them for a while. They weren’t too happy about it. He started to grow to the idea, he was telling his friends, “Oh, I’m gonna be a dad, it’s great”, and then he realized how much responsibility it was and how tiring and stressful it was and he didn’t want that, he couldn’t take all that on so he said, “I’m leaving, it’s over”. Fine. We are still friends, well, we get along, we’re civil, but he has nothing to do with the child. As soon as he comes up in the conversation he changes the subject or he ignores me, he doesn’t wanna know."
"At first, when I found out I was pregnant, I freaked out. I was scared but I was so happy at the same time, I was really excited. My boyfriend and I had been together for two years and he had always wanted a baby with me. He acted like, “Oh, this is brilliant,” but he didn’t stop taking drugs and I was gonna protect my child no matter what my feelings were, so even though it was hard I had to break up with him. I’m a lot happier now, it shows you don’t need a man to be a mother. I knew my life was gonna change rapidly, drastically even, but I loved the fact that I would have him to look after, I love being a mum, I genuinely do. My mum’s helping me but I’m quite proud of myself because it’s not easy. Even with the help I get it’s still not easy."
"My boyfriend and I had talked a lot about having a baby together. I am 18, he is 28, we are in a stable relationship, we’ve got a new house, and last year we decided that's what we wanted to do. We both were really happy, he made me take four tests before he believed me! Both our parents were fine with it, but I’m not sure if that was because they would be fine with it anyway, because my mother was 21 when she had her first child, or even because my 16 year old sister had just fallen pregnant a couple of months before me. I was just finishing college, I did go back to do Child's Care, but because I had severe morning sickness and I was in and out of hospital I had to stop going.
Before she was born I just thought of all the positives, I thought I was going to have part of the person I love and part of me in a little human and I'll get to look after her and teach her stuff and I thought that was amazing, but I didn’t account for how hard it was gonna be. But it’s so worth it. When she is a little older I definitely want to get a job, but I want to do something I like. I’m into photography, I like art, maybe something with tattoos.
I was living with my parents then and moved out when my son was five months old because I was relying too much on them. I was on my own for a few months and then I met my fiancée. He knew that if he wanted to be with me he’d have to take on my son as well. He said, “That’s fine, I’m willing to do that”. He’s a good one. He had never thought about being a father but after meeting us and spending time with us he realized this was what he wanted. We did talk about having other kids, in a few years maybe, but it happened so soon, just over a month... We were shocked, more than anything, but we’re happy to have our daughter. He has given my son all he needs, he’s been a dad to him, well he is his dad now, my son started calling him dad one day and he was over the moon with it."