Maverick Mum: ‘I thought I was dying - turned out I was 6 months pregnant!’

Closer columnist Rebecca Finlay - aka the Maverick Mum - has opened up about the moment she found out she was going to be a teenage mum

The Maverick Mum is one of our absolute favourite mummy bloggers ever - not least of all because she keeps things fresh, honest, and hilarious.

The teenage mum has rebuilt her life after unexpectedly finding out that she was pregnant, starting up her successful blog and heading back to uni with her “terrifying toddler” in tow.

Now she’s joined the team here at Closer HQ to share her insights, advice, and anecdotes with you all via a brand-new weekly column.

Here’s Rebecca’s first instalment…

Maverick Mum Rebecca Finlay with little Reuben

“What’s the quickest way to ruin your life?”

If you asked me this question when I was a teenager, I would have replied: “Get pregnant”. Because, personally, it was my worst nightmare.

In my eyes, your life was over if you got pregnant as a teenager. I was that over-ambitious girl who planned to have kids aged 43 - if my successful job and 3 dogs weren’t demanding all of my attention.

I always thought to myself - don’t these girls know they’ll have to give up everything? They’d have to forget their education, their dreams, their reputation, their innocent-daughter status with their parents and any small amount of good looks they may have… because no one ever looked good after having a baby.

Yes, my teenage judgements sound very extreme, but if we are completely honest with ourselves, we all know the teen mum stereotype – ugly tracksuit, no qualifications, hanging around the ‘dole office’. Not to mention the fact that it’s automatically assumed that they are bad mothers.

So when I sat in that doctor’s surgery at 3am, aged 18, and was told that I was pregnant - 6 months pregnant at that - I stepped into my own living nightmare. If I believed in karma, I would reckon it got me good.

Nothing humbles you like a teen pregnancy.

Maverick Mum Rebecca Finlay with little Reuben

Let me set the context.

It was the 1st September 2013 – the summer after I finished A levels. I had spent most of the previous 3 months working my butt off to prepare for my gap year to India in October.

12am: I was still awake with a raging pain in my stomach that I had never felt in my life before. After some googling, I naturally decided that I was dying. I went to my mum’s room crying and asked for her to ring the 24-hour doctor. (I really acted like such a baby. There’s so much irony in the fact I was unknowingly carrying an actual baby).

3am: I was lying on the doctor’s examination table while she felt my stomach. She asked me if there was any chance I could be pregnant and of course, I said no. Why would I say yes? My mum was sitting right there! And it had been about 6 months since anything baby-making related had happened!

She asked me to do a urine sample so she could check for infection and so off I went to the bathroom. Even as I peed I remember having this feeling of doom. I knew something wasn’t right.

I returned with the sample and, approximately 2 minutes later, the sassy doctor turned round and very bluntly/cheekily said to me, “Well this says you’re pregnant”.

Maverick Mum Rebecca Finlay with little Reuben

I’m going to gracefully brush over the fact the doctor lied about what she was doing with my urine sample. I could rant, but I wont. Either way, I would still be here 2 years later with a toddler who is currently putting his chocolate hands on my keyboard.

I followed my mum to the car with my tail between my legs and so began what I didn’t realise would be a completely different life. I was shocked. And I was devastated. On the drive home I simultaneously tried to convince my mum that I was still a virgin but also that I was probably about 6 months on.

Guys, I promise you I’m not an idiot.

Okay I’m a little bit of an idiot. But I have good excuses as to why I didn’t know for so long! However we won’t go into that now, because you barely know my name, let alone my menstrual cycle.

Anyway, the very thought of being considered a ‘teen mum’ made me more nauseous than the pregnancy itself. I had let myself down. I had let my family down.

Maverick Mum Rebecca Finlay with little Reuben

I knew what people would label me – ‘Wreckless’, ‘Worthless’, ‘Damaged goods’, ‘Failure’. I was the kind of hormonal teenage girl who held it together until she broke a glass and all the tears came out at once.

Heck, I’m still that girl who keeps going for months and then one day I can’t find my toothbrush and BAM – emotional breakdown. All emotions are heightened as a teenage girl, and pregnancy was no different.

Sure, I was excited. And I was brave, or at least I put on a brave face. But the truth is I went to bed most nights and cried myself to sleep.

I was overwhelmed and terrified. I was constantly carrying another human but I’d never felt so humanly alone. My pregnancy diary is just one big mash-up of my new life/education plans mixed in with my absolute despair every time someone found out I was pregnant.

I think I will always begrudge that the amazing new life inside of me was overclouded by my young age. It should have been the happiest news of my life. Unfortunately, everyone’s reactions were to console me or avoid me.

I will never forget the first person to say congratulations. And now, when I find out someone is pregnant, you know what I do? I CONGRATULATE THEM. Whether they are 16 or 65, a precious new baby is a darn good reason to celebrate.

Maverick Mum Rebecca Finlay with little Reuben

In saying that, I think I only truly accepted that I was going to be a mum when I went into labour. Reuben’s gigantic head was making its jolly way out through my cervix when I informed the midwives, “I don’t think motherhood is for me”.

But, oh my! One look at that deliciously beautiful, yet very hairy, newborn of mine and I knew it WAS for me. He was so for me.

The beauty of having a baby so young is that quite often that baby is your first real experience of true love. When I looked at Reuben, I wasn’t a teen mum anymore. I wasn’t a stereotype. I wasn’t a statistic. I was just Reuben’s mum. And I was going to give this motherhood thing everything I had.

Maverick Mum Rebecca Finlay with little Reuben

Of course, in reality, that hasn’t been easy. I’ve been winging my way through motherhood. On top of googling what colour my newborn’s diarrhoea should be, I was working part time, repeating A levels, and completing a part time course to get into university - most of which was done whilst Reuben slept at night.

It was exhausting - and isolating. As a young mother it’s hard to find people to relate to. My childless-carefree friends were all at university partying and napping at their leisure, and as amazingly supportive as they were, they just didn’t understand the weight of my responsibility.

My older mum friends were good for chatting about baby bottle brands, but I didn’t laugh when they made jokes about their husbands and they didn’t laugh when I put makeup on Reuben’s eyebrows to make him look like an old man.

My saving grace was an organisation called Surestart who run groups for young parents. I begrudgingly went to the group, annoyed that I was expected to be friends with these people just because we all got knocked up before the culturally appropriate age.

Little did I know that I would meet some of the most amazing girls who would become a massive part of my life!

Maverick Mum Rebecca Finlay with little Reuben

At first we bonded over being mistaken as our children’s big sisters and consoled one another when ex-classmates would gossip about one of us. These days we don’t see each other as much as we’re all working our butts off. But when we reunite, we watch Peppa Pig, eat our body-weights in Chinese takeaway, and discuss how we’re coping with the latest assignment which usually coincides with the latest tummy bug at crèche.

Mums in general really impress me. I’m not sure how they keep other humans alive, keep a house going, provide for their family, pay bills, keep friendships, have hobbies, and maintain personal hygiene (with the added help of dry shampoo). But young mums blow my mind.

They do all of the above with the added pressure of everyone expecting them to fail. Being a stay-at-home mum isn’t an option. And for the ones who do choose to stay at home, they are told they are lazy. Yet if a married, 35-year-old woman decided to be a stay-at-home mum – she is an inspiration.

Maverick Mum Rebecca Finlay with little Reuben

I’ve learned that everyone’s situation is different. But there is one common denominator - young mothers love their children. And they love them hard. Even if it may not seem like it in certain cases, they all just want the absolute best for their children.

Unfortunately it took a teen pregnancy to have my eyes opened to this. But I hope in time, myself and others can help eradicate the stigma surrounding young mothers.

Personally, I’ve also realised that just because something isn’t conventional, doesn’t mean it can’t work. These days Reuben and I live in Belfast where I go to Queen’s University. He goes to Queen’s crèche when I am in class or at the library and he is only ever 20 yards away.

I’m no longer a teen mum. But I’m also no longer ashamed. I’ve proudly decided that I’m a tween mum. I no longer stand under the labels of ‘wreckless’, ‘worthless’, ‘failure’. After a lot of growing and since becoming a Christian last year, I know I stand under the labels of ‘loved’, ‘strong’, ‘valuable’.

Admittedly, I’m still a little scared to go out in public with Reuben in my tracksuit bottoms for fear of looking like a typical teen mum. But sometimes I think of the quivering, uncertain mess I was during my pregnancy, and I think ‘Girl, you did good’.

Getting pregnant at 18 didn’t mean my life was over. It meant that I get to do life with Reuben.

Of course I DO spend most of my time doing all of the dinosaur and Fireman Sam related activities… but I also still do everything I used to. I have pizza nights with friends, I go out in the evenings, I have coffee dates, I travel to new countries, I cry about assignments, I stay up way too late, I worry about money, I binge on chocolate…

I do everything, but I do everything with Reuben. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Which is good because the way my mum brain is going, in a few years I probably won’t remember it any other way.

Maverick Mum Rebecca Finlay with little Reuben

Tune in next week for the next instalment from The Maverick Mum - or, if you can’t wait that long, check out her awesome blog here.

Could you be pregnant and not know it? Check out all the signs and symptoms of a Cryptic Pregnancy here.

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