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Mum at 16 wants people to give teenage parents a break

Ebony at 16, and just a few days after giving birth to Ruby.Source:Supplied
Ebony at 16, and just a few days after giving birth to Ruby.Source:Supplied

EBONY was just 15-years-old when a pregnancy test she'd purchased at her local supermarket read positive.

A year 9 student at a Catholic high school in Tasmania, she'd been dating her boyfriend for about three months when her period didn't come on time.

Ebony wasn't as careful as she should've been.

Growing up, sex was sacred in her household. She "wasn't educated" on the topic, and while her family weren't religious, even the word wasn't used in conversation.

"I was grounded when I lost my virginity," Ebony, who is now 21, told news.com.au.

"My mum and dad didn't offer me contraception ... it was just 'don't do it or you'll get grounded'.

Dressed in her school uniform, Ebony - who will appear on Tuesday night's episode of Insight about teenage pregnancy - recalls how daunting buying the test from the cashier was.

"There was no self-serve check-outs, so it wasn't the best experience," she explained.

"I went home, and waited until night time when everyone was in bed. I did the test in the bathroom, and one line showed up - meaning it was negative. So I buried it under my computer desk so no one would find it.

"The next morning, I checked it again - I hadn't waited long enough, because two lines had appeared overnight."

When Ebony realised she was pregnant, she "fell to the floor" in fear.

"I was terrified," she said. "You go numb in moments like that. I didn't know what to do or who to tell."

Ebony's twin sister walked in moments after she'd re-examined the pregnancy test.

"She knew something was up," Ebony said. "I didn't want to tell my parents, because we were going on a family trip that weekend and I didn't want to ruin it.

"I went to school, so my mum didn't think anything was up."

Ebony avoided class for most of the day, until she was called in to the principal's office at midday to discuss her whereabouts.

"She was the first adult I told," she said.

"I just showed her the pregnancy test, and the first thing she said was: 'We don't support termination, but we don't support sex out of marriage.'

"Her response made it very clear that they didn't support me. It was very daunting."

Following the discussion with her school principal and counsellor, Ebony was forced to tell her parents about the pregnancy that evening.

Ebony and Shane with her family on their wedding day. She is now 21 and has two children.Source:Supplied
Ebony and Shane with her family on their wedding day. She is now 21 and has two children.Source:Supplied

"I showed mum the pregnancy test, and was like 'you have to tell your father now,'" she recalled. "I told him, and he stormed out. He was angry, and mum sat there in shock and disbelief.

"The next morning she took me to the doctor for proof. It was positive, then she wanted a blood test. I think she was in complete denial."

Ebony said her mum, and most of the people she was close to didn't support the pregnancy and made it clear very early in her first trimester that she should opt for an abortion.

"Mum wanted me to terminate, and told me that multiple times," Ebony said. "She hoped God would change it for us, a miscarriage or that I would change my mind.

"A family friend picked me up from school one day, took me to her house and gave me a hot Milo. She tried to convince me to have an abortion because that's what she did at my age.

"The day I found out, I told my boyfriend, and he was like 'get rid of it'. He was going to join the army, and because I was underage it would've impacted his chances of getting in.

"I felt completely overwhelmed."

While termination was an option for Ebony, it wasn't the path she planned on taking.

"I wanted to prove everyone wrong and that I would be OK," Ebony said. "My best friend at the time said I wouldn't graduate Year 10, I had everyone telling me that.

"But I've always been determined to show people that they're wrong, and that my life wasn't ruined."

Ebony and Shane with her daughter Ruby, 5, and their son Archer, 2.Source:Supplied
Ebony and Shane with her daughter Ruby, 5, and their son Archer, 2.Source:Supplied

Seeing the ultrasound for the first time, and learning of her unborn baby's gender, Ebony's family came around to the idea of her being a mother.

"My mum was in shock and wanted the best for me," she said. "She was worried I wouldn't finish my education. But when I started growing, and still going to school, she eased in to it and we got our relationship back on track."

When Ebony was 16, she gave birth to her daughter, Ruby, who is now five years old.

Keeping to her plan of finishing school alongside her peers, she went back to class just six weeks after her baby was born.

"I was still breastfeeding when I went back to school," she said.

"I'd go to the sick bay so I could express milk and give it to daycare to give to Ruby. It got really overwhelming, so I went back to three days a week at school."

Ebony - who is now married, a mother-of-two, part-time employee and studying an arts/law degree at university - said her success has come with a loss.

"I missed out socially, and became quite disconnected with my friends," she explained. "I went through Year 11 completely on my own. I'd eat lunch in the library on my own.

"I guess everyone was into drugs and alcohol, and I was going home to a one-year-old, doing groceries and housework."

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics have shown the number of births by mothers aged between 15 and 19 made up 2.8 per cent of all births in 2015, falling from the previous low of 3.1 per cent in 2014.

The Northern Territory had the highest rate, with 267 births by teenage mothers or 6.66 per cent of all births, while the ACT had the lowest teen motherhood rate of any other state or territory, 1.28 per cent of all births or 71 babies.

Ebony hopes her story won't encourage teenagers to have children at a young age, but gives hope to those who are in the same position she found herself five years ago.

"It's overwhelming, but there wasn't much regret," she said.

"There are pros and cons in this situation. But this has pushed me. I look at myself and how can you fault me? I will have a law degree and I plan to be a lawyer.

"I always have in my head that I don't want to be another statistic."

Ebony Curtis will appear as a guest on Insight, which airs Tuesday at 8.30pm on SBS One.

This week, Insight speaks to young men and women who had children when they were teenagers.

Topics:  childbirth editors picks heymumma parenting teenager

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