Off spring: On being a young mum

By Melody Thomas
Photography by Ashley Church

Featured in Capital #24
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Art Direction: Shalee Fitzsimmons

Make-up: Natalie Fisher

Kids dressed in: Mokopuna

Assisted by: Rhett Goodley-Hornblow, Laura Pitcher & Josh Wooton

“The trees are coming into leaf/Like something almost being said… Last year is dead, they seem to say/Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.”

– Philip Larkin, The Trees

In many ways they are the picture of maternal devotion. The mums with newer babies quietly offer a bottle or duck out to a more private room to breastfeed, while those with bigger kids run about the hallways wrangling, gently scolding, or reminding them to take care. Laughter and heavy footsteps bounce off the walls of the hallway. The tamariki are excited – they’re missing school today. And so are their mums.

Meet Sarah, Hinehou, Hayley, Esta and Hineora, all current or past students at He Huarahi Tamariki School for Teenage Parents, in Tawa.

Capital visited the He Huarahi Tamariki School for Teenage Parents in 2015.
We would like to thank the school for welcoming us, and thank the young women for their time and generosity.

Sarah Smith &
Noah-Lee Smith

Aged 23 & 7
Living in Paramata

“I was sixteen and a half when Noah-Lee was born. You think you’re invincible. You think, ‘it’ll never happen to me’, and then boom! I still have a couple of my friends from before; my two best friends, but I did lose a couple. They stopped inviting me to things. Then I moved to HHT and made all these new friends. I didn’t want to go to the school at first – I thought, ‘I don’t want to go to school with a bunch of teen Mums.’ It hadn’t hit me yet. Then once I got there it was really cool. We’ve all got something to talk about, and they’re really accepting so we made new friends really fast.

When school finished I got some grants and scholarships for study so I did a Certificate in Youth Work and got Student of the Year for it. Then the tutor told me I should go do the Bachelor of Social Work. I was like, ‘No I can’t do that, that’s level 7.’ But I graduated in March, and I just got a job as the youth work tutor. If I didn’t have Noah-Lee I’d probably be working somewhere like Glassons… retail or cafe work. But I’ve got someone to look after. I don’t want to have to rely on anyone else, so I had to do something that was going to earn money. And I like helping people.

I always have to have a goal now. I’m saving for a nice car, then it’ll be a house. I’ve always wanted to own a house because we’ve always lived in rental properties and I’ve moved house probably 40 times. In the last year we’ve moved three times, and Noah-Lee finds it hard. He gets unsettled and it was affecting his school, but he’s doing all right now.

Noah-Lee’s pretty smart. He’s addicted to Lego and computers and he doesn’t really like going outside, but we went camping last summer and he was all, ‘Oh this is so awesome!’ We got to one of the days where someone had to go into town to get some more food, and he said, ‘No no no, I don’t want to go’. All the other kids went but he said, ’I wanna stay here next to the river.’ He loved it. My mum was with me when I found out and she said, ‘We’re going to make it work and everything’s going to be ok’. But if I went and got pregnant now she’d probably kill me. She’d be like, ‘What are you doing? You finally got everything sorted!’” 

Hayley Walker &
Ruby Walker

Aged 16 & 8 months
Living in Paraparaumu

“I was 14. I was in the kitchen making scrambled eggs and I threw up all over the floor. My Mum came in and said, ‘Are you sure you’re not pregnant?’ and I just burst into tears saying, ‘I don’t know’. So she ran out and got a pregnancy test, and then she started crying and we all started crying. I think after three months she just got used to the fact that she was going to be a grandmother.

It took me a month to figure out if I wanted to keep the baby or give it up for adoption. Abortion was completely out of the question. At the time I was really against it, I thought it was killing a baby but now that I think about it more… I don’t know. If I got pregnant again now I’d probably have one.

I expected motherhood to be just no social life, and full of spewing, dirty nappies. I didn’t really think of the benefits to it. But now that I’ve had her it’s way more than that, ‘coz I love her more than anything.

People my age I think are becoming more understanding of the idea of young mums. Much more than older people – they’re more judgmental. What you hear is that young mums are abusive, do drugs, smoke… I think that’s the stereotype because we’re so young. But every girl at school – we all base our lives round our kids. It’s nothing like what I’ve heard.

Before Ruby, I was thinking of dropping out. I was smoking weed with all my friends. I was in the wrong friend group definitely. And she’s pretty much changed my life around ‘coz now I have a reason not to do that stuff. I want to get through school and then do an early childhood course or go to university – I’m still deciding. Having Ruby’s changed how I’m seeing my future.”

Esta Walker-Visala &
Abdulmaalik Abdullah-Visala

Aged 19 & 2
Living in Berhampore

“When I found out I was pregnant I cried quite a lot, because I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t ready. I was with his Dad. He was shocked too – he didn’t say anything to me the whole night.

My pregnancy was horrible. I was sick all the time and I just wanted it to be over. And after he was born it was really hard trying to get the bond with him. I had post-natal depression, so that took a while. People at school would say, ‘When you first met him did you cry?’ and I hated saying, ‘No, I felt nothing really’. Because it was just so hard. We started to get that bond just after his first birthday. Now it’s so good, everything feels so warm.

I live with my Nana. She helps out a lot. My mum’s around but we’re not that close – I want Abdul to know her and for them to get along, but it’s hard when we don’t. She was 17 when she became a Mum as well. I always said, ‘I’m not gonna be like you!’ and then I got pregnant and it was like, ‘Shit.’ I’d kind of dropped out of school before I found out I was pregnant. I was planning on doing nothing. I didn’t have any dreams. I didn’t like school, it wasn’t for me. I would never have gone back to school if I didn’t have him. Now I’ve got my level three and I’m just doing my UE. Hopefully I’m going to go to Vic next year, I want to do a BA in Criminology and Psychology. I’m interested in the mind and how it works, especially the criminal side. I think HHT has prepared me for it, I’m just scared about meeting new people. That’s one of my biggest worries, people who are probably a lot younger than me.”

Hineora Mike &
Te Amorangi McLaughlin

Aged 18 & 3
Living in Titahi Bay

“I was 14 when I had Te Amorangi and then I turned 15 three months later. I didn’t find out I was pregnant straight away because there were times when I thought I was getting my period. But my stomach started growing bigger and I thought, ‘Ok I’m not losing this fat…’ and when my family told me to take a test it came up positive. I went to get a scan just to be sure and I was 26 weeks already.

Mum took it the hardest. She was a teen parent too, so I guess she wanted the best for me and realising I was going to be a teen parent really hit her. Dad was really good. He was calm. He said there was no point getting angry or upset about it because what’s done is done.

Back then I didn’t think I was young, but when I look back now and I see my cousins who have just turned 14 I think, ‘You’re so young!’ What did they think about me when I was that age?

I was scared before I had baby because my sister had kids and they annoyed me. I thought I didn’t want kids ever! I remember holding my nephew for the first time and I didn’t know what to do. So I thought, ‘How am I going to be when I have a baby?’ And then he came out and it felt like I just knew what to do. Everything came to me.

Now it’s all about trying to figure out what I want to do after school. Whether I’m going to go to work or university or polytech. I never really thought about it all ‘til I went to the teen parent school. Then I thought, ‘Wow! I would love to go to university.’ I don’t really feel like I’ve missed out on much because I’ve got so much support that I still get to live a little bit of that life. It’s just now I have responsibilities. I feel young, but old.”

Hinehou Mason &
Rinoa Turua-Mason

Aged 16 & 4 months
Living in Porirua

“I found out I was pregnant at 24 weeks, on Christmas Eve. Everyone was like, ‘You’re going to be a great Mum. If you need anything I’ll be there for you.’ The one person who didn’t do that was the Dad. When he found out he was really angry – he’d had a bad day at school and he was blaming it on me. I was a bit upset about that but I got over it ‘coz I had too much other stuff to deal with and I didn’t need him in my life. So now we don’t see each other. Never.

I live with my parents, brother, two sisters and baby. I’m the oldest. I think every teen parent should have their Mum with them. They need someone to help them out. My Mum was there through everything. My Dad, he’s like my brother – we can joke around about everything. He’s 31, so him and my Mum were teen parents as well, and it’s really easy to talk to them. We have that close bond. Mum thinks I got pregnant at a young age because I wasn’t allowed to do most things. They wanted a good future for me, so I wasn’t allowed to drink, smoke, do drugs. But yeah, they’re really supportive and caring.

Dad told me just to focus on baby for now and figure out what I want to do when time passes, but in the back of my head I want a good job, a good house, I want to do good in school. When I go to school Rinoa stays at home, and every three hours I have to express in the medical room. Up ‘til about three days ago she’d sleep perfectly, and now when it comes to night she’ll stay up until 2 a.m. Cheeky miss. She’s really fun to hang out with. You say hello and stare into her eyes and she’ll just start smiling at you. She’s really special.”

For our fiftieth issue Capital got in touch with Hinehou to see how she was going.
The following update was printed in Capital #50, April 2018.  


He Huarahi Tamariki is a secondary school for teenage parents. It’s been two years since Capital visited and got to know five current and past students of the school.

Hinehou Mason, now 18, is still at HHT and working towards her University Entrance at Level 3. “My studies are going really well, I enjoy English and Computing. Unfortunately I am not loving Home Ec,” she says. “Not much has changed except for that I am really wanting to get into Victoria University to study English and History as I’d like to be a secondary teacher. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since 2016 when I went to Tawa Intermediate for work experience. I just loved being able to help the kids and teaching them a few tricks in English and Maths.”

Her daughter Rinoa has just turned three. “She’s doing really well in kindy and is growing really fast too. She’s already wearing size 10 toddler shoes and sizes 5–7 clothing!” Rinoa’s dad isn’t in the picture. Hinehou says she’s fine with that as she has many, many supporters with all her whanau. “I am still living at home with mum and the kids and they love Rinoa so much. Their favorite part of the weekdays are when we’re off to school and they all get one big kiss from her, and when we come home she runs to them with a big smile on her face.”


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