'I couldn't abort, I'll be killing a life'

'I couldn't abort, I'll be killing a life'

Orphaned since she was 13, she knows what it is like to grow up without parental love and support.

Annie (not her real name) did not want her child to have an incomplete family like she did.

So when she became a single mother at 19, she moved in with her child's father so that her newborn son could have a complete family.

But he failed to meet her expectations of what a father should be, so she decided to move out and raise her child alone, even though it will be a financial and emotional strain on her.

Annie, now 20, said: "To me, it's not a proud thing to have a child without a father around.

"But I have no time to care about what people think. I just want to focus on taking care of my son and do all I can to give him the best."

Annie's mother died from an illness when she was five and her father died from a heart attack eight years later.

The outspoken girl, whose highest qualification is a Nitec in Tourism, said: "I don't really remember what my mum was like. My dad used to be violent, but he became more responsible after my mum's death. His sudden death took us by surprise."

She and her brother, now a 22-year-old working in retail, were sent to different children's homes after her father's death, as no other relatives could take care of them.

But Annie had a rebellious streak and often ran away, back to her parents' flat.

She said: "I just wanted to go back home, away from the restrictions.

"My file was very colourful and I created a lot of trouble for the people there."

Annie met the father of her child during one of the occasions when she ran away.

They got to know each other through mutual friends when she was 14 and began an on-and-off relationship in 2013.

She suspected she was pregnant after missing her period.

Annie said: "It was, like, 'okay lor, I'm pregnant'. I wasn't really stressed until I started thinking about whether I should keep him."

The child's father, now a 21-year-old working in retail, wanted an abortion, which Annie initially agreed to.

She set up an appointment at an abortion clinic, but changed her mind when she saw the ultrasound scan of her foetus.

"The baby is a life. I couldn't end it like that," said Annie, who was two months into her pregnancy.

Afraid her brother would be angry, Annie kept her pregnancy from him, only telling him about it a month before she was due to give birth.

To her surprise, he was supportive.

During a routine checkup at KK Women's and Children's Hospital in the fifth month of her pregnancy, a social worker from the hospital told her that she needed more support.

They referred her to Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support (Babes), a voluntary welfare organisation that assists pregnant teenagers.

Babes helped her financially by giving her food vouchers as well as baby items such as clothes that were donated to the organisation.

She said: "I had no idea what this organisation was about and what they do."

She never knew there were organisations in Singapore that provided assistance to pregnant teens.

Annie said: "Babes was helpful because I could seek advice from my case worker. This is important especially when I'm alone with no one to talk to."


Annie's caseworker, Ms Noriko Goh, said: "It's very heartening to see how she has grown into a more optimistic person.

"She has also become a more independent and mature individual throughout this entire process."

After Annie gave birth to her son in November last year, she moved in with the child's father.

But the child's father did not change to become more responsible.

Annie wanted him to meet her extended family during Chinese New Year next month as the child's father, but he was unwilling.

She said: "Asking him to meet my family just once a year is not unreasonable. If he doesn't want to be involved in the baby's life, then don't be at all."

She does not intend to let him see the baby once she moves out.

She said: "I'll tell my son his father wasn't there throughout the entire pregnancy period and he didn't change after I gave birth."

When asked if she would let her son meet his father, she said: "Maybe when he is an adult."

She receives $350 a month from the father and she intends to apply for a spot in an infant care centre for her son through a family service centre, which will give her a subsidised rate.

She also wants to find a job as an admin assistant to earn her own income.

Annie said: "It's not going to be easy, but I have to do it. As long as I do my part to bring him up to be a responsible person, I will be happy."

Help for pregnant teens

More pregnant teens are seeking help from Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support (Babes).

The organisation, which reaches out to pregnant girls aged 21 and below, worked with 69 girls last year, up from 43 girls in 2013 and 25 in 2012.

"We make them aware of the options they have, to help them make an informed decision with regards to their pregnancy," said executive director Shaziah Wasiuzzaman.

Babes has four full-time case workers.

Ms Shaziah said the increased number of teenage mums coming to them might be due to Babes establishing itself as a separate organisation in 2013.

It started in 2005 under the Beyond Social Services, a voluntary welfare organisation that works with the community to help children and youths from low-income families.

Ms Shaziah said: "As a separate organisation, we put a lot more focus on the issue of teenage pregnancy.

"Our case workers go out to provide support to pregnant teens and we also conduct outreach programmes to inform youths about the subject."

Teenagers who get pregnant can call Babes' 24-hour helpline at 8111-3535.


This article was first published on Jan 28, 2015.
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