Shannon Henderson received abuse for falling pregnant at 14 but now she says baby Brooke has changed her life for the better.
When she fell pregnant aged just 14, schoolgirl Shannon Henderson admits she was filled with terror.
Her boyfriend turned his back on her, her parents broke down in tears and, as her bump started to swell, she was targeted by strangers shouting abuse at her in the street.
But, three years on, the inspiring teenager is juggling raising her daughter with excelling at school, a part-time job, volunteering at a soup kitchen, helping raise funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust and applying for university.
She has just won the Scottish Schools’ Young Writer of the Year competition, penning a powerful essay about the struggles and joys of becoming a teenage mum.
And while she would never encourage any young girl to follow in her footsteps, she says her beautiful daughter Brooke, two, has helped to turn her life around for the better.
Shannon, 17, said: “Finding out I was going to become a teenage mum was terrifying – not the sort of thing anyone ever imagines will happen to them. At first I was in denial.
“At the time, I didn’t really like school. All I was interested in was going out with my friends.
“But having Brooke has changed me completely. It’s me who is solely responsible for her, so I know it’s up to me to create the life for her I want.
“She has given me real focus and determination to do well at school, go on to university and even save up to get us our own home.
“I wouldn’t encourage anyone to fall pregnant so young – it’s definitely not easy – but I’m a much better person since becoming a mum and I’m so happy to have Brooke in my life.”
Shannon, a pupil at St Maurice’s High School in Cumbernauld, was almost five months pregnant when she finally plucked up the courage to go to her doctor and have her pregnancy confirmed.
In 2015, she was one of more than 4,800 girls under 19 in Scotland who fell pregnant – of which 2,803 gave birth.
While teenage pregnancy rates have fallen to a new low, of those who became pregnant in 2015, 244 of the girls were under 16 and eight were under 14.
After the shock news, Shannon received incredible support from her family and school.
But she split from her boyfriend, lost friends and had to deal with hurtful comments from everyone from bus drivers to elderly ladies in shops.
She said: “There are times when I’ve been left really emotional about the horrible remarks – it does hurt.
“One of the first times it happened I was getting on a bus in my school uniform and asked the driver for a half ticket.
“It was obvious I was pregnant and at first I didn’t catch the name he called me – but then I heard.
“It was hard too when friends stopped asking me to come out with them. But I just had to tell myself I had more important things to focus on – and I did.”
When her daughter was born in August 2015, Shannon found herself the centre of attention again as everyone gushed over her baby.
But she said when the novelty of Brooke’s arrival started to wear off, the reality of being a teenage mum started to really kick in.
Shannon, who lives with her parents in Cumbernauld, said: “My circle of friends has pretty much changed completely since I had Brooke. I understand that it’s hard when one of your friends can’t come out any more but I’m OK with that. I like staying home with Brooke – she is my bestie.
“She goes to a childminder when I’m at school and, out of school, I take her to ballet, swimming and she loves soft play.
“If I do go out with friends – sometimes we go out for food – then Brooke comes too.
“When I’m out with Brooke at the weekends, I’ve had people telling me what a good mum I am.
“One time I was reading to her on the bus and a group of older ladies joined in singing along and said most young girls on buses were usually glued to their phones. But if I’m out with Brooke in my school uniform and people hear her calling me mummy, then things are very different and I still get people making horrible comments.
“It makes me sad for Brooke because she understands.”
Shannon, who is a school prefect, will forever be grateful for the huge support she received from her parents and school.
When Brooke was 10 months old, Shannon got straight As in her National 5 exams – including getting the highest mark in her
year for English.
Last year, she excelled in her Highers and has just applied to study English, journalism and languages at university.
She said: “From the beginning, I’ve had so much support at school.It’s education that is going to help Brooke and I have so many more opportunities. I came back to school eight weeks after having Brooke.”
When Shannon was invited to take part in a national schools writing competition run by current affairs magazine Scottish Review, she decided to write from the heart about her journey as a teenage mum.
She wanted the essay to raise awareness of what she sees as the lack of support that many teenage mums receive. And she hopes it will spark a debate on attitudes towards young parents.
James McParland, headteacher of St Maurice’s High School, said: “We are extremely proud of Shannon for all she has attained, including winning such a prestigious writing competition. It is testament to what self-belief, determination and support can achieve.”