Through Their Lenses: Teenage Mums
‘Through Their Lenses’ is a photo series where we hand disposable cameras to people from different walks of life, giving them free rein to document their everyday realities on film.

A week after Raj asked her to be his girlfriend, Gerry discovered she was pregnant. She was 16 at the time, and had been sure she’d wanted an abortion. But she went on to miss every appointment made with the clinic (they only had early morning slots, and she kept oversleeping) until it was 5 months into the pregnancy, and the doctor told her that they’d have to kill the foetus before aborting. Raj and Gerry left the clinic, cried, smoked, and decided to keep the baby. 

Belle was studying for her O-levels when she found out. The child became the single most important thing in her life, and she ditched her studies and started planning how she could raise him. People at school called her a disgrace for keeping the baby, and a slut, even though the father of her child was her first sexual partner.

Autumn cried when she moved out to live with her in-laws. She used to be her parents’ little girl, and all of a sudden she had to be an adult and move out, without having given anything back to her own family. 

Today, at 19, 20, and 22, Gerry, Belle, and Autumn couldn’t be happier to be mothers. All of them, in their own ways, agree that their lives have been made better for it, despite what were mistakes in their teenage years. 

For this photo series, we gave the three of them disposable film cameras to capture their experiences being a young mother in Singapore.

GERRY

“The pregnancy was a very, very difficult part of my life. Raj and I were new to the relationship and had to settle into a fully committed one. We were still maturing individually, and there was a lot going on around me … I wasn’t on great terms with my family. 

Those were very sad days, I couldn’t go out much because I’d get looks from the public, being so young, visibly pregnant with tattoos and all. I didn’t want to take public transport, I just cooped myself up at home, and I don’t know, they were sad times. But at the same time it felt very wholesome, feeling Asher’s kicks in me.”

“Seeing Asher and Raj fall asleep together really warms my heart. Just knowing that someone else loves this child as much or more than I love him.

I think about him in the future, about how he’ll see me and Raj. And that motivates me to want to continue with my education. I don’t want him to have to worry about our survival.”

“It’s always close to sunset around the time we pick Asher up from preschool. There’s pretty skies, everyone is there with their kids and their dogs, doing their own things. Three of us would just get on the swing and chill for a while. It’s times like these, in our little bubble just for that 10 minutes or so, where I feel like our lives could be so much better if it was just the three of us, in a place of greenery.

I don’t like the environment that Asher is growing up in. Everywhere you look, there’s fucked up things happening. Around the world, and just downstairs. I wish I could give him better.”

BELLE

“I’m really glad I brought them (note: Belle is a mother of three boys, of whom the younger two are twins) into the world and I would do it over again. 

 I’d just like to say that young mums are just as capable as, if not more than, regular mums. Physically, because our bodies had to go through something meant to be experienced in adulthood, and mentally, because of the judgment we had to face.

I wouldn’t say I’m the best mum in the world but I’m pretty sure I’m the best mum in their eyes. We’re very close.”

“My twins have never really been outside because of Covid, it’s quite sad, they only know how our void deck looks like. For my eldest son, we used to bring him out a lot, now he can’t even go to school and everyday he’s saying he wants to go.

Now my hubby and I usually dabao food back for the whole family. We also just like to go riding around on an e-bike.”

“This picture of the sky was actually taken early in the morning. I hadn’t slept; I usually look after my kids at night, pat them to sleep, and change their diapers in the middle of the night. When my helper and grandma-in-law wakes up, then I’ll go to sleep. So this sunrise is the last thing I see before I sleep. If there’s work the next day sometimes I just don’t sleep.”

AUTUMN

“Being a mum at any age isn’t easy. If a woman is willing to go through that nine months then that child must be very precious. I believe these photographs tell a story, and when Grayson grows up he can see how much he’s loved.”

“Grayson is like a treasure, he’s something that I didn’t ask for but he’s here for me. If I tell him that my leg hurts he will try to massage it; he’s very smart, we tell him things once and he will listen and learn, like when I sing him the ‘sun, moon, and stars’ song he will look outside the window and say ‘hello moon!’. Even the teacher calls me and says he’s very cute, clever, understanding.”

“I don’t know why but I feel like he is the happiest thing. He brings a lot of joy everywhere he goes, and his presence bonds the family more, even our extended family. Everyone looks forward to seeing him, and being the first grandson he’s showered with a lot of love and attention.

I used to be very insecure about my voice because people said it sounded cartoonish, and I was afraid to speak out. After having Grayson I feel more courage, like I can take on the world for him.

To all the young moms out there, I’d say that being a young mom is tough, but definitely worth it. You don’t have to worry about other people’s judgment, because 在妈妈的眼里只有小孩 (in the eyes of a mother, there is only her child).”

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