Teen mum chases her dreams to become a doctor
HER heartfelt open letter shed light on the fears and challenges of being a pregnant 15-year-old. Now Auckland teen Georgia Hageman is mother to a chubby, 1-year-old son.
In the 13 months since her letter was published in the Herald, Georgia - now 16 - has faced public criticism and lost friends.
She has been yelled at in the street by strangers and reduced to tears in a shopping mall, but the gutsy teen is determined to gain financial independence and become a doctor.
"It is all hard and I am still adjusting," she said from her Whenuapai home, with her son, Mason, cradled in her lap. "It's really, really hard but at the same time it is the best thing that ever happens to you.
"It's been extremely challenging because I am still 16 and there are still little things I want to do like sit on Facebook and sleep in and relax and watch a movie with my friends and now that is not possible.
"You just learn really fast that there is way bigger priorities in life and it's hard because you're 16 - I can't even remember what it's like to be a teenager now."
Mason started walking on his first birthday last month, weighs 12.5kg and is developing a wide vocabulary.
He enjoys driving his ride-in toy police car and playing a miniature drum kit.
"He's a big chubby baby, I think he's got my genes - I was a huge chubby baby as well."
In Georgia's letter, which was one of the most viewed and shared articles on nzherald.co.nz last year and which sparked a debate about teen pregnancy, she spoke of her fears and the harsh judgments of others.
"People were saying that I am just doing it to get money from the Government and that I was drinking alcohol and going to parties but to this day I have never been drunk, never been to a party and haven't taken a cent of taxpayer money.
"I was the girl who liked going to school and loved English and writing and would sit in the art class at lunch time."
During the late stages of her pregnancy she dealt with the break-up of her relationship with Mason's father and also went into premature labour at 30 weeks.
She said she only stayed in touch with two of her school friends, but had made new friends through the Henderson Teen Parent Unit and other child-parent activities.
"You get used to it. The first time I went to the mall I was walking through the food court with Mason's pram and an old man yelled out in front of everyone, 'Oh my God she's got a baby'.
"I was so humiliated I bawled my eyes out in front of everyone, but as time goes by you realise it's so irrelevant to your life, you don't know them and you're not living to impress them.
"You just use it as motivation to show them that you're better than that."
There were also the physical challenges of motherhood.
"A big thing is sleep, being so sleep deprived really affects everything: Your energy, motivation. It's a huge change, I went from being a teenager that my only worry was about what she was wearing tomorrow and what she thinks to bottles, piles of washing, the next feed.
"It's like going from Earth to Mars really, it's quite crazy."
Georgia and Mason live with her parents, Rob and Shelly, and Georgia has been completing NCEA. However, she will soon switch to correspondence study while working part-time.
"It's not a permanent thing and I have big goals for the future and I know I will get there, it is just going to be a longer path."
She plans to become a paediatrician after seeing the care given to Mason when he was born prematurely.
Mr Hageman said he and his wife were extremely proud of their daughter.
"She's quite independent and wants to do it all herself. She is doing her best as a mother and as all parents do she has days that are harder than others. She does not get any assistance at all as far as government goes.
"It's all us providing for her so she wants to provide for her own son and help purchase clothes and all the bits and pieces and if she takes up school as a more correspondence role, in a few years she can go down the tertiary education track."