THERE’S no glamour attached to teenage pregnancy. Gymslip mums are frowned upon and often written off by society. After all, what can a girl of 16 achieve with a new baby in tow?
Well in Ruth Winter’s case, an awful lot. For the 37-year-old mum-of-three from Bacup has proved the cynics – and the statistics – wrong.
Not only has she survived the ordeal of raising three children with life-threatening conditions, but she passed her A-levels, gained two law degrees and has opened her own law practice.
To her shock Ruth found herself pregnant at 16. She said: “My boyfriend and I took precautions and I even had the morning after pill. I always knew my daughter was going to be a miracle baby because she defied all the odds to be born.”
Daughter Danielle, now 19, was born with a heart defect, which was not realised until she was three months old and required open-heart surgery. If it hadn’t been for Ruth’s mum Violet, who lives opposite, insisting the baby be assessed it’s unlikely the little girl would have survived.
“She vomited all the time. We were so worried about her we started feeding her solids at six weeks to stop her vomiting. It turned out that she had a connection problem with her heart and her lungs were filling with blood. It took a doctor listening to her heart for 20 minutes to decide she had a problem.”
Ruth took a year out from her studies to care for her daughter, but, determined as ever, she went back to do her A-levels.
“But the the turning point was going into the Job Centre and realising the wages I was going to be paid with just A-levels as qualifications were less than benefits,” she explained. “So I signed up for university at 19 and set myself a goal to get the job I wanted and became a solicitor.”
She was accepted at Manchester University to study law which she combined with looking after her daughter.
After the degree, she studied part-time for a post-grad qualification. By then she’d got together with Stephen Anderson, an architect and the father of her two other children, although the couple had known each other from 16.
“I wanted to have my children before I started work.
“I put on loads of weight when I was pregnant with Daisy and my feet swelled massively. One doctor thought I was expecting twins.”
Daisy, now 11, required bowel surgery within hours of being born.
“After that, I swore I wasn’t having any more children. It had all been so traumatic. But my mum says I get a seven-year itch. I started to feel the biological clock ticking again.”
Hoping for third time lucky, it just wasn’t to be for Ruth who again had problems in pregnancy. And although the baby was fine, this time she developed pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening condition. Dylan, now four, was delivered at just 28 weeks and spent his first three months in hospital.
“It’s been an uphill struggle at times. Do I feel like a supermum? Not really, although my own mum is a supermum. I don’t know how I would have got through it all without her.”
Throughout it all, Ruth remained dedicated to her goal of being a solicitor and recently realised her dream when she opened her own practice, Winter Solicitors, specialising in personal injury, family and litigation, in King Street, Bacup. She has also taken on an apprentice, former Whitworth High School pupil Daniel Mundey, 16.
She says: “I think I should be going into school and talking to pupils to tell them never to give up on their dreams.
“My father died in 2011 and I was left some money. That enabled me to be able to set up on my own. Had he still been here I am sure he would have helped me.”
Ruth moved to Bacup 12 years ago as her brother lives locally and now the whole family lives in the Valley.
“No matter what life throws at you, you have to be determined, keep focused and you will get there in the end.”