WHEN she was 11 years old, Felicia Davey received the shocking news she was pregnant with her first child.
Now 35, the network marketer, from Mississippi, felt “pressured” to have an abortion to ease her family’s “shame” – but refused.
Felicia Davey became a mum at 11, pictured at 12 with her one-year-old babyCredit: Supplied
She and daughter Samantha, right, are regularly mistaken for sisters now they’re both adultsCredit: Supplied
Twelve days before her 12th birthday, she welcomed daughter Samantha, now 23, into the world – and amazingly raised her daughter herself, alongside school.
Felicia tells Fabulous: “Finding out I was pregnant was the most terrifying news, especially at that age. My parents had taken me to a clinic, where staff immediately went through my ‘options’.
“I didn’t even understand sex or pregnancy properly, and they were talking about abortion.
“Having people pressure you into something like that was not at all pleasant. I said ‘that’s not something I feel comfortable with’. I’m very pro-life, so to me it wasn’t an option.
Felicia, pictured at 12, says her family were ‘ashamed’ but she was determined to raise her daughterCredit: Supplied
“I think my parents felt shame and worried ‘what will people think about us?’ But to me, it was bigger than that. It was a decision of life.
“I was so young, but in some senses I was way more mature than I should have been. I knew having a child would be hard, but I felt this need to protect her.
“I decided I wanted to keep my baby and everyone thought it was a terrible idea, but I’ve never once regretted it.”
Felicia had recently started sixth grade, the first year of American middle school. During sleepovers, a romantic relationship developed with her friend’s 14-year-old brother – which led to the pregnancy.
She says: “Looking back, I was searching for attention, acceptance and what I thought was love.
“I didn’t grow up in the best home. My mum was in and out of my life and my dad worked a lot, so I was primarily raised by my paternal great-grandmother, who was in her 80s.
“I was a good kid, I got straight As throughout school, but I was exposed to a lot of things most kids aren’t at such a young age. I didn’t have a good definition of love, relationships or inappropriate behaviour.”
I didn’t even understand sex or pregnancy properly, and they were talking about abortion. Having people pressure you into something like that was not at all pleasant
When they found out she was pregnant, Samantha’s dad’s family moved away and the classroom became an increasingly difficult place for Felicia.
She went to live with her mum and sister, and Samantha was born between the summers of sixth and seventh grade. Felicia didn’t return to school in the autumn.
She says: “It was terrible. We needed government assistance. I remember going to the food stamp office and being labelled a ‘high school dropout’.
“That’s when it occurred to me I had to do better, I didn’t want this continuous cycle. My dad’s mum was 13 when she had him and he was raised by his grandparents.
The pair ended up living with a foster family, who helped care for Samantha while Felicia was at schoolCredit: Supplied
Felicia says Samantha is her ‘best friend’Credit: Supplied
“There were also rumours about me going round. Kids from school would call me derogatory names and say I was sleeping with multiple people, which wasn’t true. We lived in a small town and people liked to gossip.
“At one point, there was a rumour going round it was my dad who had got me pregnant. That was really difficult, because he had never hurt me in any way.
“When you have a child who’s that young, people want to believe it’s abuse, because it’s easier than the truth – that this can happen.
“Everyone thinks ‘not my child, it couldn’t happen to me’ and the reality is there’s exposure to sex everywhere, whether it’s at home, at school, with friends, even with TV and social media.
“I think it’s really important for parents to be open with their kids, which is why I’m telling my story.
“I take responsibility for what happened, I knew what I was doing but I didn’t understand the consequences of having sex. And I was not emotionally mature enough to handle the fallout.”
When you have a child who’s that young, people want to believe it’s abuse, because it’s easier than the truth. Everyone thinks ‘not my child, it couldn’t happen to me’ and the reality is there’s exposure to sex everywhere
The family had regular visits from a social worker, because of Felicia’s age and as her mum was on probation – having previously been jailed for addiction related issues.
Eventually Felicia’s mum was given a drug’s test, which she failed, meaning Samantha, Felicia and Felicia’s sister were taken into care on December 18.
With the support of her foster family, Felicia returned to school that January and managed to complete her studies aged 17.
She says: “I wouldn’t change anything about my life or any experiences I’ve had. But I did miss out a lot.
“When strangers would see me with Samantha, they didn’t understand. People just thought we were sisters and still to this day, when we go out in public, people say ‘there is no way you are mother and daughter’.
“Nowadays I feel flattered, but it was super hard going through middle school with a baby.
“I kept my head down or tried to make people laugh – humour became how I coped. I tried to stay positive, because I realised ‘if I don’t laugh right now, I am going to break down and cry’.”
Felicia is now a mum-of-five. From left-right, Samantha, 23; Harleigh, 10; Felicia’s husband Michael, 35; Brentley, five; Felicia, 35; William, 15; and Kenlan, 13Credit: Supplied
After leaving school, Felicia moved to an independent living programme with Child Haven charity – where young adults are encouraged to work and save, so they can eventually move into private rentals.
Felicia worked as a cleaner and studied nursing at University of Alabama, but never finished her degree as she had her second child, a son called William, now 15, at 20.
She was wed to his father but the marriage lasted just five months.
Felicia says: “I think the nicest way to say is it didn’t work out. It was a very rocky relationship.
“One of my goals for my kids is to work really hard and not give up on their dreams, even though I gave up on mine. I’m doing pretty well and I really love what I do now. So it all worked out for the best.”
I wouldn’t change anything about my life or any experiences I’ve had. But I did miss out a lot. It was super hard going through middle school with a baby
William has limited contact with his dad and Samantha, who met her dad for the first time aged eight, does not have a relationship with her’s.
Felicia is estranged from her own mother and her dad has passed away.
In 2008, Felicia started a new relationship with Michael, now 35, who she met four years earlier while living at Child Haven.
Michael, who works in manufacturing, also went through the care system, having been orphaned at a young age.
The couple went onto have son Kenlan, 13, daughter Harleigh, 10, and son Brentley, five, together – marrying in 2013 and still very much in love to this day.
But Felicia never planned to be a mum-of-five, having a coil fitted to prevent pregnancy after Harleigh’s birth.
She says: “When I found out I was pregnant again, I was terrified. The IUD was supposed to last for 10 years. I felt I was too young to have my tubes tied, because I was 25 and might still want kids one day.
“But four years later, I ended up pregnant. When I found out, I was crying, thinking ‘how could this happen?’
“We were struggling financially and were not prepared to add another family member. I thought ‘this is going to cost a lot of money. This is going to be very hard’.
“I didn’t want to take away from my other children – in terms of their happiness, healthiness and lives overall – but we coped.
“My last child was the most unexpected but he is the most adorable soul I’ve ever met in my life.”
Strangely, doctors found no evidence of an IUD in Felicia’s uterus, suggesting it may have fallen out.
Then when Samantha was 21, she became a mum, making Felicia a gran at 32. She now has Johnie, two, Bristol, who was born on November 18 this year, and is step-mum to Conlee, six, with husband Blake Nichols, 27.
Samantha is now mum to Johnie, two, Bristol, who was born on November 18 this year, and is step-mum to Conlee, six, not pictured, with husband Blake Nichols, 27Credit: Supplied
Samantha pictured with younger siblings William and Kenlan as a childCredit: Supplied
Felicia says: “Samantha was a bit worried about having children of her own and whether she’d be a good mum.
“I said ‘you’ve always been such a big help with your siblings and you’re going to be an amazing mother’, which proved to be true.
“Samantha is my best friend and she’s always been a really big help.
“But I wanted her to be able to experience her childhood and I was very overprotective of her and my eldest son. I’ve become more lenient with each child because I saw the effects on how strict I was.
“I was trying to overcompensate for what I didn’t have in a mother. I was a little overbearing but I just wanted her to be able to chase her dreams.
“Becoming a grandmother was a proud moment, it felt like a fresh start with a new generation. I had done everything I could to set a good example to Samantha.
“She finished high school, established a career path as a beautician and got married before she fell pregnant. Everything was lining up to build a better family life.
“Everyone thinks Samantha and I are sisters, so I assume they think I’m the aunt of my grandkids.
“If Johnie comes out with me and my kids, I’m sure people think he’s mine – because there’s only two-and-a-half years between him and my youngest.
“I’m a young gran but I’m not the youngest, my mum was only 29 or 30 when I had Samantha.”
Britain’s youngest nan is believed to be 33-year-old Gemma Skinner.
Felicia was just 32 when she became a gran to Johnie, pictured as a babyCredit: Supplied
From left-right, Samantha’s husband Blake, 27; Samantha’s son Johnie, two and a half; Samantha, 23; Felicia’s husband Michael, 35; Brentley, five; Felicia, 35; Samantha’s daughter Bristol, one month; William, 15; Harleigh, 10; and Kenlan, 13 (all Felicia’s kids unless otherwise referenced)Credit: Supplied
Felicia, who is a Christian, adds: “I missed out on a lot of my childhood. I never lived through Samantha but it’s good she got to experience things I craved.
“Had I not ended up in foster care, she would have grown up in the same situation I had.
“I’m not saying it was God’s plan for me to get pregnant, but I believe my life could have been way worse.
“If I’d gone back home, I probably would have quit school for good and had way more kids at a way younger age – whereas I didn’t have my second until I was 20 years old.
“I’m not saying it wasn’t a hard situation, but it wasn’t devastating. I feel like I was given a chance to make something beautiful and to be strong. I want to be an inspiration to other people.”
I don’t want to just be remembered as the girl who had a baby when she was 11. That’s a part of my life but that’s not who I am
Felicia started sharing her story in 2017, when she got into network marketing on Facebook. Then when lockdown hit, she joined TikTok and told her story there.
She says: “There were a lot of negative comments. I would cry and think ‘I’m going to delete this whole account’.
“But some people commented ‘I would never imagine that happening and I have a child who’s x years old’. That to me was an open door, because I’d always wanted to bring awareness.
“People never want to think this could happen to your child, but it could.
“And even though there are options for pregnancy, I want people to know shame and fear should never factor how you make a decision about something so serious.
“I also want to encourage people not to judge. Sometimes I respond to the negative comments with humour, because I don’t want anyone to feel like they got me. But sometimes it gets overwhelming.
“I have days where I sit and cry and think ‘why do I bother?’ Ultimately I want to make a positive impact in someone’s life. I don’t want to just be remembered as the girl who had a baby when she was 11.
“That’s a part of my life but that’s not who I am. I want people to say ‘she was strong and she tried to empower other people’. That’s what I want to be known for.”