Meet Danielle, the super mum who had a baby and managed to get a 2:1
“It’s about having clarity about what you want to do”
Most second year students at university spend their days getting over hangovers, worrying about summer internships, and avoiding their seminar reading. Danielle Manton-Kelly, however, was not like most students.
When she got pregnant while studying in her first year at Royal Holloway in London, she was determined to have her baby and graduate without any special treatment or mitigation. Aged just 19 at the time and in the second year of her drama degree, she faced a life changing decision with her childhood sweetheart of four years, Stephen.
Incredibly, she managed to complete her exams, hand her final year coursework in on time, and graduate with a 2:1, all while raising a tiny baby girl.
Now a wife to Stephen, a business women, and a mother to two girls, the 26-year-old is expecting another baby. The super mum took some time out from her hectic schedule to tell the Tab just how she managed to face a mammoth challenge in university and succeed.
She said: “I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed student at university, always on the go. I was obsessed with musical theatre and spent my days rehearsing for shows and auditioning.”
She loved to spend time with Stephen, who was running adventure schools at the time, and spent a lot of his time away travelling the country. She was content in her studies and her relationship until her unplanned pregnancy forced Danielle to reevaluate her circumstances.
“Our relationship had been really lovely but we were just in shock when we found out about the pregnancy.”
Initially, they did not split, as Danielle vowed to raise her baby and persevere with her academic pursuits at her London university.
However, in time, the pressures of impending parenthood and the physical distance, meant that the time they spent together was often too difficult to be conducive to a happy relationship. She said of how their time apart meant more time to think and worry, and not enough time to talk things through.
“We kind of just carried on for a while, but it would just get too emotional.”
The pair broke up, and Danielle prepared to endure her pregnancy alone. She described the memory as a period of devastation but went on to talk about how it was hard to be annoyed at Stephen for his decision to leave. She said she understood his choices.
“I went through every emotion there could ever possibly be but it was tough to be upset with him. I’d lost my best friend.
“I found myself alone, scared and staring into a giant pit of uncertainty.
“Mum was really supportive, she understood that it was nobody’s fault and helped me see how we could move on from it. She was devastated to hear about our breakup too. He was completely part of the family.”
Despite the hurdles she faced, Danielle always had a vision of how she wanted her life to be. Alongside her incredibly supportive friends, they found a house for their second year at Royal Holloway. Her closest friends vowed to help raise the baby and support her through her studies.
“There were a small group of friends that really stuck by me,” she said. “Everyone kind of rallied around me and helped me along. When things were tough during the pregnancy, my friends and I would sit and talk, have film nights, and eats lots and lots of popcorn!”
Much like any other student, she dragged herself to her lectures, and continued to slog away the hours in the library. However, as her body changed, she was forced to adapt her lifestyle and the way she went completed her degree. The university, she said, was very supportive and adapted her studies to suit her, particularly with practical drama.
“There were some people that kind of kept their distance, but I think it’s because it all sort of confused them.
“Everyone has their own opinion, and how they live their lives. Some people could look down on my pregnancy but I am really proud of it. The people that are negative are the people that I leave behind. I had a family around me that were so, so supportive and I realised I had too much to lose to not try.”
Likewise, her housemates, who are now Bella’s godparents, used to help her with care and meals. “We lived in a proper little family house,” she said, “and we’d have Sunday dinners together. I think they loved it too because Bella was really cute.”
Danielle told us of how she’d keep Bella occupied as she wrote her final year essays. Not one of her pieces of work was handed in late, neither did she have mitigation or special conditions. “If I was writing, she’d be in her baby bouncer. It is tough, but she gave me so much motivation to succeed. Bella gave me the determination to do the best I possibly could.”
The unconventional fairy tale ending came when Bella turned one.
After spending an increasingly amount of time together organising her first birthday party, Stephen and Danielle rekindled their relationship. Stephen moved closer in order to simply see Bella, as he had not gone a day without thinking about her, Danielle told us. “He was in and out throughout the pregnancy and was there when Bella was born too.”
“People kept saying to us, ‘you seem like you’re a couple anyway’, so, it made sense to get back together. We wanted to make sure we did it in a really grown up way that was right for Bella.”
They got back together and have since married and had a second little girl together named Connie. “The point of everything in life is that you’ve got a family that you love and that they love you,” Danielle told us.
“If he’d have stayed throughout the pregnancy, I don’t know if we’d have lasted. Us having to spend that time away from each other made us realise that life is so rubbish when we’re not together. If anything happened to him now, I know I’d be okay because I was forced to be independent. We’re together now because we love one another, not because we depend on each other.”
Since giving birth to Bella and Connie, Danielle has since completed her qualifications as a teacher, started her own childminding business, maintained a blog about her experiences, and established a business with her husband providing bespoke creches for children at weddings. All of which she has done, she said, by feeding the children whilst completing her qualifications over coffee in Starbucks.
“They’re all really lovely,” she said of six year old Bella, and two year old Connie, “I’m very lucky.”
With another little baby due in October, Danielle makes it sound easy as she describes her daily life in her calm and warm tone.
“We’re finding out in two weeks what we’re having. As long as the baby is healthy, I don’t really mind, but I think he’d (Stephen) quite like a boy. He’s totally outnumbered. I think if it’s another little girl, I’ll have to get him a dog.”
Danielle is humble and earnest, shrugging off any suggestion that she was she achieved alone, and with Stephen, and her family, in a short space of time, is somewhat incredible. And yet, despite her dreams of book deals, and ambitions to expand their businesses, she’s simply a determined and driven young woman who did not falter when life threw her a curve ball.