The solo parent: advice & support
Whether it’s by choice, or circumstances, being on your own through your pregnancy can be scary. But it doesn’t have to lonely, or less magical, with the right supports in place, writes Lori Cohen
“I’M GOING TO
have a baby!” you tell people. Exciting, daunting, overwhelming… these are all normal ways for a mom-to-be to feel. But when there’s no “we” in the equation, you may also feel isolated and out of touch with your coupled-up preggie friends. “The pressure of having all the responsibility fall on you can be massive and there may be an element of perceived stigma for being a single mom,” says Sally Baker, a social worker in private practice. Guilt, regret, anger against the child’s father, financial worries, concerns about what you will tell your child one day – these are all sentiments you may feel at different intensities throughout your pregnancy. Your friends and family may shrug these off as wasted emotions, but Sally says they are all real and the trick is to process them. “You’ve got to go through them, but remember that anything can change at any time, so rather live in the moment than agonise over the future,” she recommends.
CONNECT WITH YOURSELF
To find the joy in your pregnancy, focus on your relationship with yourself, she says. “Building your relationship with yourself and your baby consciously can be an incredibly enriching experience. Eating well, taking care of yourself, journalling, walking and reading are all ways to do this,” says Sally. “Aloneness is hard,” she acknowledges, “and having a baby will not automatically make you feel whole.” Spending time with friends and family who make you feel good – and keep their judgments to themselves – is a useful strategy to make you feel more connected, says Sally. These people will form the backbone of your support structure and your “village” that will join you at your doctor’s appointments and scans and be there to help you through the birth and beyond.
You’re going to need to find your voice to make this work, however. People can’t guess your needs, although they will be eager to help, so you need to be clear about how, and when, they can assist you. Be sure they are up to the commitment in terms of the emotional energy and time they can spend with you – having an open, honest conversation about this will ensure your expectations are managed or give you the time to pull in someone else who can deliver. Helping does not always require huge gestures. Simple things can make a difference. Do you simply need hugs every now and again? “Spend time with friends that like to hug you and make you feel good. Feeling good is good for your baby too,” says Sally. Many single moms-to-be choose to take their own mother or sister along to antenatal classes so they can prepare to be a birth partner. “Choosing the right class is important. Some focus on building your inner support during birth rather than focusing on the support of someone with you, which is useful for single moms birthing,” says Sally. However, Sally suggests you also engage in activities such as pregnancy exercise classes where you don’t feel it’s so glaring that you are single. After the birth infant massage classes or mom and baby classes also provide
environments where you can spend time having fun with your baby and share with other women. This offers you an additional stream of support but also the opportunity to form friendships. “It’s hard for a lot of people to reach out like this, but it’s essential,” stresses Sally. Support groups for single moms also give you “adult” time to chat about your challenges (and joys!) with like-minded people. Maternity coach Tsholo Bless says pregnancy massage and reflexology, which she offers her clients, are hugely beneficial. “They help balance the hormones, are a vital stress relief and give you a space to be quiet, reflect and let go of what’s going on in daily life and work to prepare you emotionally for birth,” she says.
DEAL WITH THE DETAILS
On a practical level, you need to ensure you have a list of ICE (in case of emergency) people who can literally drop anything for you if you need help. Your bestie may live a fair distance from you and be caring for a tot of her own, so she may not be the best person if you hit a curve-ball at 2am. Consider who lives close to you and can be there for you during the day or night when you need them. Write up your birth plan and detail any medical issues you have and keep these on you in case you end up in hospital without your chosen person. Working with a doula or maternity coach can be a positive experience too, says Tsholo, as they are able to help you make decisions without the baggage or emotions that come with a family member, but they are also armed with the correct scientific and medical knowledge to ensure you are properly informed. “You can meet with a doula and start building a rapport in your second trimester,” she suggests. “Trainee doulas looking for experience can be a solution for those that are financially strained. Postpartum doulas can also offer you the help and support you need once you are home from hospital. This can range from helping you with breastfeeding, just being company or helping out around the house,” suggests Sally. Night nurses are popular. Why not ask your friends to consider contributing to a night nurse fund instead of baby gifts? Finally, there are no rules, stresses Sally. “This is your journey, with your baby. Do what works for you.”